By Kaitlyn Hanson
When we think of the love we see on the big screen, I’m sure similar images come to mind for all of us. Presumably we’ve all seen at least one Disney film in our lifetime, so we know how it goes. The princess finds herself in a terrible situation, with no way out but, of course, “True Love’s Kiss”. And who does “True Love’s Kiss” typically come from? The man she is destined to marry, who, on occasion, she barely knows. I think that this portrayal of the definition of love is super problematic. In most cases, the two barely know anything about each other, beyond the fact that they find each other attractive. Is this really what True Love is? A physical attraction which occurs before two people really know each other? Personally, I don’t find this sort of relationship to be so powerful and magical that it can save one from mortal danger. And I don’t think film should continue to glorify it in this manner. My complaint results from the fact that I rarely see positive depictions of non-romantic love onscreen. Romantic love is fun, sure! There’s nothing wrong with it. But let’s see some true, strong bonds between two characters who may not necessarily be attracted to each other. Come on, Disney! People can care about each other for more than aesthetic reasons!
All of that said, Disney definitely got it right with Maleficent. I should warn you, before you continue reading- some major spoilers for the film are coming, so if you have not yet seen it and want to be surprised, I would put off finishing this article until after you’ve watched it! So as I was saying, Disney really knew what they were doing this time around. In the traditional story of Sleeping Beauty, sleeping Aurora is saved by True Love’s Kiss, aka Prince Charming. Maleficent, however, shows a different side to this tale. Those who care about Aurora try to rouse her with a kiss from a boy she met in the woods, but to no avail. Realistically, is this really the truest love in her life? She met him once! Sure, they had a connection, but true love? Not so much. In a last ditch effort, Maleficent, who had protected and cared for Aurora for her entire life, tries kissing her. This time, she sees success. Yay!
Seeing this moment in the cinema really made me happy. So often, romantic love is portrayed as the ultimate ideal, while the importance of any other sort of love is brushed under the carpet. In this case, Disney gave the bond between Maleficent and Aurora the treatment it deserved. The love between these two was so magical, so powerful, that it was able to break the curse placed upon Aurora. While there is something to be said for romantic love, it gets tiring when that’s the only sort of love given any sort of importance. Including this “twist” in Maleficent was a very important move on the part of the filmmakers, and so incredibly refreshing to finally see.
So thank you, Maleficent, for reminding us that there is more to love than romance. I can’t wait to see more positive onscreen depictions of non-romantic love in the future!