What Becomes a Legend Least?
By Armond White
Did Mary Poppins ever seem old-time dykey to you? With that severe hairstyle, perfect lipstick, and her unyielding martinet manner, she could have floated in from that girls’ school in the German lesbian classic Maedchen in Uniform. Well, wait ‘til you see Angelina Jolie in Maleficent. La Jolie gives new definition to lipstick lesbian severity, especially her CGI cheekbones as high and sharp as the arms on a wingback chair and then those horns! Scaled-down from Tim Curry’s oversized tusks when he played the demon in Ridley Scott’s Legend, Angelina’s antlers stand erect like curved, pointed ebony phalluses—a reminder that antlers usually grow on males of a species which would make Maleficent some kind of pansexual anti-deity.
When the Disney corporation went forward with this live-action reboot of its 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty, it repeated the template of recent girl-empowering films Brave (Tomboy folklore), Frozen (defense of “Difference”) and The Princess and the Frog (balancing gender, race, and species equality). Maleficent rewrites the Sleeping Beauty legend in politically correct terms like Broadway’s musical Wicked where Elpheba, the green-tinted Wicked Witch of the West, became a sympathetic quasi-gay figure. But Maleficent’s new concept fails, starting with its nonsensical indifference to the meaning of the word “maleficent,” an adjective describing intentionally harmful malicious acts. (Homophobia raises its antlers again.)
Despite a Tangled-style prelude explaining Maleficent’s adolescent heartbreak, she falls into the antiquated category of bitter, querulous, vengeful, exceedingly queer old maid. Skulking around fairyland or through the wall-of-thorns she creates to close-off the castle where Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is born, she’s a Halloween variety freak. Jolie fans might desperately adopt her costume come All Hallows Eve-or maybe on a low-rent episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Problem is, Maleficent isn’t naughty, subversive fun like John Waters would make or even a sinister thrill. It’s sexless but gender-fied for political correctness yet not an intelligent update of the Sleeping Beauty legend like Catherine Breillat’s 2009 adult French version. Director Robert Stromberg and screenwriter Linda Woolverton haven’t sufficiently thought-through the reboot to truly justify their anti-heroine’s weirdness. Maleficent’s maternal feelings toward Aurora are frustrating and nearly perverse (because unbelievable). Disney Corp.’s pandering to the gay audience precludes any hint that Hostility can learn from Sweetness or Corruption be swayed by Innocence. Essentially, the film precludes sex, even if that means nullifying Prince Phillip—his kiss does not waken Aurora from her cursed sleep. Guess who’s smooch turns the trick!
Jolie’s stultified performance lacks her old sexiness. Already this year, Eva Green’s Artemisia in 300: Rise of an Empire had a richer backstory, outstripping the sensuality Jolie had in Beowulf or her voluptuous queen in Alexander. Her kinda-dykey Maleficent doesn’t even have camp hauteur like Anjelica Huston’s Morticia in Addams Family Values.
Maleficent is camp gone wrong. Glamazon Jolie should be lending her deep eyes and full lips to Blackglama—the furrier known for featuring divas in the “What Becomes a Legend Most?” ad campaign—but that’s no longer P.C. Instead, Jolie does this less inspiring mock fairytale that queers Sleeping Beauty’s traditional romantic happy ending for no purpose except P.C. trendiness. How odd if Maleficent, a eunuchy bystander at a young girl’s wedding, turned out to be Angelina Jolie’s most iconic role. At least Mary Poppins looked like a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious dyke.