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The Problem with Maleficent

 

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Last night I took my wife to see Maleficent. Kudos on the storyline creativity, great special effects, Angelina Jolie did a stellar job, but something was off. Perhaps, and this is just a guess, could it be the prince is just an afterthought in the film? Not even sure why they included the guy.

Disney has long been under fire for perpetuating gender roles, but are all gender roles evil?

Does Disney feel responsible for giving girls a false hope of a knight in shining armor? Modern Disney says princesses no longer need a prince to save them, and true love doesn’t exist (not my words…stated several times in Maleficent).

We get it. People feel betrayed by traditional fairy tales. So, let’s rewrite them all, so we can feel sympathetic for Maleficent (which means evil) and men can only be brutally violent like the greedy king or simply spineless like the prince. Though this is basically true of men today, the political-correctness just made the movie dull and boring for me.

Why?

Because there is a “tale as old as time” woven into our psyche. There’s a reason girls want to dress up as princesses and boys run around neighborhoods with plastic swords chasing imaginary dragons. Deep down, we want to see an idealism played out on the silver screen. And why should we give up on the notion? Many girls are looking for their hero, and as John Eldredge writes in Wild at Heart, men want a “beauty to rescue.”

Gender roles have become the enemy. If I write, “men should be the leader in a relationship,” scores flip a lid. However, there’s just something wrong if a husband sends his wife downstairs in the middle of the night because he hears an intruder breaking in the house…all for the sake of denying some natural differences between men and women.

Some of the changing gender roles have been good for families and relationships. Guess what? I help clean, I help do the dishes, and I help do the laundry; so does she. These are “to do’s” we tackle together. She’s making more than I am so far this year, and these switching gender roles work fine for us.

But, if you tell me gender roles are stupid, I call baloney. In fact, the majority of Americans still believe in some form of gender roles. An Associate Press-WeTV poll found, “Seven in 10 of those surveyed say it’s unacceptable to expect a date to pay for everything. But most still say it’s a man’s job to pay for the first date.” Why should men pay for the first date? Because even if Disney princesses prefer weak pretty boys, this study shows that most women still look for financial stability and ambition. Women are less likely than men to marry a partner who doesn’t have their money-act together.

There’s still a desire for a man who can put the meat on the table, who is a source of strength and stability.

Not everyone wants to bring chivalry back, but the act of chivalry itself is a gender role. My wife is a strong woman, but she’s also a princess. She likes to feel like a woman. She likes it when I open the door for her. She enjoys me taking her out on dates. She likes it when I pick her up and swing her around. These acts are gender roles.

It’s not ok for a man to ever hit a woman. This is a gender role we should all embrace, but that’s not the case anymore. Some assume women should be able to fight like a man.

Gender roles still have some importance. While narrow and rigid gender roles have been to shown to lead to violence (Hattery, A., Smith, E.; 2012, The Social Dynamics of Family Violence), there is still a need for a man to hold masculine characteristics; a man who is neither a testosterone-raged jerk or a New Age softie.

Society calls for an authentic man; one who can be both transparent and solid in his character at the same moment.

As we move towards this type of man as a society, true heroes will begin to emerge and the defining of or the obliteration of gender roles will yield to men and women understanding equal but different.

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17 Responses to The Problem with Maleficent

  1. RP1973 June 2, 2014 at 12:41 am #

    “a man who is neither a testosterone-raged jerk or a New Age softie”

    I can see how the first would be problematic, but what’s so bad about the second?

    • Amber DeRuyter June 2, 2014 at 2:17 am #

      It’s not attractive for one and no woman wants to run over her husband no matter how she acts 😉

      • RP1973 June 2, 2014 at 2:26 am #

        Ah, I suppose I fail to understand because both of my parents have never conformed to typical gender roles, and I am in a relationship with another man. It always seems simpler just being ourselves, now doesn’t it?

        • Amber DeRuyter June 2, 2014 at 3:01 am #

          As long as it works for you for a lifetime. Too many marriages ending in divorce 🙁 So I can’t see how things are better now that roles are being mixed up. It just doesn’t show in the statistics. Ya know?

  2. Barbara Kaizen Germany June 2, 2014 at 1:01 am #

    Personally, I think you missed the whole point of the movie. The prince couldn’t give true love’s kiss to a girl he’d met once. He may have been infatuated with her, but love is something that has to grow. Maleficent loved her in a maternal way. The point is that familial love is just as valid as romantic love.

  3. CJ June 2, 2014 at 2:04 am #

    interesting. You “help” clean, you “help” do dishes, you “help” with laundry. This suggests that you see these jobs as things your wife should do. Presumably, she “helps” you mow the lawn, she “helps” you shovel snow, and she “helps” you bbq. I think the women you know are as chauvinistic as you. I don’t expect men to pay for dinners for me on the first date. I don’t want a man who feels the need to take care of me – I’m quite capable of taking care of myself thanks. How about we take the roles we enjoy the most – whether or not they are male or female?

    • Kris Wolfe June 2, 2014 at 4:57 am #

      I don’t know if I’d consider my wife chauvinistic? She runs a women’s empowerment site and is member of Junior League. 70% of women do expect men to pay for dinners on the first date, and I don’t know them. Does that make 70% of women chauvinistic too?

  4. Amber Mixdorf Young June 2, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

    This article doesn’t link too well for Maleficent. My husband and I did engage in a gender role discussion afterwards because we do see the trend, in hollywood, that negates men. They tend to be a sidebar or a “you know, if you like that sort of thing” but they’re replaceable. The Prince in this movie could have been named anything or not been a prince or not even existed. That, I was disappointed in.. But let’s also be very honest. Price Philip, in the original movie, isn’t on screen for long and neither is Prince Charming from Snow White. Again, they could have been any body and were very interchangeable characters. The real take away that I had from this movie is that True Love DOES exist but in order for it to be TRUE you must KNOW the person first. There is no such thing as Love at First Sight… but True Love is very much real.

    • Kara Michelle Lantz-Griffith June 3, 2014 at 5:28 am #

      To expand on your comment, I also liked the idea that “true Love” wasn’t, and isn’t always romantic. It can also be maternal, paternal, etc.

  5. thisismyvision June 3, 2014 at 12:01 am #

    Gender roles are what society has deemed as appropriate behavioral norms for either a man or a woman in any given relationship. For example, in some societies women have served as soldiers. That’s a gender role assigned by society.

    I think you are not being articulate when you say that you believe gender roles are still important. I think that what you mean is that there is something about gender itself which correlates to behavior, for example men are strong so therefore they can be effective providers.

    These two ideas are seperate. Gender roles are created and affirmed by society (ex women should wear dresses, men should wear pants). Gender was created by God and can be affirmed by individuals (notice the choice here).

    We are desperate need of new language for this conversation. Christians are called to live beyond the biological or the social: Christians are called to live from the spiritual center of the human person. The spiritual center says that we have been made sons and daughters of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christians are called to live out this spiritual childhood through the biological and social worlds

  6. Kara Michelle Lantz-Griffith June 3, 2014 at 5:27 am #

    As someone who has seen the movie, and can also understand the importance of gender specific roles…I can understand where this article is coming from. However, at the same time, the “true loves kiss” being a “handsome Prince” is, and has always been, so cliched, it is no longer even a good “plot” any more. True love doesn’t always have to be romantic, and that’s why I liked Maleficent, and Frozen. Because, even though we, as women, do need men to sometimes “swoop in and save” us, we also are able to be so much more than the “damsel in distress” as well. Just a thought.

  7. Noel June 3, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    ..did you miss the part where the prince and princess were flirting at the end, giving them a chance to get to know each other… rather than assuming that a single chance meeting of two attractive teenagers was ‘true love’?
    I mean, if that’s your standard of true love, maybe that works for you, but I don’t like the idea of my son growing up thinking he can fall instantly into ‘true; love’ with a girl he talks to for less than 3 minutes.

  8. Jorge M June 4, 2014 at 2:30 am #

    More than
    feeling betrayed by traditional fairy tales, I feel betrayed by the Disney version
    of them. My biggest disappointment was The little mermaid, even when I really
    liked the music and Disney was my first reference. If you keep the original
    ending, there is beauty in the sacrifice and a whole new dimension on love. Just
    to add something to the table, my favorite stories for kids are: The
    neverending story (movie), The last unicorn (movie) and Jim Henson’s The
    Storyteller (tv series). Growing up in the 80’s-90’s was awesome =) PEACE
    everybody!

  9. disqus_aeRkIVdW0y July 27, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    A prince may need someone to rescue, but a princess doesn’t need rescuing unless she has been taught to be helpless. A mother’s love is the closest thing to unconditional love the human race has. A mother gives her blood and bone and breath, her life, her time, her substance and if necessary her death. A prince doesn’t even come close. He is desserts in the feast of life, not dinner.

  10. Kris Wolfe January 22, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    This is my site, these are my views. I’m not shoving anything onto anyone. You came to this site on your own volition. I agree with you on many of your points, and I’m thankful for the many women who serve in our military. However, there’s a subtle but growing notion that it’s ok to attack women if they provoke it, and you allude to it above. Are you implying it was ok for Chris Brown to hit Rihanna because she hit him first? I don’t buy it. In general, men are physically stronger and have natural, genetic makeup to put on muscle larger and faster. A man can defend himself and restrain if he needs to, but does he really need to punch?

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