No matter which dictionary or thesaurus one consults, the word "maleficent" is normally synonymous with evil. Vocabulary.com describes maleficent individuals as bad guys, evil doers, and the folk who wish harm on others. Dictionary.com defines maleficent as causing or capable of producing evil or mischief. In Disney's 1959 movie version of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent was true to her name. She was a villain. So why do the makers of the 2014 movie Maleficent want this generation of movie goers to exercise Orwellian "doublethink" and view everything that was previously evil as good?
George Orwell created the word "doublethink" in his 1949 novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Wikipedia defines the term as the act of ordinary people simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct. It's important to note that when exercising "doublethink" a person is completely unaware of any conflict or contradiction. That's what makes movies like Maleficent unsettling for fans of Disney's Sleeping Beauty, and for parents that may find themselves explaining this new version of Aurora's story to children. Why is Disney contradicting Disney? Are devoted Disney fans being treated like the "Party" members of Orwell's novel in which the Ministry of Peace is concerned with war, the Ministry of Love is concerned with torture, and the Ministry of Plenty is concerned with starvation. Are Disney fans being asked to forget the first telling of Aurora's story, and then to forget about forgetting?
Movie goers have come to accept some tinkering with classic movie plots. Movies like 2012's Mirror Mirror (which was not a Disney movie) took a few liberties with its retelling of the fairy tale Snow White. Turning fairy tales into live action movies clearly requires some re-imagining. However, the need to reinvent and glorify a character previously associated with villainous behavior in such a well established story seems almost sinister. Die-hard Disney fans should brace themselves for several un-Disney like plot twists. In Maleficent kings are not noble; their intentions are more mercenary. Parents put their desires and ambitions ahead of the needs of their children. Dark magic is good. A child (Aurora) is charmed into choosing the company of fairies over family and humans. Worst of all, true love (in the traditional sense) does not exist. Aurora's prince could have been left out of this version of the fairy tale completely.
Aside from the fact that it completely contradicts everything that Disney fans have come to know and love about the Sleeping Beauty characters, the irony of Disney's Maleficent is that it had a reasonably interesting story line. The way she's presented in this version of the fairy tale, Maleficent is a sympathetic character. The movie has good plot twists. It keeps viewers wondering what will happen next. And in a very paradoxical way, the characters are already familiar to Disney fans. It's bitter sweet that the team behind this new telling of Aurora's story decided to sacrifice every truism about good and evil that the original Sleeping Beauty story taught. For some reason, known only to them, they chose to perpetuate the idea that sometimes evil can be good and good can be evil. Is this a concept that parents of young Disney fans want their children to embrace? Walter Elias Disney probably wouldn't.