So I guess I already summed it up more or less, but I did not find myself pleased with this Jezebel article on “yes, that was a rape scene” as said by Angelina Jolie.
Your fave is problematic moment for me I guess, but, as much as her intent came from a good place, there is nothing about this quote that does not reinforce negative perceptions of rape survivors as “losing” inherent parts of themselves, along with instilling the idea that maternity is a part of all women.
"We were very conscious, the writer and I, that [the scene in question] was a metaphor for rape," Jolie said. "The core of ["Maleficent"] is abuse, and how the abused have a choice of abusing others or overcoming and remaining loving, open people."
"The question was asked, ‘What could make a woman become so dark? To lose all sense of her maternity, her womanhood, and her softness?’”
And I was willing to give the benefit of a doubt when it came to this scene, because I felt like the overall story arc was uplifting. But it does get tiring to see rape as a plot twist. To see it always posited as the “reason” women are “bad” or “evil” in a story. To constantly see it used in place of character development for no real reason. To always have it posited that survivors are not redeemed in a story arc until they “learn to love again.”
But while the plot device ties in with Jolie’s personal mission to raise awareness about rape, we keep seeing women get raped, over and over again, on TV and in movies. (Jezebel)
Yes. While I’m willing to cut some slack for a woman-oriented movie, there’s a limit. idk. This interview is just not making me feel good about the scene.
This is where I feel Disney made a mistake in attempting to make Maleficent a “relatable” or “sympathetic” character. It goes back to my feeling/observations that female villains are never allowed to be “evil for the sake of being evil.” There is always this inherent and accepted idea that someone must’ve screwed her over or “made her this way.” Female villains are apparently only villains because someone “made them that way.” Male villains (The Joker, etc) who are unapologetically evil are rarely obligated to a similar backstory, and if they are, they usually get to keep their “villain status,” one that has implied benefits of power and prestige on the playing field of the story’s setting.
To me, that kind of trope (and it does become a trope) becomes problematic because it does reinforce the stereotype that all women are inherently good, and by good they usually mean maternal, soft, feminine - things that by themselves are not necessarily a bad thing but that society at large has long since coded as weak or inferior.
I always admired the original portrayal of Maleficent because she was unapologetically evil. It’s all well and good that the movie attempted to give her a relatable backstory, but I believe Maleficent’s power as a character came from her status as a villain, as a natural force to be reckoned with. While the film may frame her as powerful even when she’s good, there is this sense of disempowerment/disenfranchisement that comes from her backstory, this idea that she only became this powerful (as a villain) BECAUSE a man betrayed her.
It becomes really icky when you consider that the filmmakers attempted to use rape and rape culture in attempt to illustrate this. I can’t help but feel like anyone might interpret the intended message as, “Well, you don’t have a right to be angry about what happened to you. By default you should be maternal and forgiving and full of love, so don’t be like the Maleficent who harmed people in the beginning. Be like the Maleficent who got over her trauma by reconnecting with what we have defined as womanhood.”I really take issue with any implications as to how a victim of sexual assault or violence should feel or react to their own trauma.
However, I think their hearts were in the right place, or at least I feel Jolie’s was, but a female villain’s go-to backstory shouldn’t automatically be rape or implied rape. Maleficent is hardly the first film to do this, they do it in comics all the time as well, and it disappoints me that Disney intends to create a formula from this type of success for future “villain” movies.