Can you see the difference between these two versions of the same scene?
The finger. It’s not the same finger that Aurora pricks on the spindle.
Like many tales, Sleeping Beauty was all about sex, and losing one’s virginity, and how you should be careful about that. The pointy spindle that pricks your finger and the blood running off, all of this happening when you turn 16 after meeting a handsome prince… the metaphor was obvious. And the old Disney even added this wonderful scene where Aurora dances with a fake prince (mimicked by forest animals) while singing a song about having wet dreams (this is what the song “Once upon a dream” is about, right? See below). A very cute way of talking about teenagers’ sexual awakening.
In Maleficent though, all of this has disappeared (spoilers ahead). Maleficent becomes the princess’ secret adoptive mother. Aurora doesn’t dream about boys, she seems like a little girl who spends her time giggling at fairies. The main twist of this version of the story shows that the Prince’s kiss is unable to wake her when she has fallen into her eternal sleep. It says that love at first sight does not exist (which may be seen as a progress from the Prince Charming trope, but I still find it depressing). And the only true love able to break the spell is the motherly love of the fairy godmother Maleficent for Aurora. An asexual love from a woman who has dedicated her life to seek revenge against her ex-lover, for a girl who dreams of living with this maternal figure forever in a land with no human beings.
I couldn’t shake a feeling of unease when I saw this new ending. I grew up with the Disney movie from 1959, I got the vinyl record for my birthday and dreamed I was Aurora for many years. There’s a lot to say about the image of womanhood it conveys, but at least I felt that it told me it was okay to be in love and to feel desire for a man and fantasize about him. It told me that we’re all born with gifts from good and bad fairies: desires to be wise and kind, but also desires for the unknown and forbidden. In the end, we all want to prick our finger on a pointy spindle.
So when I saw Maleficent, it really struck me that Aurora was pointing the wrong finger to the spindle. The index finger, instead of the middle finger. Come on, we all got the symbol.
(Apart from that the movie is interesting in other ways, and Angelina Jolie is stunning as usual)
And here’s the beautiful song « Once Upon a Dream » by Lana del Rey, with excerpts from both movies: