Growing up, I was obsessed with Sleeping Beauty. It was my favorite book and movie. I don’t remember much of my childhood, but I remember going to my elementary school library and borrowing Sleeping Beauty. I also remember asking to watch it on tv whenever it was on.
If I’m honest, it wasn’t Aurora that I admired… it was Maleficent. I don’t think I would’ve ever admitted that growing up, as I knew it was “wrong.” I mean what normal kid likes the villain? It would be a terrible reflection of myself. Further proof that I was flawed.
Maleficent wasn’t the only Disney villain I enjoyed. One of my favorite Disney songs growing up was “Poor Unfortunate Souls” by Úrsula. Then there’s the Evil Stepmoms laugh in hag form. I really enjoyed her too. Until Mulan, my favorite characters were the villains. Imagine growing up and finding the villains to be the characters you admired.
Until recently, I was still refusing to really think about this. As I said earlier, wouldn’t admiring the “bad” characters make me bad? Wouldn’t that further reinforce the idea of my own “badness” and “unworthiness?”
In reality, I saw myself in Sleeping Beauty. Like Aurora, I was helpless. I was waiting to be saved. My savior was nowhere in sight. Unlike Aurora, there was no Prince Philip. Unlike Ariel, I had no Prince Eric. I had no hope. Of course Maleficent, Úrsula, and Evil Stepmother would appeal to me. They were… powerful. They were unapologetic about their needs and wants. They didn’t need to apologize for occupying space. In Maleficent’s case, there was anger and rejection. Even though I couldn’t describe those emotions, they were what I grew up feeling. Imagine being a child and not being able to express yourself out of fear, and here is Maleficent on the screen expressing those same feelings. Not only expressing them, but taking action on them. I saw what I wanted to be… a woman in full control of herself.
In my own therapy, Maleficent has played an important part. One of the techniques were using is a safe place and a container. Not surprisingly, Maleficent is in both of these exercises. My therapist has said she doesn’t find this surprising, which has been validating. Maybe I’m not as flawed as I think. Maybe there are many other girls who secretly looked up to these “villains.” Maybe just maybe they weren’t as villainous as we think. Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent is pretty much what I had imagined led Maleficent to the events that unfolded in Sleeping Beauty.
This year, my birthday cake was Maleficent themed. It felt right. After all, the evil queens are the princesses that were never saved… they simply saved themselves.