‘Maleficent’ is not ‘a woman scorned’ so stop calling her that

There is so much talk in the feminist internet about ‘Maeficent’ being portrayed as ‘a woman scorned’ that I feel I must right the misconception here. As far as I can tell, the false rumor was fueled by this review in the LA Times:

Alas, though Maleficent’s magical forest is equipped with stomping tree beasts and squat, mud-slinging gnomes, she has no Top 40 station to teach her that her lifelong boyfriend should have put a ring on it. So she does what any wounded woman would do: Curse his baby daughter to an inescapable coma.


Like Oz the Great and Powerful, Maleficent considers itself a revisionist fairy tale that spins a demonized witch into a feminist icon. Hardly. Both movies hinge on a man, as though the sheer power of being rejected by one dude is enough to make any girl nuts. Maleficent and the Wicked Witch of the West can terrify armies, but they cede their emotional strength to a mortal twerp.

I really don’t get how the reviewer could twist and reduce this movie to come up with such a simplistic and ridiculous analysis. Maleficent is pissed because her wings were cut off. A perfect metaphor that should be obvious to anyone who watches this movie. If you need more proof, here’s a lovely quote from the writer, Linda Woolverton, about what was going through her head as she re-imagined this fairytale:

“I had to figure out what possibly could have happened to her to make her want to hurt an innocent baby. Something that would equal that act. In the animated movie, she had no wings. She just threw her robes open like wings. I thought, ‘Is that it? Did someone take her wings?’

Maleficent curses the baby because she’s lost her wings, she’s lost her power. Clearly, Maleficent enjoyed those wings. They were taken from her. Wouldn’t that make you angry?

Also, the guy who cut off Maleficent’s wings, she befriended when she was a kid. Stefan was always been greedy and lustful for power. When Maleficent first meets him, he’s just stolen something. One of the first things Stefan tells Maleficent is that he wants to live in the castle. But Stefan is not all bad. He’s charming, the two of them have fun together, he tosses his iron ring when he sees that the metal hurts her. And once again, they are children. Haven’t you stuck around with a friend because you’ve been friends for so long? Stefan’s character is contrasted with Maleificent’s in that her heart grows cold as well, but she changes, she acts while Stefan sits around and mopes.

Jezebel also has complaints about the movie. Regarding Maleficent:

And the whole place is governed by this whimsical child-mayor named Maleficent (seriously, HOW DID YOU GET ELECTED YOU ARE EIGHT)


Because she is the most powerful Fairy! That is how she is introduced by the (female) narrator at the beginning of the movie.

Jezebels’ next complaint is obviously kind of tongue in cheek, but again, it implies the interaction between Maleficent and Stefan in anti-feminist:

When she wakes up in the morning, her huge beautiful majestic wings have been sawed off and stolen.

Let me repeat. In Maleficent, a PG-rated Disney movie, a man ROOFIES A FAIRY AND VIOLENTLY TAKES HER “WINGS” WHILE SHE’S UNCONSCIOUS.

Wait, maybe it’s not tongue and cheek:

I was surprised. I think of myself as having a pretty consistently perceptive and sensitive Good Feminist™ barometer, and—the groaningly cheap and clumsy rape allegory aside (as far as you can set such a thing aside)—I’d enjoyed Maleficent mostly without pause.

Seriously? Protagonists have been drugged in narratives from time immemorial. I didn’t get any kind of predatory sex vibe from this scene. Is the reviewer saying females cannot be drugged in a narrative because that must be understood as date rape? That was the last thing from my mind watching this part of the movie, and this is my mind that we’re talking about. Once again, please refer back to the writer’s quote.

Jezebel has more problems with the feminist cred of the movie:

The more my friend and I talked about it, the more problems came to the surface. Did the final battle have to be so brutal and soooooooo long?

Yes, it did. We had to see Maleficent revel in her power. And it wasn’t even that long. Violence is a part of narratives because art is metaphorical and depicts emotional realities. Here’s what Peggy Orenstein wrote about it in Cinderella Ate My Daughter:

“Violent play is not by definition bad or harmful for kids. Any child shrink worth her sand table will tell you it can help them learn about impulse control, work out the difference between fantasy and reality, and cope with fear….Children of both sexes crave larger than life heroes. They need fantasy. They also, it seems, need a certain amount of violent play…something that allows them to triumph in their own way over this thing we call death, to work out their day-to-day frustrations; to feel large, powerful, and safe.”


Next problem:

Did the meet-cute have to be so shallow?

I don’t know what that means.

Did Maleficent have to be punished so profoundly for succumbing to her completely justified rage?

Huh? She’s triumphant in the end and redeemed. I loved that about the movie.

Did the supporting female characters have to be so useless?

Yes, they were contrasting to Maleficent who protected and watched out for Aurora (and that’s why they were not the “mayors” of the moors even though they were older, Maleficent was always the smartest and most powerful and born to rule.)

Read my review of “Maleficent’ here.

4 thoughts on “‘Maleficent’ is not ‘a woman scorned’ so stop calling her that

  1. Thanks a lot for writing this. There was something that bothered me a lot about the “maleficent is a scorned woman” commentaries, but I didn’t know how to put it in words.

  2. Thank you!! Exactly what I was thinking. Word for word. I thought it was beautiful, and I ABSOLUTELY loved that Prince Philip wasn’t her true love. How enlightening that this movie was about real emotion and real consequences. Of all the Disney movies, this would be the one is like my daughter to take to heart. The possibility that people will hurt you, betray you, change your life, but that you can do more damage to yourself by seeking revenge??? That redemption is possible? That is possible to love even after our hearts have been broken? Yes please! That’s the epitome of feminism to me…a woman owning her emotions and mistakes, learning, and growing.

Leave a Reply