One of Disney’s bigger money making operations Disney Princess is a multimedia merchandise platform featuring various female characters (not all of them princesses) from their feature length animated films aimed at young girls and pretty much no one else, much like action figures based on action cartoons are aimed at young boys and no one else. There are a lot of questions about the anti-feminist nature of this franchise and honestly that’s too important a subject for me to write extensively about in an intro like this but I think that while their depiction of women and defined gender roles can be troubling there are certainly examples of good female role models in place, such as Mulan who I always thought was a badass. However the further back in time you go the less legs you have to stand on as the classic depiction of Princess in Disney’s catalog are clearly sexist and clearly represented Walt Disney’s idea of patriarchal system. If the main character of your film is a woman who is basically waiting an hour and a half for a dude to come rescue, and then marry her, then your movie sucks, plain and simple.
This brings us to Sleeping Beauty, possibly the most obvious film to fail in this regard. Based on at least two fairy tales we all basically know the premise of this story; Princess Aurora gets got by an evil fairy and falls into a coma until the man of her dreams waltzes into town and
Now Maleficent isn’t exactly a great character either, as her major motivation stems mostly from “because I’m evil, stupid” but her design, power set, scope and even her name are all make for an very memorable villain. She routinely places high in Top Disney Villains lists all over the internet and continues to be used as an antagonist in various Disney projects, probably most famously in the video game series Kingdom Hearts. With this in mind it shouldn’t be too surprising that Disney is making a film featuring Maleficent as a protagonist, epically when we consider the incredibly successful musical Wicked which similarly took the villain of a classic story and flipped her role. This film also follows in the footsteps of recent flicks Snow White and the Huntsman (which in retrospect I probably scored too high) and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (which I fully plan on never watching again), modern reinterpretations of classic children’s stories/fairy tales aimed at wider audience and not simply little kids. In some case they’re darker in tone and in most cases they are far more complex. With first time director Robert Stromberg at the helm where does Maleficent stand in this relatively new genre?
Full review after the jump.
[WARNING: This review contains some spoilers , so if you were aching to see what boils down to be a kids movie you better proceed with caution]