maleficent1111.pngWhenever one hears the word “fairy”, one might think of Fairy Tales, folklore, a Midsummer Night’s Dream, or even Tinker Bell. They are often “represented as mischievous, capricious, and even demonic, they could also be loving and bountiful, as the fairy godmother in Cinderella” (Lagasse). People do not consider a Fairy to be scary or monstrous but they certainly can be. What makes something monstrous? Is it because it is different in physicality? Do they pose a threat to humanity? (Weinstock). Does it become monstrous because it wants to cause harm and pain? The word Monster comes from the Latin word Monstrum which refers to both a monster and sign that something momentous or calamitous is likely to happen (Ramos). One Fairy in particular named Maleficent stands out the most when I think of monsters. She is the most iconic Disney villain and portrayed as the most evil in the 1959 film “Sleeping Beauty.” She later gets a redemption in the Disney adaptation of “Sleeping Beauty”in the 2014 film “Maleficent”.Suddenly the once wicked and uncomplicated character becomes complex and has purpose. Her character improves and develops over time significantly compared to her predecessors in the 1959 film, and the story “the sleeping beauty in the wood” which is why I give the 2014 film Maleficenta score of 7.5 out of 10.

Although the character Maleficent becomes less monstrous in the newer film she demonstrates how our society creates monsters. In Jeffrey Cohen’s Monster culture, he states, “I offer seven theses toward understanding cultures through the monsters they bear” (Cohen). His seven theses are meant to help us understand our culture and the boundary that marks whether something is good or bad. Cram.com analyzed his seven theses and broke this down even further by stating, “Monsters are a symbol and representations of culture. They exist because of certain places or feelings of a time period.” “People create them to represent something larger than itself in order to have people reflect on their “fears, desires, anxiety, and fantasy” (cram.com). So, every monster represents something different we face, and changes over time. We see this by comparing the 2014 version to the 1959 animated film and to the even older version from 1695.

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In the 1695 story book “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood” by Charles Perrault, Maleficent’s name isn’t even Maleficent. Perrault referrers to her as an aged fairy. She is barely in the story at all, there is not much backstory, all we can gather is that this aged fairy was offended because she thought the kingdom forgot about her.  This version of the story is only a few pages long. There is no kiss to awaken the princess from her one hundred years of sleep. The story ends very gruesomely with ogres and cannibalism (Perrault). The Fairy remains an antagonist for the first paragraph of the story and isn’t brought up again.  Goodreads.com gives the book an overall rating of 3.85 out of 5 but the comment section seems to disagree with such a high rating. Many readers claim the moral of the story is hard to understand and the story itself is boring (GoodReads.com). The Fairy goes from being nameless with little mention to one of the main characters in the 1959 version of “Sleeping beauty”.They named the fairy “Maleficent”. Her character in this film lacks any compassion for others and seems like she holds only hatred in her heart. Especially as she calls on the all the “powers of hell” to transform herself into a fire breathing dragon in order to stop the prince from awakening the princess and breaking the curse. In this version sleeping beauty “princess aurora” is cursed for no reason by Maleficent. Maleficent curses the baby princess and makes it so that on her sixteenth birthday she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Luckily there are good fairies that offer their help and they make it so that instead of death the princess will fall into a deep sleep and be awoken by true loves kiss. The kingdom does as much as they can to prevent this day from happening but all fails and the prophecy is fulfilled. It ends up just fine as we all know the prince defeats Maleficent and they live happily ever after.

The 1959 version did not do as well with a domestic lifetime gross of $51,600,000. That is not very much when you compare it to its predecessors like Snow white and the seven dwarfsthat earned a domestic lifetime gross of $184,925,486 and Cinderellawith a domestic lifetime gross of $93,141,149 (Boxofficemojo).  Animators at Disney claim this movie did not do well because Walt Disney was busy with other projects and overseeing the construction of Disneyland. They also claim the film was not what people wanted or needed in 1959 (youtubevideo).  However, the movie is more widely received today than it was when it first premiered (youtubevideo). In Disney’s 2014 spinoff of “Sleeping Beauty”, “Maleficent” Her character gets a redemption and we learn a different side of the story. Rotten tomatoes gives this film a score of 51 percent but fans strongly disagree with over seventeen-thousand positive reviews on fandango.com resulting in four and half stars out of 5 on their website. This movie shows us that we cannot always believe everything we hear.

