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.
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.