Maleficent: A Complicated Villain

by Amy Kraft on June 7, 2014



Olive had a day off from school this week and on a whim while we were killing time between appointments we went to see Maleficent. I had shown Olive the trailer a while back and she said she wasn’t interested, but I had been reading about it being a great feminist film so I talked her into it.

I fear in our current climate where discussions of feminism lead too quickly to accusations of misandry that I might turn some off by saying that, which is unfortunate. It’s a fine feminist film indeed, and while it hates a man, it certainly doesn’t hate men. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, but gives us a host of interesting, well-rounded characters, great action, and great storytelling that should appeal to everyone.


I’m a sucker for stories told from unexpected points of view, so it’s logical that I would like Sleeping Beauty as seen through the eyes of its villain. And a hundred and fifty viewings of Frozen have not dulled my desire for fairy tales that focus on the women and girls in them.

I don’t want to tell you too much about this movie because it’s nice to be surprised watching it unfold. I’d rather tell you about the conversation Olive and I had leaving the theater, a conversation about how hard it is to label someone as a villain, how the world is not so black and white. She asked me if it was OK to murder a murderer. Whoa. I was all set to answer but then realized the better path might be to ask her what she thought. She thought for a long time. “I don’t think so,” she said, “because don’t you become a murderer then, too? Couldn’t someone murder you?” We went on to talk about justice versus vengeance, and even talked for a while about Hitler. (PS: thank you BrainPop for giving her a primer on all of this.) It was one of the deepest talks we’ve ever had, inspired by a Disney princess movie. If Disney keeps this up, I’m never going to be able to hate on them and their princesses again.

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