Sunday, November 16, 2014

Maleficent: Starring the Usual

The cast consisted of attractive and white actors and actresses.
       When Maleficent is put to the challenge against the standardized Representation Test used by movie critics to initiate people thinking about the lack of diversity in films, it fails dramatically with a D letter grade. With a possible twenty-seven points, this film sadly comes up with three measly points, and one of those three were for the writer being female. The other two points came solely from the fact that the protagonist was a female. I see it quite sad that we have to reward movies just for putting a woman in the lead role, this should already be natural. 

Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning who are both white women that have every conversation based around men and the power they hold. This movie does not even pass the Bechdel test which is surprising because the two leading starts interact so much. What holds it back from this additional point in the representation test is the fact that every time they are together the conversation that is exchanged (if any) is about men, whether it is about learning what "true love" is or about the power that men hold over them. Each of these actresses are extremely beautiful and have perfect bodies for their age group. Throughout the movie there really is not a ton of conversation exchanged between any of the characters. The movie moves along with a lack of dialogue and focuses on actions and expressions, furthering emphasizing appearances. The movie is short to begin with, just passing an hour and thirty minutes. One of the most notable moments of the movie is toward the beginning and really struck me as ridiculous. When Aurora (sleeping beauty) is born and being given gifts by the fairies, the wishes they grant them are so surface level it quickly summarizes the reason for failure in this test. The first fairy wishes Aurora to be beautiful and the second one wishes happiness. What about strong morals? Independent? Loving? Funny personality? Caring? These two wishes are absurd in what the fairies want for the precious newborn princess. Beauty is only external and happiness seems so shallow when partnered with just beauty. This makes the viewer feel like the only happiness is going to be what comes from their personal beauty and the attention that characteristic draws from men.
Once we move past the sad position that the female characters are in, we can see that the men are not better off when it comes to passing by the stereotypical roles they have. Each man in this movie is sexualized in some way or another. From the beginning, King Stephen is seen as loving Maleficent for her beauty and then later severely hurting her and showing the lack of depth in the “love” he had. The raven who follows along Maleficent is a young and handsome man when in human form. His shirt is never once buttoned up through the whole movie. The low v-cut shirt is always open and anytime a breeze comes by, his six-pack can be seen. Finally there is the man that is supposed to love Aurora and wake her from her sleep. When they first meet, almost no words are exchanged, its only her beauty that captures his attention. Their next meeting is conveniently when she is sleeping and needs her true love to wake her. The young boy insists she is beautiful and wants to kiss her, yet, his kiss is not sufficient to wake her. There is no love, just surface level attraction. When they once again meet in the final scene, the same feelings are brought as their original meeting. As the movie ends, it seems like the young prince and Aurora will try for a relationship. If only Aurora knew of his lack of deep feelings for her, it may save her a heartbreak in the long run. Lunsford and Ruszkiewicz wrote in Everything’s an Argument, “Images can bring a text or presentation to life. Sometimes images have the power to persuade by sheer pathos” (452). These two main characters are merely being persuaded by their emotions that came about from each others pleasing appearance.
The diversity is kept at a minimal in the film. Though there are two different worlds in the movie, it seems one is nature and fantasy like, while the other is what we think as the normal world. There are no lesbians, bisexuals, gays, transvestites, disabled, or ethnically diverse characters. The use of a woman as protagonist is as diverse as it gets. Even in the directing and writing crew, no one is of color. 
This movie seems to be like so many others, giving women the shallow roles and keeping men in the roles of power. The characters are typical in body type, sex, ethnicity, and characteristics. Though in the end, woman wins out in both the fantasy world and the real world, it takes an entire movie to get there and the movie even ends right when the women take over. I think this representation test does well in showing the diversity of characters in a film. Sadly, it is hard for a film to pass with flying colors. Films today are made to attract viewers, and most of that time it involves a male protagonist or at least a female dealing with ma-related issues. This test should continue to be used to show viewers that the films being seen are just a slim array of what could be created. It will bring awareness to people and eventually develop more diverse movies. For the failure of this movie in this useful test, I give Maleficent one pickle in its ability to represent the diversity of our population in the film. Though the writers started off on the right track making the protagonist a female, they quickly faltered when it came to maturing her into a strong character to carry the plot of the movie.

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