We can't go through a month of villain themery on Cinematical without gushing over Maleficent. But since there's much to talk about, I wanted to give her more than a brief ode via "Villains We Love." She's one of the biggies when it comes to villainesses, so naturally, she should have a week's reign on Girls on Film.
Maleficent first appeared after the stirring of a strong wind and dramatic music. From a green fog she emerged, a loyal crow at her side, but she didn't just delve into evil in Disney's Sleeping Beauty. She looked around her, at a celebration including royalty, nobility, and gentry. She saw her fairy foes, and asked where her invite was. Naturally, there wasn't one for the weird and powerful faery, so she decides on a curse: Before the sun sets on the princess' sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die.
Devilish and evil, yes, but also layered with enough mystery and what-ifs to make her dynamic well beyond the world of family films.
Maleficent invokes many more questions than she does evil deeds. Yes, she comes up with what seems like a flimsy excuse for cursing Aurora, a trivial rationale just to goad the good people around her. But there's also enough in the scene to suggest that Maleficent's evilness might be bred out of exclusion. When she descends, the fairies hover around Aurora, but Merryweather looks at her with disgust, growling: "You weren't wanted!"
Maleficent stands tall, dark, and willowy against her other chubby fairies. She's got a dark sense of humor, and evilness fueled by smarts and cleverness. There's no goofiness to her mayhem. No craziness; she's actually quite rational. In fact, via DisneyVillains.net, "according to the book, Disney Villains: The Top Secret Files (although it is a tongue-in-cheek book not meant to be taken seriously) Maleficent's last name is Faery. It is also noted that she is extremely lonely and that she had very good grades in school." Maybe it's "not meant to be taken seriously," but it's exactly the sort of question that the villainess invokes. Is she this way merely as a product of being an outsider? Her evil stemming from loneliness and intelligence contrasting the other's simple, doting sort of soft natures? Perhaps so much disdain was thrown on her that she chose to gain power from fear.
She doesn't call herself the "mistress of all evil" until Aurora touches the spinning wheel -- after the fairies failed to protect the teen princess. But even then, she doesn't become sadistic. Instead, she chooses to let the Prince grow old in her castle before releasing him to awaken Aurora. It makes me wonder if she really meant to kill Aurora, or perchance knew that there was still one last gift to bestow, and that whatever happened, it would bring misery upon those who shunned her. Tit for tat. It isn't until she's foiled, and her crow is turned to stone, that she becomes truly violent -- as if her violence is directly related to the amount of meddling from the trio of fairies.
If you take the origins of the story into account, Maleficent becomes more of a thorn than an evil presence. The first rumblings of this story started with the classic enchanted gifts, and the spinning wheel that brought 100 years of slumber. But the Prince who wakes her guides her to a secret life, until he grabs the throne and introduces her to his mother of ogre lineage -- still ogreish enough to want to cook her grandchild for dinner -- something that seems a whole lot more sadistic than the pin prick of death.
Then again, maybe Maleficent is pure evil, named an evildoer for something stirring within her. Maybe her moments of nonviolence are merely part of her sinister puppetry. We'll never know, and that makes her one of the best villains of all time, and my favorite villainess. She exists in shades of grey, challenging not only the people around her, but also our own notions of evil, tickling the fact that even the most villainous baddies have at least some aspects that linger between good and bad. Maleficent is evilness that has more than charisma to seduce us.