Monday, May 22, 2017

Disney Defense: Sleeping Beauty

So, the Goodreads giveaway for Under Locker and Key is over. Congratulations to the 3 winners!

In other news, I'll be visiting Timpanogos Intermediate School in Heber, UT tomorrow morning. It's my first school visit since my book came out. We'll see if it's any different now; I'll report back about it next week.

This week I have a Disney defense; it's been a while since I did one of these. There are some things said about this film that I don't entirely agree with, and I have to say what I think. This post won't be as long as some of my other defenses.

The film is, of course, Sleeping Beauty (as you likely guessed from the post title).

This movie is an old Disney classic, and it's known lately as the movie that gave rise to the reboot Maleficent and the film where the title character only has about 18 lines. I've heard this statistic used as an argument that Sleeping Beauty is anti-feminist.

And it seems to be: the passive princess in the tower, sleeping away, while the prince cuts through thorns and fights a dragon.

But here's the thing I believe:

This movie isn't about Sleeping Beauty. She isn't the protagonist. Neither is Phillip.



Radical notion, I know. But let's consider.

The protagonist of a story is the "one who strives." That's not Briar Rose. It's not really even Prince Phillip. They both do as they are expected to do, and more or less passively go along as others direct them. (See my post from last week about strong characters.) I'd say the only thing either of them does of their own will is Briar Rose telling Phillip she'd see him again (against the fairies' wishes) and Phillip actually showing up (against his father's).

Not that contradicting authority is a sign of strength. But it can be telling.

So, who's pulling the strings? Who is acting and not being acted upon?

The fairies.


That's right! Maleficent, the evil fairy, sets the whole story in motion with her spell. And the good fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Meriweather, respond with their own protections.

It goes like this whole film.

Maleficent: *casts spell*

Good fairies: *counter spell* *hide the princess*

Maleficent: *searches for princess* *finds princess* *brings her to the spindle*

Good fairies: *put the castle to sleep*

Maleficent: *captures Phillip, the "true love" according to the spell alterations the good fairies made*

Good fairies: *rescue Phillip and give him weapons*

Maleficent: *tries to stop Phillip*

Good fairies: *magics him through obstacles*

Maleficent: *confronts Phillip as a dragon*

Good fairies: *enchant sword*

Maleficent: *dies*


That's it. That's the story. This isn't a tale of prince and princess and true love, not at its heart. It's not about Phillip's courage, although I don't discount that, either.

It's a story of good versus evil, with fairies combating each other with whatever weapons they have. Maleficent acts directly with her own dark magic, and the good fairies often act through other people, but they do act.

Briar Rose and Phillip are not the heroes of this story. They are secondary characters, pawns even. Everything that happens is part of a battle between the fairies, the forces of good and evil.

Which is why I didn't buy the depiction of the good fairies in Maleficent. They aren't secondary characters. They never were. They are the good to Maleficent's evil, the force available to counter hers. They're powerful, even though everyone only ever seems to remember the "make it pink/blue" birthday fiasco.


So, that's Sleeping Beauty: a story of good versus evil. The prince and princess are not the protagonists, not here. Doesn't make it a bad movie, but it does change the focus, don't you think?

Here are this week's debuts:

Middle Grade:
Darcy Miller - Roll (5/23)

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