Sympathy for the Devil

Disney wants to mess us up. For some reason, they want us to feel bad about the villains. Though the concept is intriguing, the end result is a depressing story.

Maleficent

Much hype has been stirred up for Maleficent, the live action movie about one of the greatest Disney villains to appear in theaters this May. Brought to life by Angelina Jolie, Disney intends to share the “untold story” of the green wonder featured prominently in the 1959 classic animated film, Sleeping Beauty. The trailer for the film looks beautiful and eerie. According to Disney, Maleficent was at one time a beautiful, pure-hearted young woman who because of a betrayal, her pure heart turns to stone.

Disney did something similar last year with the Oz the Great and Powerful, a prequel to the 1939 MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz. In that story, the studio attempted to explain how Theodora turned into the Wicked Witch of the West. In a similar storyline, young Theodora is also a beautiful and innocent victim of deception from her sister, Evanora. It is her rage and bitterness that turns her into the green monster she is so famous for.

Up until this point, these two baddies have always been bad, which has always made it pretty easy to hate them, but now Disney wants to mess us up. For some reason, they want us to feel bad about the villains. Though the concept is intriguing, the end result is a depressing story.

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In both TV series, Once Upon a Time and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, every villain, has a tragic backstory that explains what made them so angry and bent on revenge. However, the difference here is that we have been able to see how each of the villains struggles to redeem themselves. Not so with Maleficent and Oz. We already know how those stories end up.

Creating a false sense of sympathy for the devil is not new in Hollywood. Tim Burton is famous for showing us the dark backgrounds of the villains, The Penguin and Catwoman in the 1992 film, Batman Returns. The Penguin begins life as a deformed baby who parents through him in the sewer during winter time in hopes of drowning him. The baby winds up at the city zoo and is adopted by penguins which apparently was a lot less fun than it sounds. The sweet and mousey Selina Kyle gets pushed out of a window to her death to the city below only to be revived by a bunch of alley cats. In her rage, she intends to not let anyone control her life again. In her apartment is a neon sign that says “Hello there!” that she breaks so that it now reads “Hell here” and mutilates her stuffed animals. Both characters let the anger inside them ultimately destroy them.

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