Did your gaydar go into overdrive during Maleficent? If so, you aren’t the only one. J Bryan Lowder argues in Slate that beyond the extraordinary campiness of Angelina’s performance, and of course the drag-friendly costume, the entire script seemed to be infused with queercentric themes.
Properly attuned audience members should find much to identify with in Maleficent’s position as a figure both special and feared, a person who, though celebrated for her queer talents among her own people, is subject to prejudice and even physical violence once she wanders beyond the borders of her “safe space” in the faerie moors. There’s also something of a classic “falling for the straight boy” narrative in her doomed relationship with the young Stefan—he’s titillated by his brush with exoticism for a time, but his eventual (and, really, inevitable) return to the human (straight) world leaves our faerie wounded and bitter.
Personally, I was most struck by Maleficent’s exploration of queer family, the notion that the families we choose, often out of necessity, are more important than the ones we are born into. Soon-to-be-sleeping Aurora comes from a straight family, but from the moment she is cursed by Maleficent, her life takes on a queer trajectory. She is taken from the human world into a faerie land, cared for by a commune of women and later, somewhat surreptitiously, by Maleficent herself. She grows to wonder at the world and appreciate diversity in ways she never would have within the castle walls, and in the end, she expresses a desire to live with her adoptive family rather than to return “home.” Despite the requisite appearance of the fated spinning wheel for dramatic purposes, the version of events presented in Maleficent invites us to read the witch’s queer touch not as a curse, but as a blessing.
I remember thinking it was telling that no matter how cute Aurora thought Prince Philip was, his kiss just didn’t cut it. Not when it really mattered. Mind you, Maleficent’s kiss – the one that did the trick – wasn’t romantic, but Philip just wasn’t what she needed.
What do you think? Was Maleficent a queer allegory? Is this just a gay man reading too much into the movie? Tweet me @JSJdarling and tell me how YOU thought of the movie.