MALEFICENT: Disney’s Revisionist Narrative?

MALEFICENT: Disney’s Revisionist Narrative?

Sleeping Beauty was the first Disney movie I remember seeing. As a young girl (five or so), it was brought back to the theatres in the late 1980s and I feel in love. Aurora was such a beautiful girl and her story was tragic and then happy in the end. Since then, though, I’ve become a very different woman: I’ve learned and studied many things and I know that life is not always as perfect as a fairy tale.

That doesn’t stop me from wanting to see my favorite fairy tales told again, nor does it stop me thinking about those stories in a different way, thanks to age and school. The idea behind Disney’s upcoming Maleficent is simple: tell one of the best loved stories from the point of view of the villain, but in its execution, I have to worry.

One of the many things I studied in college was History. In particular, there’s a facet of history that discusses the way that historical narratives are told and created (yes, it’s true, history isn’t just facts). Historiography, the study of how history is told, is both fascinating and frustrating in equal turns, because you learn so much about how victors tell their own tale. However, there’s one sort of historiography that always made me leery: the revisionist narrative (there are two definitions of this and so for the point of this, let’s focus on the negative one). In this type of book, a preexisting narrative can be re-examined based on legitimate scholarship or distorted to make the event seem better or worse.

Based purely on the trailer, it seems that Disney’s using the last idea of scholarship of their own narrative: to make Maleficent, as their villain, seem more sympathetic and less evil. I’m fairly confident that Maleficent is, and always will be, one of the most evil villains in Disney movies, but she’s also the most devious one.

Seeing her interact with a young Aurora in the trailer takes everything I’ve never known about Sleeping Beauty from their movie and turns it on its axis. It certainly changes much of my opinion of Maleficent’s works if she had been watching the young girl for those sixteen years instead of being ignorant of her whereabouts. Doesn’t the trailer alone contradict the original movie?

Of course, all of this is speculation based on a very short trailer. The movie could end up being nothing like this trailer suggests, and the revisionist narrative might be smoke and mirrors for the sake of raising interest in the new movie. Only time will tell which idea is right, but for now, I worry about what the Disney of now will do with the villain that I most love to hate.

About Roz

Roz is a Southern California native, who grew up watching all of the revived Disney cartoons before being introduced to “Into the Woods” well before she understood half the nuanced jokes. In addition, she loves any fairy tale tropes that are incorporated into modern stories.

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