June 12, 2014
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Last night, my wife and I saw Disney’s Maleficent. I don’t normally like Disney films or even fairy tales in general. But this one was really good, and I think all Pagans and feminists should see it while it’s still in theaters.
I don’t like most fairy tales because they usually feature Christian themes that are both anti-Pagan and anti-woman. The anti-woman angle is probably most evident, with all the female characters in these stories being divided between (1) virgins and/or princesses and (2) evil queens, witches, stepmothers and/or stepsisters. Those who fall into the first category are beautiful but powerless, being molested by monsters and requiring knights in shining armor to rescue and marry them. In other words, they’re property to be stolen, fought over and returned to their fathers (who then give them away to suitors). The female characters who fall into the second category are “ugly” or threatening because they exercise real power and can’t be treated as property. There’s simply no place for powerful and assertive women who are also “good.”
The anti-Pagan angle appears in how the otherworldly beings of these stories (e.g., Gods, fairies, witches, etc.) are also divided in two groups: (1) those that willingly surrender their territory to the Christians (which makes them “good”) and (2) those that refuse to fade away and who stand their ground (which makes them “evil”). As in the situation with female characters, there’s no place for any paranormal beings that refuse to be swept away and who still insist that they are “good.” You’re either Merlin – helping to make Britain more Christian and more “civilized” – or you’re Queen Mab, stubbornly refusing to let Paganism die (and keeping Britian “barbaric”). (As much as I enjoy the 1998 made-for-TV version of Merlin, I can never finish it because it always makes me weepy when Mab loses and fades away at the end. I’m totally on her side!)
I enjoyed Maleficent because it actually has the ovaries to correct these problems and to do so without being ironic (e.g., Shrek), depressing (e.g., Mists of Avalon) or gruesome (e.g., Snow White: A Tale of Terror). I won’t go into detail about how it does this – I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it yet – but trust me, it does. This may very well be the most feminist and pro-Pagan adaptation of any fairy tale I’ve ever seen. Go and see it today!