Warning: Spoilers ahead!
The 2014 film “Maleficent” is one of the few Disney reboots I appreciate because it shows a different perspective on “Sleeping Beauty.” Who knew the evil fairy (Angelina Jolie) would be loving and become Princess Aurora’s (Elle Fanning) adoptive godmother? It also takes an extra step to raise awareness about consent and rape through a scene in which Maleficent loses her wings.
Five years later, the sequel “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” shows the dark side of Maleficent after finding out about Aurora’s engagement to Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), which will bring together Ulstead (the land of men) and the Moors. The trailer shows Maleficent disapproving of the marriage after Philip’s mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) says, “She will finally get the love of a real mother. Tonight, I consider Aurora my own.”
Before the film reaches the halfway mark, viewers are introduced to the real villain: Queen Ingrith.
Am I surprised? Not really because it’s obvious Ingrith has an agenda based on the trailer. I mean, why would someone dare piss Maleficent off by implying that Aurora grew up with a mother who didn’t love her?
Throughout the film, Ingrith manipulates Aurora and the kingdom into turning against Maleficent. It also reveals that the evil queen is the one spreading the famous tale of “Sleeping Beauty” so people would fear Maleficent and the Moors. Why? Because she despises mystical creatures and blames them for the death of her brother.
While watching “Mistress of Evil,” I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between Ingrith and every fear-mongering leader who attacks the marginalized. She refuses to form alliances with the Moors because she believes man should be superior to them. It doesn’t help that the Ulstead kingdom is comprised mostly of White people and only one Black man. You can also see the race division within the endangered dark faes (Maleficent’s kind), who are a mix of Caucasians and POCs.
Ingrith’s belief that all magical creatures are evil are similar to US Pres. Donald Trump’s assumption that immigrants are criminals and therefore, should be deported and/or blocked from seeking refuge in America. The queen also has trigger-happy tendencies where she orders knights to kill fairies on the spot, like how Philippine Pres. Rodrigo Duterte wants the police to shoot suspected drug dealers instead of putting them to trial. All her actions were clearly based on her personal prejudices and also why she always disagrees with her husband King John, who wants everyone to live in harmony.
One could argue that Ingrith is another product of the sexist evil queen trope, which portrays female characters as unstable when they are ambitious for power. But this isn’t like Daenerys Targaryen who torches a whole city after her boyfriend-slash-nephew rejects her, among other things. Ingrith’s calculating character and how she feels the need to overpower her male counterpart out of survival is reminiscent of Cersei Lannister—both of them believe they’re doing what’s best, but their intentions are self-serving. It further proves that not every female leader has feminist causes.
Now, the bigger question: Does the “Maleficent” sequel succeed in being the feminist film that everyone expected? It’s questionable.
When Maleficent and the dark faes save the day, Ingrith gets turned into a goat as punishment. I know this is a kid’s film, but is this really justice for the Moor genocide she committed? Not even magic could bring back the “dead” fairies (they turn into flowers and plants, so they just become non-sentient), heal the wounded soldiers, or fix the villagers’ damaged homes from Ingrith’s war.
Aurora and Philip’s wedding also happens minutes after the battle in Ulstead. Is it supposed to make everyone feel better for surviving a war?
Maleficent’s actions only benefit her and her peace of mind that Aurora’s on her side again. Everything else—the safety of the Moors and giving her fellow dark faes the freedom to fly wherever they want—feels like an afterthought.
The Mary Sue called “Maleficent” a feminist movie—it wasn’t perfect, but it’s commendable to see how a woman fights against her oppressor. In “Mistress of Evil,” the feminist theme doesn’t deliver, as well as the parts tackling self-discovery. The film is meant to give us a background on Maleficent’s life before meeting the late King Stefan, but even that’s glossed over. On the other hand, the only change Aurora goes through is becoming someone’s wife for the sake of saving her home forest.
However, what the sequel does effectively is fully turning the “Sleeping Beauty” narrative on its head. The villain isn’t always the one who looks devilish. Sometimes it’s the one who’s wearing the jewels and the crown.
Art by Tricia Guevara
Photos courtesy of Disney
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