Maleficent's Feminist Rewrite

The Young Maleficent

Thank you, Linda Woolverton for this beautifully crafted extension of the traditional Sleeping Beauty fairy tale.  You have given us a new mythology with new archetypes woven with the riches of feminine energy.  Here's a bit of the symbolism I experienced while watching the movie and what the symbols brought up for me.

Archetype:  Stolen wings.  Ah, the nasty temptation to say that any man or male has actually stolen my power in order to enhance his own.  It is great and strong, yet I resist.  Yes, I had a very strong and overbearing father.  Yes, I have had struggles with my husband, male bosses and coworkers that have sent me into frustrating tears or rages.  But I am trying to separate, a bit, the experience in my personal relationships from the universal impact of patriarchy.  Yes, I have participated in relationships for a variety of personal reasons, healthy and unhealthy.  Yes, I feel that my power has been stolen or usurped by men.  But I see that as a dynamic playing out in a larger consciousness.  The archetype of stolen wings, stolen freedoms is much larger and more universal.  The same could be said about women stealing power from men, or from me.  But that's not what this story is about, so I don't want to digress.  To me, it is about patriarchy and all of it's negative and oppressive practices engaged by both men and women, not least of all myself, that has stolen women's power and my own power.

For that loss I, like Maleficent, grieve.  For the loss of trust in that system.  The grief when the realization strikes that the trust I had placed in a childhood belief system has robbed me of what is most freeing and empowering in my life; my own strength, power and ability.

Did you mean to say that to us all, Linda? Perhaps not, but that is what I saw.

Archetype:  Return to the inner child.  Maleficent takes it on herself to care for the infant princess, but really what choice does she have?  She sees the fairies assigned to her care for what they are; well meaning, but incompetent.  It seems to be with a heavy sigh of resignation that Maleficent finds herself returning to the infant, secretly overseeing her care and protection.  And I, too, reluctantly and with a heaving sigh at times have returned to my inner child.  Frustrated that there is no external source to care for her.  Convinced that the external source I have entrusted to care for her is SO incompetent.

It must be me.  There is really no other choice.  I must be the one to return to that inner child and watch over and protect her, love her innocence and vulnerability, gently coax her into the truth of the world upon which she will eventually be forced to embark.

Archetype:  Debunking the prince charming myth. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I was probably in my 30's revisiting the story of Cinderella with my young children when I had the aha moment, "oh, this is what they mean by fairy tale.  There is no prince charming."  Embarrassed now to admit I was that old before I got it, I have to see it for what it is.  Maybe it's a nice thing that I was able to believe as long as I did.

Thank you, again, Linda, for debunking that myth.  It is not, in fact, prince charming who is going to wake me from whatever sleep I have chosen instead of stepping into the realities of adult-hood.

Archetype:  The awakening of the feminine.  Ah, no, not the true love of a prince charming, but the true love of the feminine, in all of its confusing and mysterious manifestations, provides the princess what she needs in order to awake and move into her maturity as a woman in the world. Interesting to me that Linda did not provide for us the "mother love" interpretation. Maleficent wasn't the princess' mother.  Oh wait.  Did I miss something?  No, I don't think so.  Interesting that the mother figure is in the background.  it's so easy to get this confused with "mother love" but I believe that is an entirely different thing.  Because it is, to me, just simply feminine love.  Period.  You get to define the mode in which you best receive it.

Don't get me wrong.  Masculine love has it's place in the world as well.  Most of us understand now how masculine love is an entirely different thing than patriarchy. There is a lot to be given and received through masculine love.  And I could take this even further to collapse the dichotomy altogether and just call it love.  But I am not ready to do that.  I need the dichotomy to help me better understand my feminine nature, to give it voice in this still patriarchal world.  

Perhaps the reason this resonated with me so strongly, is that my own experience of growing empowerment and place in the world, in the universe, is not being ushered in through masculine love.  I need the feminine to help me awaken to my power, place and purpose.