This post containers spoilers from the movie Maleficent…read at your own risk.
I had a rare treat of a date night this past weekend where my husband and I watched Maleficent. I’ve seen a lot of reviews and analysis of the movie floating around my Facebook feed lately. Most of what I’ve read praised the movie, several compared a pivotal scene to one of rape. Some people re-posting those articles were outraged, other’s agreed. I didn’t want to draw my conclusion of the movie from other’s viewpoints so I stayed out of the conversation until I saw it myself.
As a whole, I really enjoyed the movie. Had I not read any of the articles that compared the taking of Maleficent’s wings to rape, I probably would’ve drawn the conclusion on my own. Do I think it’s a ‘bad’ thing that such a heinous act was symbolized in a Disney movie? Mostly, I don’t. Disney movies (more importantly the fairy tales that many are based on) are full of violence and other acts that I don’t want my children to really understand at their young ages. Seeing the acts portrayed in a way that is easier to digest and discuss gives me a platform to talk about the acts when the time comes that my children need my education and guidance on the subjects.
As someone who has been a victim of acquaintance rape, I often have a hard time watching any movie or show where sexual assault occurs. There have been movies that I almost had to leave the theater while watching and I have turned off many movies or shows at home. I think those types of scenes are hard to watch for most people. They hit raw nerves in survivors and can bring up flashbacks and nightmares years after the abuse.
With Maleficent the hardest part was watching her wake up to realize she had been betrayed and assaulted by someone she thought loved her. The agony and physical pain expressed were all too familiar. The wails were haunting. The brief bit of her going into hiding and the shame she seemed to feel as the other creatures of The Moors realized her wings had been taken were too big of a symbol to be overlooked. I understand that people may see this movie as just a child’s movie and feel that the comparison is unfounded. However, I am a strong believer that all works of art should carry an important message or teach an important lesson. I think the movie does this and I applaud the writer’s for broaching such a hard subject.
The real feelings and stages that one goes through post-rape are not easy. It’s not pretty and it gets really messy before it gets better. I sometimes feel shame over a decade later… The biggest part of personal shame is that I stayed with my attacker for over a year after the assault. I didn’t tell, I felt like no one would believe that someone I’d been in a relationship with for such a long time would have to (or want to) rape me. I lost myself for a long time after that and there are parts of me that were forever altered.
I’ve read a lot of comments about how it enraged people that the movie would portray rape and then show how Maleficent let it ‘destroy’ her instead of moving on. Rape destroys you before you move past it and it forever alters part of who you were. How could it not? When your trust and your body have been breached, you can’t go on with life as though nothing happened. I vowed to be done with my attacker after the rape, but I stayed and I still can’t rationalize how long it took for me to leave. Seeing King Stefan come back in and try to destroy Maleficent once more was even harder to watch. It’s an all too familiar feeling of being assaulted again even if your attacker isn’t actually in your life.
I was glad to see Maleficent put up a fight and seek revenge, even if the revenge was misplaced on Aurora in the beginning. She was dealing with her grief the best way she could and she found her own redemption over time. Learning to love anyone after rape is hard. And learning to love the daughter of your attacker? Well that seems pretty damn strong to me.
You’ve seen me talk more often about domestic violence lately. My opening up about it all is a part of my healing. There are stages to healing and my process has been long. I have hope that it is coming closer to an end. I’m not scared anymore. I am learning that the shame from those acts should not lay with me, but with my abuser. There were many, many years where I wished horrible acts would come upon him. I’m sure if I possessed the magic Maleficent did I would’ve cast dark spells and curses of my own.
I’m not at a point where I will forgive, but I don’t care what happens in his life anymore. I have my own and for the first time in years, I feel like he has no part in it. While I may forever be stuck with the memories, my nightmares are fading and I control what power they have over me.
We each deserve our happy endings and it’s time I take mine and move on to another story…