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The Hidden Message in Maleficent (And How It Can Heal All of Us)

Disney's MALEFICENT..Maleficent (Angelina Jolie)..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2014Editor’s Note: If you haven’t seen the film yet, Spoiler Alert!

The man stands in the middle of the road and screams at me. He adds two middle fingers for punctuation. He thinks I’m going too fast on “his” street.

My stomach is suddenly full of shame. But then I look down at my speedometer. I’m going under the speed limit. My vulnerability quickly gives birth to anger and, as he gets smaller in the rearview mirror, I scream back. My frailty hidden by a show of strength.

We do strange things with our vulnerability, don’t we?

I keep on driving and I don’t think about it again until much later, after I see Maleficent with my family. Because Maleficent isn’t really a movie about princesses and princes and curses and kisses. Maleficent is a story about wounds and the things we do with our wounds. The things we wounded people do to feel powerful again.

And there are wounds everywhere in Maleficent.

Both the young fairy Maleficent and the boy Stefan are orphans. The ultimate childhood wound. The boy Stefan is also marginalized and impoverished. The ultimate social wound. They fall in love, but he seeks to heal his wounds with status and power, leaving her for the glory of the castle. The ultimate romantic wound. So, when Stefan’s people arrive at her borders to invade, she unleashes her anger upon them. She mortally wounds the king.

The cycle of wounding and power escalates.

The king promises the throne to anyone who kills Maleficent. Stefan, still trying to heal his wounds with power, goes to Maleficent and wins back her confidence. Momentarily. Just long enough to get her drunk and perpetrate the closest thing to rape you will ever see in a children’s fairytale: He saws off her wings. The ultimate sexual wound.

The cycle of wounding and power escalates.

Disney's MALEFICENT..Maleficent (Angelina Jolie)..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2014What does Maleficent do with her wound? She builds a throne and makes a crown and maximizes her power, and then she curses King Stefan’s daughter. The ultimate parental wound. And the curse will come to fruition when Princess Aurora is, of course, wounded by a sharp spindle.

The cycle of wounding and power escalates.

Maleficent is a movie about wounds and the strange, hopeless ways we try to heal our wounds with power. But it is also a movie about the beautiful, hopeful way we can actually heal our wounds…

As I walked out of Maleficent with my family, I asked my kids what the movie was about. My son looked at me and said, “It was about how Maleficent was made whole again.”

In the end, Maleficent is a story about how we are all made whole again.

Of course a kid could see it.

After all, it was the child in the story — Princess Aurora, the unwounded one — who reminded Maleficent who she was beneath all the layers of wounds and power and vengeance. In the end, the Sleeping Beauty in the story is not Princess Aurora; the Sleeping Beauty is the loving and lovely child hibernating in the depths of a wounded, villainous heart.

We are made whole again when we are reminded — usually by the innocents among us — of who we really are beneath all our layers of wounds and power.

When Maleficent is made emotionally whole again by her love for the Princess, the first thing she does is give a kiss and end a curse. When Maleficent is made physically whole again — when her wings are restored — the first thing she does is shatter the thrones in the king’s castle. Then, moments later, with an opportunity to kill King Stefan, she shows him mercy and lets him live, saying, “It’s over.”

It’s over.

You get the feeling she’s talking about a lot more than their violently escalating feud. You get the feeling she’s talking about the whole game of thrones — all of the ways we use power in this world to heal the wounds in our hearts.

When the sleeping beauty inside of Maleficent awakens, she gives kisses and reverses curses and crushes thrones and takes down the wall of thorns bordering her homeland and removes her crown forever. In the final scene of the movie, Maleficent’s former throne is in the background and it sits conspicuously empty.

Because when love shows up, thrones gather dust and power gathers rust.

Standing in the theater, I looked at my oldest son, and his wisdom made me whole once again. I looked at him, and his innocence reminded me of the lovely me hibernating beneath all my layers of hurt and protection. He reminded me of the sleeping beauty hibernating in all of us.

Maleficent is in theaters now.

You can read more from Kelly at his blog, UnTangled, where he writes regularly. You can also follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook.

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