Your revenant Weekend Politics Thread host has unexpectedly strong opinions about a movie whose existence predates him by more than a decade. Since a person not worth naming no longer demands the sole and committed attention of a busted, spewing sewer pipe, strap in.
Uvular streamed Disney’s 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty two nights ago and ended the experience impressed by the animation, devastated by Aurora/Briar Rose’s life story,1 and determined to watch the previously avoided-at-all-costs Maleficent movies.
♫ When she was twenty-one she wore her mother’s lace
She said “forever” with a smile upon her face
She does the car-pool, she PTAs
Doctors and dentists, she drives all day
When she was twenty-nine she delivered number three
And every Christmas card showed a perfect family ♫
First, no Uve had not seen Sleeping Beauty before now. His parents did not keep a Disney household, though a rare trip to the nearest drive-in theater for an original Escape From Witch Mountain and The Apple Dumpling Gang double feature left quite an impression on the 7-year-old who would eventually grow into the 51-year-old man who wasted 700-some words ranting about a 62-year-old movie whose creators are long dead and cannot defend their project. Which means Uvular wins.
Second, the thing just looks amazing. Bunraku-style cutout animation at the beginning morphs into hand-drawn and -painted cels sequenced so seamlessly the ultimate effect mimics live action. The finished product almost beggars textual description. The colors dazzle, and the fight sequences toward the end make Crank look like My Dinner With Andre.2
Third, and the true point of this segment of the screed to which you chose to subject yourself, Sleeping Beauty could not happen if the titular beauty received a scintilla of human agency. Aurora/Briar Rose presents an an all-singing, all-dancing McGuffin. Hitchcock never did a heroine so dirty.
A partial list of the pallid princess’s debasement and denigration includes3
- Assignment at birth no other characteristics than beauty, song and guaranteed death at sundown of the day of her 16th birthday.
- Betrothal as an infant to a 7-year-old she would never meet again until their overdetermined wedding day.
- Kidnapping from her birth parents for her “protection.”
- Renaming. And — get it? — do not touch the briar rose!
- Never once hearing about her parents, fate, and arranged nuptials until the day before the forced marriage.
- Ordered to not mention the young man she fell in love with at first sight because she would upset the parents she just met in passing before ending up locked in tower lest she run off to find her lover boy.
- Falling in love with the only man she ever encountered.
- Literally4 needing a white5 knight to rescue her.
- Not even having the option of choosing the color of her wedding dress, which the fairy godmothers constantly change as if to strobe the point of Aurora/Briar Rose existing as blank slate.
Now, Uvular knows. He understands the story as written dates to early 1800s. The storyline goes even farther back into the prehistory of Germanic peoples. But what the hell kind of messages does this deliver to girls who will become women? Or boys who will become men? Or others who will remain others?
Shame on the bards. Shame on the Brothers Grimm. Shame on the Disney studio executives and the entire creative team.
♪ Twenty-eight years have come and gone
And she’s seen a lot of tears
Of the ones who come in
They really seem to need her there ♪
But the mad badness does not even end there. In addition to processing the erasure of the main character at every turn in real time, viewers must come to grips with the plot line for Maleficent. The antagonist, whose name so subtly means “doing evil or harm,” occupies the role of pure evil6 to Aurora/Briar Rose’s pure good. But the good-to-bad continuum in the SBvere runs from doing nothing for one’s self and one’s own benefit to living a completely self-sufficient and successful life.
Maleficent commands an army, has mastered all manner of arcane arts, and does her damnedest to spare her opposing cypher a life worse than not living at all. Make no mistake, the fatal injury-to-be played as a curse in the opening act would actually forestall greater indignities and usurpations7 later. For her troubles, Maleficent dies a painful death at the hands of the blandest movie hero to ever bandy a magicked sword.
Uvular surmises that Maleficent receives her due as a strong, independent woman in the film series starring Angelina Jolie. He’ll need to scope that for himself. For now, comment away.