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At the beginning of the 2014 movie the narrator starts with “Let us tell an old story anew, and we will see how well you know it.” Suggesting that there are two sides to every story. We later learn that this holds true for this story. We learn that Maleficent started out as a good, caring person. She is powerful, has wings. The reason she becomes evil is because someone she thought was her love betrayed her and cut her wings off in exchange to become the new king. He becomes king and has a child. Maleficent shows up at the christening and curses the baby princess and claims the only way she can be awoken is by true loves kiss, unlike the 1959 story where the helpful fairies come in and make this happen. Maleficent watches over the princess and over time grows to care for her and even preventing death on multiple occasions. By the end the prophecy is fulfilled and the princess falls into a deep sleep. Maleficent tries to get a prince to wake her but his kiss isn’t true love. Maleficent wishes she could take the curse back but can’t and she apologizes and she bends down to kiss her and breaks the curse. The wicked fairy loves the princess so much that her kiss was true love. So, we can see that even though she was evil for a period of time, it wasn’t her fault. She had been wronged so badly that it caused her to experience a moment of weakness. So, the new version basically tells you that the 1959 version was a lie and one sided.

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One of Jeffrey Cohen’s theses from Monster theory is called “The Monster Dwells at the Gate of difference” (Cohen). What he means by this and explains is that we as a society create monsters when something is different or when we are not able to understand it (Cohen). Maleficent is a villain in the 1959 film and we don’t really know why. She is later viewed as the hero in the 2014 film because we learn that the kingdom was actually the monster. The kingdom feared her great powers which is why they wronged her and made her into a monster. This happens all the time in real life. For example, for years gay people have been made out to be monsters despite how far we have come with “social, legal, and political advances” (Harper).  People think it is okay to discriminate against them because they are different. It is ok to stand up for what you think is right but someone being gay doesn’t make them a monster. This message is important to convey.

flying maleficent.jpgSo, everyone thought they knew the story of Maleficent but we later found out we were only told one side of the story. Which is common in our culture and one of the many reasons we create monsters. When someone or something is portrayed as a monster it is important to ask why? It is important to find out the facts first before you assume or contribute to the problem. People create monsters and end up assuming the worst of them and it is not known until later that these people or things were not monstrous at all. Something or someone created them. Disney’s reboot in Maleficent 2014 did a good job of explaining this. Over all I enjoyed watching Maleficent go from a character with hardly any background to a character with lots of layers. You learn the truth behind why she cast the curse and how it affected her so deeply. It’s very sad this is a common theme in our society when it comes to who we deem as monstrous but it is important to remember that we cannot always believe everything we hear. Question everything.

Annotated Bibliography:

“fairy.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, Paul Lagasse, and Columbia University, Columbia University Press, 7th edition, 2017. Credo Reference, https://search.credoreference.com/content/topic/fairy?institutionId=5312. Accessed 19 Apr. 2018.

Weinstock, Jeffrey Andrew. “Introduction: Monsters are the Most Interesting People.” The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters, Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, Ashgate Publishing, 1st edition, 2014. Credo Reference, https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/ashgtmonster/introduction_monsters_are_the_most_interesting_people/0?institutionId=5312. Accessed 19 Apr. 2018.

Ramos. “Professor Ramos’ Blog.” Professor Ramos’ Blog, WordPress, Apr. 2018, professorramos.blog/.

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Cohen, Jeffrey. “Find Flashcards to Study.” Cram.com: Create and Share Online Flashcards, 10 Apr. 2018, http://www.cram.com/.

“Cinderella (1950) (1950) – Release Summary.” Box Office Mojo, 15 Apr. 2018, http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=releases&id=cinderella1950.htm.

“Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 1 Sept. 2015, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6933961-sleeping-beauty.

“Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 1 Sept. 2015, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6933961-sleeping-beauty.

“The Making of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.” YouTube, YouTube, 29 Jan. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5uFGv45XEw.

Disney, Walt. Sleeping Beauty. Walt Disney Pictures, 1959.

Perrault, Charles. The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood. Blackie, 1965.

Stromberg, Robert, director. Maleficent. Walt Disney Pictures, 2014.

Harper, Gary W. and Margaret Schneider. “Oppression and Discrimination among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered People and Communities: A Challenge for Community Psychology.” American Journal of Community Psychology, vol. 31, no. 3/4, June 2003, p. 243. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=10306188&site=ehost-live.