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There was a lot of conversation on reputable sites in the days following the release of Walt Disney’s Maleficent that a key – and brutal – scene could be interpreted as a rape. At the time, this was the translation of the material by certain writers, but now it appears Malefient star Angelina Jolie was conscious of the decision, and worked with the movie’s screenwriter to keep the metaphor in there.
This is a spoilery conversation about Maleficent, and you might want to avoid this story if you haven’t yet seen the movie.
The conversation stems from a scene where Stefan (played by Sharlto Copley), a one-time trusted ally of Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), drugs her and cuts off her wings while she sleeps. Stefan is trying to prove to a dying king that he has taken Maleficent’s life… but he doesn’t want to kill her. He let’s her live, but mutilates her in a powerful and disturbing act of violence that many compared to rape. Many, including Angelina Jolie.
In an interview with BBC Radios’ Woman’s Hour (via US Weekly), Angelina Jolie admits:
We were very conscious, the writer [Linda Woolverton] and I, that it was a metaphor for rape. This would be the thing that would make her lose sight. … The core of [the film] is abuse, and how the abused have a choice of abusing others or overcoming and remaining loving, open people. The question was asked, 'What could make a woman become so dark? To lose all sense of her maternity, her womanhood, and her softness?’"
Including a possible rape metaphor in a Disney movie is one thing. People could have interpreted the scene that way. But having Angelina Jolie come out and admit on the record that it was the intent of the film changes the game. Is it OK for a creative team to even contemplate the possible inclusion of a rape metaphor in a Disney film? Whether it’s spelled out or not – and the way the scene plays, the implication of what is happening to Maleficent (thanks to Jolie’s pained reaction) is perfectly clear – the idea that a Disney film aimed at kids and families tackles rape is uncomfortable. Is that part of the point?
Angelina Jolie addressed the topic of rape in her 2011 directorial debut In the Land of Blood and Honey, and that feels like a far more appropriate vehicle for commentary and discussion on the horrific sexual violation of rape. But now it’s on the record that Jolie collaborated with the Maleficent team to have this metaphor included in a family fantasy film. Do you think it’s appropriate? Could there have been a different way to drive a wedge between Maleficent and Stefan, so that the dark fairy would be angry enough to eventually curse the king’s baby? Or did Maleficent have to dig into such dark places? Weigh in below.