When we lose our wings: inspiration from “Maleficent”

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After a long week of holiday festivities and craving a relaxing night in, I indulged in some simple pleasures the other evening: a nice hot cup tea and some Amazon Prime Video. That’s when I happened upon “Maleficent.”

I grew up during the era when Disney was cranking out the first VHS copies of their classic cartoon fairy tales faster than you could say “bippity-boppity-boo.” I lived through the generation that anxiously awaited that next VHS release in our stockings every Christmas morning. So, naturally, I am a sucker for these fairy tales that are now turning into movies with real actors.

In this case, I am once again late to the big release party. About four years late, to be exact. But, hey, better late than never, right?

I was one of many who grew up with a special hate for Maleficent. The way she was depicted as the yellow-eyed, grey-skinned, love-hating villainess in Disney’s original 1959 version, how could anyone not?

But in Disney’s 2014 “Maleficent,” it appears there is a heartbreaking backstory which sheds a little light on her situation. And our villainess becomes a victim.

Maleficent is not the evil-born sorceress we’ve assumed her to be. Instead, she is the guardian fairy of a mystical forest. A young fairy who once had wings that were stolen from her by her first love. A love that she believed to be true by the man who told her it was so. She discovered too late that he had other plans.

The true villain of the story tricks Maleficent into believing he is protecting her from certain death, luring her deep into the woods and into a drug-induced sleep in his arms. She awakens in immense pain and finds that both her man and her wings are gone. Ouch. Immediately the cruel truth washes over her that they were taken by the man she loves. Not only taken — literally cut from her body. As a result, she lets out a heart-wrenching wail of both emotional and physical pain. Anyone ever had a heartbreak so deep you could literally feel a sharp physical pain through your chest all the way to your back shoulder blade? How many of us have felt as though we’d lost our “wings” after losing our first love? The sting is unbearable. Something inside of us dies and we are never the same.

Maleficent discovers that he has done this to win the dying king’s favor and to become his successor. The movie then goes into the scene that we all know best. Maleficent learns that she has not been invited to the christening of King Stefan and his new wife’s baby and shows up, curses blazing. A curse that can only be broken by true love’s kiss; a subtle jab to the king who once professed as much to Maleficent. Also, her way of sealing the curse as she now believes this concept does not exist.

Now, how’s that for relational content?

One can almost liken that to the first birthday party of a divorced couple’s child with the other showing up with a new spouse…”awkward” indeed. And the children often become the objects of disdain in those situations, as did Princess Aurora for Maleficent. Until she gets to know the princess. Here’s where the story takes a turn.

As Aurora grows, so does Maleficent’s affection for her. The princess believes her to be her fairy godmother and the two spend days and nights together exploring the enchanted forest. Hearts are melted and Maleficent, not wanting to keep Aurora from happiness in her life, unsuccessfully attempts to reverse the curse.

The inevitable happens, but the irony is that it’s not a prince who can awaken the princess, but Maleficent herself. And love takes on a true meaning. After the prince’s failed and somewhat forced attempt to waken the princess, Maleficent is able to awaken Aurora with a motherly kiss on the forehead.

And thus, a new definition of true love is born.

It’s the love similar to that of a mother towards her child. Perhaps the purest and truest form of love there is. This is the love that gives Maleficent back her wings, both figuratively and literally. And we learn that our evil villain is not quite the monster we thought.

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This movie gives a great job of changing stereotypes. People are rarely nasty without cause. There is almost always a reason why people behave the way that they do. Look deeper.

Takeaway: Love is not always what it appears to be at first. And there are many types of love, not only romantic love, that prompts healing in people.

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