The sisters and I used to play a game. We “owned” things we liked. So if I was particularly fond of a cartoon or a film or a story, it belonged to me, which meant that any imaginative play that came out of that particular theme, was up to me to direct and run and I could get dibs on which character I wanted to be. The classification was based on a number of things- what appealed to us most, which story we most related to or sometimes simply even a favourite colour. So while growing up, in the princess love category, I was Sleeping Beauty (I cannot recall the reason why anymore), Middling was Snow White (for her gentle nature and affinity for animals) and Little Jam was Cinderella (evil stepsisters!) So I was excited to see what they have done to my Maleficent. Out of all the villainous beauties, she was definitely the one with the most presence and style and I was very curious to see how she had been “humanized”. I had heard a lot of mixed reviews on whether this was an appropriate movie for kids between 4 and 7 and after talking to a few people whose opinion I could trust, followed by a good sweep of the internet (while trying to dodge spoilers) I decided that I would take them and then remain vigilant throughout the movie in case I needed to distract them from some part. We loved it of course. I am blown away by how amazingly the idea of true love and evil and good is interwoven now to represent both powers, often in one character. It is so true to life now. There is no longer the simplicity of , black or white that we grew up with. More often than not, it is both that reside together, often in some locked battle to see what wins out. I can no longer answer the question that Lily asks, “Mama is she good or bad?” in simply one word. And for Nadi, who has long been fascinated by the villainous characters of all the stories he has encountered with the justification that they are simply “more interesting”, the idea of a good and bad battle raging within has unlocked a whole new level of questions and wonderings. With Nadi and Lily, the way I have done things is so different, so in depth in its analysis and infused with play that I am never quite certain what concept is being scrutinized at what point but I have learnt that I like them to be questioning. To be curious and chatty and asky. I like them to think that things are not and do not always have to be a way we previously knew them to be. That the idea of changing one’s mind or self is good> That a back story which explains things further makes us more human, better people and more able to “walk in other people’s shoes”, to quote a beloved Atticus. Perhaps it is soon to introduce that concept to them, I do wonder, given that I am making sense of it myself. But I can’t help loving how movies like Frozen and Maleficent have opened up the idea of true love, evil and good to further understanding, more introspection and more options, so we are able to redefine happily ever after and heroes and villains, allowing them a chance to be other than what they were always limited to being.
Maleficent was created by Marc F. Davis, who was one of the most wonderful animators of his time and one of Disney’s Nine Old Men for his knowledge and understanding of visual aesthetics, the famed core animators of Disney animated films. http://fyeahmarcdavis.tumblr.com/