You know the movie Maleficent? Fuck that movie. Not because it’s a terrible movie. It’s not. I mean, it isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible. Maleficent, the movie, is basically the concept of Wicked (more the musical than the book) with the ending from Frozen tacked onto it. And, hey, Disney? You know that stunt you pulled where the crow turns into a dragon and Maleficent definitely doesn’t? YOU HAD ONE JOB! Turn Maleficent into a dragon at the end! And you couldn’t even do that right!
No, for this post, I’ll be looking at the animated film, Sleeping Beauty, from 1959. A movie whose villain stole the show in such a way, that Disney thought “gee, she’s popular. Wanna give her an origin story that fucks up the reason people like her?” (I’ll lay off now, but JEEZ. US.)
The reason that people are so taken with Maleficent is that she goes above and beyond the call of evil, and she enjoys it. Not that she goes around attacking random people, but if she feels you’ve wronged her, she will take her revenge. But not by going after you, by going after your loved ones.
What happens is, Maleficent makes everyone a little uneasy, so the king and queen have a baby and don’t invite Maleficent to the christening or baby party or whatever. Like she wouldn’t hear about that shit.
Fun fact: In the original fairy tale there were a bunch more fairies and they couldn’t invite them all cause they didn’t have enough golden plates. So the 13th fairy, the only one who didn’t get invited was like, “well curse you, and your stupid baby.” Maybe invite her and give her a silver plate next time? Not indicative of anything. I just think it’s funny. I’ve never not invited someone over because I didn’t have enough cutlery.
Oh, and you may have noticed that in the fairy tale, she was a fairy. That didn’t change in the adaptation. Kindly stop calling her a witch. I’m sure that’s not doing you any favors.
Anyway, of course she hears about the baby party, and of course she’s upset she didn’t get an invite. So she whooshes in (THAT ENTRANCE) and chats with the party guests and the king and queen. And they’re embarrassed, but Maleficent claims she fine with it. As a matter of fact she’s gonna give the baby a gift. Then PSYCH! She’s super pissed, she has been wronged, and as a punishment to the parents, she curses the kid, so she’ll die on her 16th birthday by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. Admittedly a weird method of execution. Then she evil laughs and disappears. She’s clearly enjoying herself.
And another fairy’s like, “seems unfair to the kid, maybe she’ll just be a really deep sleeper if I enchant her.” So, yeah, Cruella wants to skin puppies, but Maleficent likes to curse babies. Babies that have done nothing to her. To settle a score with the parents.
Fast forward to Aurora (the baby from the baby party) being 15 years and 364 days old. Maleficent has her literal pig-headed henchmen looking for Aurora and they just can’t find her. Why? Cause ‘”they were looking for a baby.” As at the party, Maleficent laughs it off at first, giving her minions a false sense of security. Then she starts shooting crazy lightening at them all. She’s so good at being evil.
But Aurora is found, and it doesn’t matter that the king has burned all the spinning wheels, Maleficent just magic’s one up, puts Aurora in a trance, and Aurora pricks her finger. By the time the “good” fairies get there, it’s too late, and Maleficent does the most dramatic reveal of the dead princess in maybe all of cinematic history. Feel badly about yourselves, good fairies! Feel very very bad!
She also decides to kidnap Prince Phillip, Aurora’s betrothed, for good measure.
Side note on the subject of Prince Phillip: He’s the first Disney prince to don a personality. Up to this point, Disney had featured only 2 other princes in an animated feature. These are Snow White and the Seven Dwarves‘ prince, who is never mentioned by name in the film (apparently they retconned him the name Florian), and “Prince Charming” from Cinderella. Neither have much screen time, nor many lines, but are meant to represent a happy ending for a put upon, soon to be princess. Sleeping Beauty went in a different direction. First off, Aurora’s already a princess, though she doesn’t know it. When she finds out she’s a princess, she thinks this will be a problem, because she likes Phillip and she has no reason to think he’s a prince. Phillip has even less reason to believe Aurora’s a princess, and if everyone had just been upfront from the beginning, it would have saved a LOT of trouble with this vengeful fairy. Ah, well. It may be better actually, because this is where Maleficent goes above and beyond the call of baddie.
So, anyway, Phillip’s personality is that of an arrogant dick. Oh, I never said it was a good personality, but it’s a personality nonetheless. He’s brash, he’s stubborn, he’s patronizing, and goddamn it, I still prefer him to the previous princes. At least, he’s interesting to watch. And this is actually important, because it makes Maleficent more evil, facing off with a more fully realized character. Now, unfortunately, this personality only lasts for the first half of the movie. He turns mute and cliche at the end, which is too bad. But at the point he’s captured, he’s a realized character.
Maleficent takes the captured prince home and proceeds to physically, emotionally, and psychologically torture him. Is it any wonder we all adore her so much?! As a villain, I mean. Great villain. When else has a Disney villain psychologically tortured the captured hero?
To refresh your memory, she throws Phillip in a dungeon,which is pretty basic bad guy fare, but she pays him little visits. During these visits she tells him stories about princes rescuing princesses and waking them with true love’s kiss. The narrative she tells is the happily ever after narrative that we are all waiting to have happen already. Here’s the nasty part, as she tells the story, she conjures visual images to go along with it. They show the story she’s telling, but in them Phillip is an old man, barely able to stay atop his horse, who is also incredibly old, struggling to walk towards the tower where Aurora sleeps, in her eternal youth and beauty. Maleficent absolutely intends to release Phillip. Just as soon as he’s actually dying of old age. Then he can wake up Aurora.
So, anyway, the goody-two shoes fairies show up to ruin everyone’s fun. They release our suddenly boring hero, and give him magic shit, which is absolutely one hundred percent the only reason he wins the fight. Phillip goes thundering toward Aurora’s tower on his trusty steed, while Maleficent’s up in another tower making weather, when she decides to create a literal barrier between Phillip and Aurora and magics up some wicked thorns. Phillip begins hacking away at them, and Maleficent’s like “this turd just won’t stahp!” But she’s got one more ace up her flared sleeve, and it’s a doozy.
SHE TURNS INTO A DRAGON.
That’s it. We’re done. Nothing can ever top that. Jafar’s giant cobra is the only thing close, but snakes are a thing. Dragon’s are mythological. That doesn’t slow her down for a moment. Oh, and Maleficent’s using her own damn magic.
There’s one teensy little thing that Maleficent is missing, that a lot of other Disney villains have. A song. This was before Disney started giving their baddies songs though, so it seems a little unfair to dock her for that.
So cursed babies, captured princes who are torture in all the ways, making lightning, conjuring thorns, and turning into a dragon. All while looking fashionable and balancing a green and purple motif (two colors I would not have thought go together). She’s the best at being bad.