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In which nanila overthinks “Maleficent” - Sauntering Vaguely Downward [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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In which nanila overthinks “Maleficent” [20150220|11:30]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
[Tags|, , , , ]
[the weather today is |sick]
[with a hint of |missy elliott - pass that dutch]

As usual, I’m more than a year behind the curve when it comes to viewing films. First of all, let me state that I enjoyed this one very much. I liked that it was a nuanced mother-daughter story. I found Maleficent’s shifts in character (mostly) believable. I cried over the revelation of the meaning of “true love’s kiss”, even though it was blindingly obvious what was going to happen. It’s visually beautiful, and I will certainly re-watch it many times - though probably not until Humuhumu and Keiki are a bit older.

Still, there were things that bothered me.

  • Racefail: Rant 1: The fairies - the good, happy, sunny, nature-loving, communist fairies - all have RP English accents. I imagine this is at least partly because Ms Jolie does best role-playing an RP accent, as she did in the Tomb Raider films. But then the film-makers decided to give the humans - the greedy, vain, grabby, grubby, feudal humans - Scottish accents.

    And then the one human who ends up proving to be the unifying element between the races is the one raised by the (English) fairies. Who, of course, doesn’t have a Scottish accent.

    Nice job there, film-makers, for (possibly unconsciously) enforcing and even glorifying the English colonialist perspective. You’d think Americans would know better, given all that business in 1776. Especially since there is plenty of evidence about that it is still entirely possible for people to oppress one another for racial, religious and socioeconomic reasons, even if they’re not officially doing it under the mandate of colonialism. Er.

  • Racefail: Rant 2: The one (visibly) black actor with speaking lines is pretty much just there to get smacked in the face by the human king. Er.

  • The Ending: Rant 1: The fairies - the good, happy, sunny, nature-loving, communist fairies - start off by having a lovely society in which everyone gets along by cooperating and sharing resources. They have no rulers. Maleficent, though she is powerful, pointedly requests the assistance of her peers when facing an outside threat.

    Then after getting a massive bee in her bonnet over the wing-stealing business, which is fair enough, she suddenly decides to set herself up as queen. An ill-tempered, capricious and dictatorial queen.

    Okay, in the end she has a change of heart and all is wonderful and beautiful again and she hops gladly off her throne. And instead of going back to their peaceful, delightful, communist society, the fairies decide, “You know what I miss about that period of darkness and fear? Having a queen! So let’s appoint this teenage human - humans have a wonderful history of tolerance and peaceful accord - that we hardly know into that capacity. What a great idea.”

    I mean...What?! Why not just declare peace between the two realms? There was no need to introduce a completely different and obviously flawed system of monarchical governance into the one that got along fine without it for centuries before that. And again, wtf @ Americans. Er.

  • The Ending: Rant 2: Diaval. Am I mistaken, or did Maleficent set him up a little with that whole I-saved-your-life business? And then use him as a slave? And then at the end, he’s standing next to her, looking like he’s now her equal and after that flying around joyfully, looking like a partner and friend? Because that really bugs me.

    Yes, most American films err on the side of spelling out far too many things that don’t need to be. But in this case, I think we could have done with some explicit statements. Specifically, Maleficent releasing him from his obligations, which it appears she obtained on false pretenses and oh, I don’t know, at least verbally apologising for robbing him of his autonomy for a mere sixteen years. He deserved a little more compensation than, “If I take off the hair-shirt and step off this self-appointed throne, you’ll forgive me and we can have a normal relationship, yes? Yes. Good.” Er.


I know that most of these complaints can be easily dismissed if one takes the view that, for all the improvement in gender dynamics on the original Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, it’s still a Disney film. But I think it’s worth considering the places where it could easily have been done better (casting a more diverse set of actors), and where problematic elements were unnecessarily introduced (the rest of the above list).

This entry was originally posted at http://nanila.dreamwidth.org/964602.html. The titration count is at comment count unavailable.0 pKa.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: mysterysquid
2015-02-20 11:12 (UTC)
Er indeed! Yet to see it, but it's on my List.

It's a Long List.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2015-02-23 16:07 (UTC)
If [attempted] feminist retellings of fairy tales are not a big thing for you, then it probably doesn't need to be bumped up the list. But it is very beautiful, and Ms Jolie is fantastic in it.
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[User Picture]From: major_clanger
2015-02-20 11:38 (UTC)
Not seen it yet, but English Accent Good, Scottish Accent Bad is surprising, frankly because it is so opposed to the default. The ur-example is Braveheart, but TV Tropes gives plenty more instances of Evil Brit and Brave Scot.

(Insert obligatory 'TV Tropes - Do Not Go There If You Planned To Get Anything Else Done Today' disclaimer)

In fact the only Scottish-accented baddie outside the subgenre of 'Glaswegian Gangster' who comes to mind is Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers films, and Mike Myers arguably counterbalanced that by going on to give Shrek a Scottish accent.
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[User Picture]From: imyril
2015-02-20 12:53 (UTC)
I had my hand shooting up and then I got to 'Glaswegian Gangster'. Heh, yes. That's a TV trope in and of itself. Poor Glasgow.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2015-02-23 16:11 (UTC)
One word: LOCKOUT! :D
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[User Picture]From: imyril
2015-02-23 17:49 (UTC)

Now then Smiler

It may have been those particular Glaswegians I had in mind, too :)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2015-02-23 16:11 (UTC)
Ha! I hadn't even thought of the usual Naughty Brit/Brave Scot trope. This definitely inverts the stereotypes, but that's not really a positive solution to the problem. :/

Lockout, a ridiculous space station prison film with some blisteringly hysterical dialogue, features some spectacular 'Glaswegian Gangsters'.

We've been watching the Shrek films with the toddler. I don't think I'd ever seen one all the way through before now. TMike Myers' Scottish accent is...variable, but I can tolerate it. I love Antonio Banderas. 'Catnip.' 'Uh...that's no mine.'
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[User Picture]From: alice_mccoy
2015-02-20 13:54 (UTC)
Some definite over thinking there :)

However I know I am a 'passenger'. You are obviously a 'driver'.

One watches the road, paying attention and analysing. One looks out of the window and is often surprised that they are at journey's end but they enjoyed the scenery.

Thank you for pointing out some of the things I missed.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2015-02-23 16:19 (UTC)
It can be a bit of a handicap, this overthinking business. I think it's part of what drives me to spoil myself for films before I see them, because I know I have some pretty strong triggers - and I've gotten suuuper sensitive to anything that involves pain or harm being caused to children. Fortunately once I've decided I can live with whatever faults a film has, it doesn't prevent me from enjoying it!
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