As someone who bears a deep and abiding love for fractured fairy tales and feminist retellings that give new insight and sympathy to witches and wicked stepmothers, wow is the trailer for Disney’s live-action Maleficent disappointing:
Visually, this appears to be a straight translation of Disney’s animated rendition of Sleeping Beauty, from Maleficent’s headdress to the thorns she summons from the ground to trap Aurora. And while it’s possible that Disney’s final movie is entirely different product, the way it’s selling the movie is, once again, through Sleeping Beauty’s perspective, rather than Maleficent’s. It’s her, capering in the wood with sprites that’s the sales point, her plucky demand that the person watching her come out and show herself, that Disney’s selling to us.
Even if the movie is genuinely focused on Maleficent, the way she became who she was, and has some sympathetic perspective on why she hates Sleeping Beauty, the promotion is telling. Bad boys and men sell. But no matter how good a woman is with a staff, or a bow, or even just her own fists and feet, she still has to be good, her competence legitimized by her virtue. We’re a very long way into the anti-hero age, but it doesn’t seem like we’re at a point where women, like men, can be admired simply for their competence, no matter the application of it.