Okay so here’s the thing: once upon a time, Maleficent was one of the scariest villains in Disney’s princess movies: she had her stone-broken, cobwebbed castle, and shot green fire into the air. But we never got the explanation as to why she wanted to curse Aurora in the first place. However in 2014s Maleficent we finally got our answer, Maleficent used to have wings, and if you haven’t seen the movie yet you’re now probably wondering what happened to her in the beginning of this fairytale.
As a young fairy Maleficent ruled over the Moors, most content with life as she could be, until she met a young boy Stefan. They spent a lot of time together throughout the years and on her 16th birthday he kissed her as the sun was setting and called it true love’s kiss; but soon after, he cut off her wings to avenge the King.
This is why she curses Aurora (Stefan’s daughter), to only be awoken by true love’s kiss because as Maleficent see’s it, there is no such thing in the world. True love doesn’t exist.
Although Maleficent is told to be the villain in Sleeping Beauty, we were able to look deeper and understand that she was a rape victim; Maleficent’s argument that she was never truly evil supports other authors suggestions in their own research that acting out with anger after being raped is a natural, normal way to cope.
Now as much as I wish my favorite childhood fairy tale wasn’t related to rape culture, we aren’t able to look past the wings as a metaphor to Stefan raping Maleficent. It’s very symbolic in a way that the two knew each other all their lives (a lot of victims have some sort of relationship with those who abuse them), and Stefan used this to his advantage, used her trust in him to steal away her biggest value-- the wings-- for his own selfish reasons. It was only in Maleficent’s natural mind to lash out in revenge and curse a spell on King Stefan’s newborn, Aurora.
While some might disagree with my interpretation of Maleficent's goodness and ignoring the fact that she cursed Stefan's child, the bad moments of her life are only caused by the natural man and the world around her. Something that caught me off guard was when Aurora finally realized what Maleficent had done to her and she yelled out “You’re the evil in the world! It’s you!” this made Maleficent feel that when her wings were taken from her it was her own fault and that she really was the evil in the world.
Sadly, this is how it is in real life too, those that have been harmed have to go through and face that feeling-- they feel like it might have been their fault. And even when Maleficent grew so much love for the girl by the time Aurora found out it was her, Maleficent who cursed her, she realized revenge wasn’t what she truly wanted, but the curse was irreversible.
So now we come to the part that true love, in fact, doesn’t come from romance, it comes from a mother. When Aurora’s 16th birthday was getting closer, Maleficent did what she could to reverse the curse because she wished no harm upon the young girl. After Aurora pricked her finger on the spindle of the spinning wheel, Maleficent watched as a boy kissed her sleeping person on the lips and it didn’t wake her up; Now Maleficent had a choice: she could either hold on, and hate, or let go, and love. And as she decided to kiss Aurora on the forehead and explained that she would no longer let harm come to her as long as she lived, Aurora woke up. The curse was fulfilled.
Yes Maleficent became somewhat evil, but she was always pure at heart. She even told Aurora that she “was so lost in hatred and revenge,” and that’s important for us to know she realized what she did wrong and wish she could’ve taken it back.
With the narrator, we as an audience could see Maleficent’s pure heart during the entire story, and could empathize with why she reacted the way she did through revenge. Even though it might not be understandable to curse your ex-boyfriend’s child, we do understand where she is coming from.
After researching some articles and other writer's ideas regarding this movie, most of them would have to agree with the fact that this tale is about rape victims. In Sady Doyle's article "Yes, It's Okay To Have a Metaphorical Rape in a Disney Movie," she expresses that this movie is not for children. Why? Because the information that's displayed in Maleficent would steal away their innocence. However, in the old tale Sleeping Beauty there’s a rape metaphor as well when Prince Stefan kisses the unconscious princess to wake her; which now is turned around to show it really is Maleficent who’s raped.
The way Maleficent chose to defend herself by seeking vengeance, can in some ways inspire women all around the world to stand up for themselves. Nancy French quoted Rebecca Cusey in her article "Yes, It's Okay To Have a Metaphorical Rape in a Disney Movie," that there is "no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence — that the shame is on the aggressor.” So the way French describes it is that Maleficent shows the opportunity women have to recognize what’s wrong in the world, how society treats them, and then use that knowledge to “[rise] above abuse and [choose] to be better.” Yes, Maleficent did make some bad choices when she decided to get revenge, but in a way she needed to fight back in order to see the light again.
And in the end, she did find the light by loving a child the way a mother loves a daughter; Aurora and her ended up being happy in the Moor’s by overcoming the cruelty of the world.