Those of us who grew up in the 80s and the 90s remember the wonderfully kid-friendly animated movies provided for us by Walt Disney and how the afternoons were spent watching a film after another. Now they’re attempting to revive these old classics by creating new live-action versions with the main emphasis lying on the villainess. In recreating and three-dimensionalizing its most memorable characters, Disney is taking a tremendous risk.
With the princesses’ personalities usually being limited to modest perfectness, it is no wonder that the audience was always more hyped to see the villains. However, when it comes to Disney the villains are also fairly limited. Especially in the case of Maleficent, the evil queen of Snow White and Lady Tremaine of Cinderella, the antagonists are often driven by their mere evilness. Oddly, this is exactly what makes them so fascinating.
If we attempt to make the villains more relatable, they lose the essential charm of inhumanity. Consequently, the villainesses become tormented, revenge-driven women with their individual fears, sorrows and weaknesses. They seize to be mystical and instill less fear when they are affected by the weak manly emotions like sympathy.
Fear is a personal experience. The more told about the object of fear, the less the individual’s fears can be projected on it. It is crucial for the viewer to believe that the villain wants to inflict considerable harm to everyone including the viewer himself. Once this illusion is gone, it is more difficult to see the villain as a threat particularly when we know that the Disney princess will be rescued anyway.
What exactly Disney is going to reveal about Maleficent’s and Lady Tremaine’s motives is yet to be seen. Angelina Jolie and Cate Blanchett are talented actresses but they are taking upon themselves the demanding task of being the first to represent the iconic villainesses in flesh on screen. But perhaps, after over 50 years, it’s an appropriate time for an update.
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