Can Bad Girls Just Stay Bad, OK?

When I was in kindergarten, Grandma picked me up from school every day at lunch time.  We walked home and ate a hot meal she had cooked that morning. After Grandma did the dishes, she and I lay down head to toe on the couch and took our catnap.  Grandma faced the little black and white television and turned on As the World Turns. Since the TV was above my head, I had to lie on my side and squinch my neck so I could watch the show, too.  As far as I know, this show was my grandmother’s only “vice.”

Every few minutes, Grandma said, “Turn your head around and go to sleep,” but I couldn’t get enough of Lisa, the bad girl (to my young mind, the wicked queen) of the soap opera. She reminded me of Maleficent in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.  I kept expecting to see a long robe hem swirling around her ankles, turning into green flames.  I never took an afternoon nap when I was with Grandma.

Eileen Fulton who played Lisa in As the World Turns for fifty years

Eileen Fulton who played Lisa in As the World Turns for fifty years

I first met Maleficent before I started school, when I was a few months shy of four.  My parents took me with them on a car trip to New Orleans.  On the way, we stayed in a large Texas city with streets that reminded me of Chicago.  It was there that my mother and I went to see my very first Disney movie, Sleeping Beauty. Unlike a regular flat movie screen, this movie was shown on a curved screen; I think this is called Cinerama, and the effect is that the viewer feels as if she has walked into the world depicted on screen.

As I entered Princess Aurora’s world, I left my own behind. Of all the characters, I particularly loved Flora, leader of the band of good fairies, who reminded me of Grandma. My terror of Maleficent, the evil fairy, was the most severe I had ever experienced. I’ve rarely been as terrified since then either. When we left the theater, rain poured onto the busy city sidewalks and the street out front of the theatre.  Dad pulled up to the curb and we climbed into the car.  “How was the show?” he said.  My head was inside the movie, and I couldn’t answer–my body still filled with terror and awe.

Today I happened upon an article about the making of a new movie about Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie. Even after all these years, as I read that news, fear radiated through me.  Something about the depth and breadth of evil coming from a powerful female character frightened me more than if Maleficent had been male. I don’t know why. Was it because in those days the bad guys were usually the men in the black cowboy hats? Or was it because I expected that bountiful nurturing would come from a female like my grandmother? Maleficent seemed to spring from some primeval source of horror that I could not understand.

Maybe I needed to see this evil so that by contrast I realized the power of nurturing women like Grandma and Flora. I’ve written about Grandma’s positive influence on me in other posts, including “Grandma and the Purple People Eaters.”

When the movie is released, I’m going to get a chance to see a modern, breathing version of the realization of my deepest fears. Since Jolie terrifies me anyway, I think she’s a great choice for this role.

The film purports to show the Sleeping Beauty story from the viewpoint of Maleficent. It sounds as if they took a “page” from the script of the Broadway musical Wicked, where Elphaba’s childhood allows us to like and feel compassion for the Wicked Witch of the West.

Can I just let the filmmakers know right up front that I’m not interested in hearing Maleficent’s sob story? Her power comes from her unabashed evil. I don’t want anything or anyone interfering with my fear.  For some dumb reason.




Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

31 responses to “Can Bad Girls Just Stay Bad, OK?

  1. Oooo, Jolie is terrifying, she will be perfect for this part!

    • Luanne

      I know. The thought makes my skin crawl. It’s as if the Disney artists knew there would be an AJ ;).

  2. Enjoyed this – you’ve got me waiting for the movie too

  3. “Loved” this post, Luanne! The “bad girls,” (recall the witch in, “The Wizard of Oz,”) terrified me. Thank Heaven for Grandmas!

    • Luanne

      I remember being terrified by the witch in The Wizard of Oz, and I think she even reminded me of Maleficent, who I had seen first. Bless all the Grandmas!!!

  4. jeannieunbottled

    This post made my pulse go fast! Yes, let the bad stay bad. What’s the deal with “Wicked,” for instance? Also, I’d like to see a story with a bad young girl vs. a nice middle-aged woman.

    • Luanne

      Right, Wicked made me love Elphaba, but then when I saw The Wizard of Oz again after seeing Wicked, I thought, wait a minute, there is no way she had to get THAT mean from what happened to her!
      And I agree about your story twist. Are there stories like that?

  5. This was the funnest post I’ve read in a long time. I never saw the movie Sleeping Beauty, so I was enthralled by those 4+ minutes. Great post, and I agree with your title theme.

    • Luanne

      Patti, ah, thank you for saying that. I LOVE that you got to finally see part of Sleeping Beauty! Now you will be prepared for the Jolie movie . . . .

  6. IT was the Wicked Stepmother in Snow White who did it for me… When she appeared ( I was five) I gave a long shriek , ran up the aisle and out into the crowded streets. My mother found me three hours later at the police station !!!

    • Luanne

      Ah, Valerie, what a story! You were brave and headstrong to take off like that! I just sat there and cowered in my seat! Disney certain did women a disservice with those evil women characters, but I guess we can also blame the European folk tale tradition itself!

  7. I liked these references to the evil queens and glad you found the fairy, Flora, to help counteract all the scariness! I never liked the witches in any Disney animated film. I was scared more of the flying monkeys though than any of the “cartoon” characters! I believed they were “real!”

    • Luanne

      Yes, I love Flora. I even had a Flora puppet! I agree about the monkeys–they completely freaked me out. But I was dumb enough to be scared of the cartoon villainesses haha. I guess I thought Maleficent was real!

  8. I don’t remember seeing Sleeping Beauty, although I’m sure I did. Sending me off to a matinee was one way to get rid of an annoying little kid ;). But we used to watch Wizard of Oz, and I remember have a meltdown when the Wicked Witch had her meltdown. I didn’t feel sorry for her. I guess it was just the sight of someone melting. I don’t think I’ve ever quite gotten over that. It will be interesting to see the new movie with AJ. She doesn’t have to make Maleficent sympathetic. Even from her point of view, evil may reign 😉

    • Luanne

      Hah, did you live near a movie theatre? You’re right–it was terrifying watching the Wicked Witch melt! And I HOPE you’re right about evil reigning in the new movie. Maybe she won’t be sympathetic, just powerful.

  9. Great post! I was terrified of the bad witches, too. Such a lovely image of you and your mom and a demon woman!

  10. Don’t blame you! That is why Disney did animated, kids “believe” and I am glad for the memories that were sweet and special. I hated having poor Bambi’s mother killed, wasn’t that cruel? Couldn’t they have had Bambi meet Thumper and all the little creatures of the woods without death involved?

    • Luanne

      I’ve read the original of Bambi, and it was a really amazing book, but for older children than the movie. Since Disney changed so much other stuff (really “dumbed it down” for littler kids) they definitely should have changed about Bambi’s mother. There have been so many people upset over that one!! I was lucky and dodged the bullet on that one because I never saw the movie as a little kid, just had the record.

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  12. My grandma watched that show every day too. Granddad would snooze on the couch and grandma would only speak during commercials. great going down memory lane. Thanks for a good post

    • Luanne

      Terry, that’s so special that your grandma watched the same soap opera. I’m glad it turned out to be the same one so you could have a little skip down memory lane ;).

  13. How rich this post is…and confronting the old childhood images/fears as an adult? Fascinating. Thank you!

  14. Fear is great when you can experience it watching a movie. That’s safe even if we do go home and have a nightmare while asleep.

    Fear is not so great when it is real. If given a choice, I’ll take my fear from a film.

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