Sleeping Beauty, Feminist Style

Sleeping Beauty gets a 21st century update in the 2014 movie Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie. The entire backstory of Sleeping Beauty is given. Maleficent was once in love with Stefan and they were close friends, but in order to become king he betrays her. He comes back to Maleficent making her believe that they will begin anew where they left off, only to drug her, cut off her wings and leave her. She wakes up to find he has betrayed her and taken her wings. Later, when King Stefan and his queen have a baby girl she shows up to put a curse on her, following the original Sleeping Beauty story.

This time, however, the story takes a bit of a different twist. Instead of not knowing where Aurora, the beautiful princess, is hiding she instead assumes the role of fairy godmother to her. She actually watches out for the child as she is growing up and then presumably comes to love her very much. She tries to revoke the curse that she put on the girl but it cannot be revoked. Of course, Aurora does meat Prince Phillip in the woods and Maleficent brings the Prince to the castle when Aurora does prick her finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday, as was her curse. However, the Prince’s kiss does not wake Aurora up from her sleep but instead it is a kiss by Maleficent herself, upon the girl’s forehead, that wakes up the beautiful Princess. Aurora then wants to go and live with Maleficent. But by this time King Stefan (who apparently is so consumed with revenge upon Maleficent that he doesn’t even care about his daughter any longer nor his dying wife) and his men have already laid a trap for Maleficent and are waiting for her inside of the castle and surround her whenever her and Aurora attempt to leave. The attempt to kill Maleficent fails, however. Her wings sense her presence in the castle and are returned to her (with the help of Aurora) and King Stefan ends up falling to his death. Aurora becomes queen and her and Maleficent unite their kingdoms and the walls Maleficent put up are brought down forever. We see Prince Phillip show up at the end presumably to get to know Aurora and start a relationship with her.

This film had great special effects and the twist on the story was interesting. I will admit it was pretty neat but there is just something that screams out about this story. There seems to be this very strong “girl power” theme about the story. Men are evil and powerless in the story. The Prince does not fight to save Aurora as he did in the original 1950s version of Sleeping Beauty. His kiss cannot wake her up as his kiss is impotent. He does not fight his way to the castle and battle to save the Princess. Instead he is carried, unconscious, to the castle by Maleficent. It is Maleficent, a woman, that does all the fighting to save the Princess. Prince Phillip doesn’t seem very confident nor masculine. He seems more instead like a typical 21st century androgynous male living in a female dominated world. In fact, after his kiss doesn’t work he just leaves and isn’t even seen again until the very end of the story. He does no fighting nor does he stick around to try to save Aurora or help her in any way. He doesn’t try to rescue her, find some cure or antidote for the spell nor help her out of the castle to safety. Apparently this is woman’s work.

King Stefan did Maleficent wrong. He not only led her on but he did physical harm to her by cutting off her wings, a part of her body (possibly an euphemism for rape or female circumcision?). He is deserving of punishment in the story and Maleficent, in my opinion, deserved to be compensated in some way for the harm he inflicted upon her but there is just something very wrong with the story in that the King did not even seem to care about his daughter and, likewise, she didn’t seem to care very much about him. Yes, he got what he deserved you could say but the entire storyline just seems to be bordering on feminist man-hating and lesbianism to some extent.

We can no longer have a story where a man rescues, protects or fights for a woman. Apparently that is “sexist” and just can’t be done! Disney Princesses these days have to be strong and independent, such as Princess Merida from Brave. She is competent, independent, rebels against the way a “proper” woman should act and can shoot better than any man. No man comes to save her. All the princes that show up to battle for her hand are all incompetent drooling idiots who probably couldn’t navigate their way across the street without assistance. Many modern television and movies degrade women, but they also degrade men by assaulting traditional masculinity.

Most women would swoon and crumple to the floor by seeing a man being truly masculine, in charge and fighting to save a helpless damsel in distress (hmm, maybe that’s why masculinity must be degraded and discouraged, because it would turn women helpless and dependent on men).

I was reading this article a few months back where someone was posing the question of why anyone would want to be the powerless Aurora when instead they could be the all-powerful Maleficent. What they apparently didn’t understand is that the original Aurora is powerful, only not in the masculine realm the way Maleficent was powerful but instead she was powerful in the feminine realm. Yes Aurora was helpless to save herself and completely dependent upon a man to save her. Yet she was very powerful. She was loved by many mainly due to her sweet innocent disposition and traditional femininity. For her Prince Phillip would do anything. There is no battle that he wouldn’t fight for her. In the original Sleeping Beauty he risks everything to come for her and will stop at nothing to save her. He is strong, chivalrous, masculine and confident- in contrast to Aurora’s delicate beauty and helplessness. When they meet in the woods he seems protective and willing to take the lead. There is also a beautiful scene where they are leaning against a tree and you can tell he stands much taller than she is. He exudes masculinity, and she femininity.

In the new version Prince Phillip doesn’t do anything for Aurora- she and Maleficent do everything for themselves. The new Prince Phillip instead seems quite soft and unsure of himself. There is not even the tiniest sign of any man being in charge at all. The new Prince Phillip is like a clueless teenage boy. It is complete 21st century gender-role reversal.