Angelina Jolie as Maleficent
Associated Press/Photo by Frank Connor/Disney
Angelina Jolie as Maleficent

Sympathy for the devil


In Walt Disney’s 1959 animated fantasy Sleeping Beauty, one of the three good-natured fairies pauses a moment in mid-mayhem of curses, poisoned spinning wheels, and a forest of impenetrable thorns to offer this oddly sympathetic reflection on the witch: “Maleficent doesn’t know anything about love or kindness or the joy of helping others. You know, sometimes I think she isn’t very happy.”

The moment is mildly funny (for adults) in its understatement. The vindictive, child-cursing, prince-abducting, kingdom-wrecking, would-be murderess is not only unhappy, she is also internally ripping herself to shreds from unappeasable and insatiable hatred. Just that. But I see Fauna’s comment as the opening salvo, already in the late ’50s, of the cult of sympathy for evil actors.

Right on schedule we have the 2014 version of Sleeping Beauty, by a Disney you never knew before. Gone is the idea of a good king and a pretty princess as protagonists. Gone is the straight-up story line of good vs. evil. King Stefan is not all he’s cracked up to be, and Maleficent is not as bad as we thought. She is deeply conflicted, her wounded psyche the result of abuse and betrayal by people she trusted. She is damaged goods and her behavior is … understandable.

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In the real life battle of good and evil today in the Middle East (who dares speak this way since Reagan?), a Fox News interviewer probes Hillary Clinton, the woman who would be president. Just as the 2014 Sleeping Beauty movie is a re-imagining of original from the perspective of the witch, so Clinton follows her boss’ lead in re-imagining the old classic of Islam vs. Christianity. For where have the Arabs not been abused by the rapacious West throwing its weight around the globe? As Fauna implicitly suggests, if we could only get to the emotional core of the Taliban, we would see they aren’t so bad. They can be reached. They can be reasoned with:

Greta Van Susteren: “Would you have made that swap for Sgt. Bergdahl—five Taliban for Sgt. Bergdahl?”

Clinton: “Well … at the time I was trying to put together a bigger deal, a deal that would create a negotiation between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, to try to move the Taliban to renounce violence, to renounce al-Qaeda, to agree to support the constitution and the laws. …”

The former secretary of state goes on to assure Van Susteren that the five released Taliban “are not a threat to the United States … [since] … they are not supposed to be permitted to travel.”

I feel better already, don’t you? In other words, if we just try hard enough, and are polite, we can “move the Taliban to renounce violence.” Once you know the back story on these guys released from Gitmo—Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mohammad Nabi Omari, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Mullah Norullah Noori, and Khairullah Khairkhwa—you gotta love ’em. Just like you end up loving Maleficent by the end of the two hours of hearing her side.

Remember what they told you as a child about the three little pigs and big bad wolf? Fuggedaboutit. There’s a revision out called The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, told in the words of the huffer and puffer. A very nice canine once you get to know him.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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