Disney’s latest blockbuster Maleficent starring Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie is causing a bit of a stir amongst the masses by alleging that one of the most terrifying creatures in children’s stories is more of a victim than a villain.
Flipping fairy tales and children’s stories has become pretty fashionable in recent years, with several films and books looking at them from ‘the other side’ portraying the bad guys as not that bad and the good guys as not that good. Wicked began the trend with it’s opening assertion that ‘No One Mourns the Wicked’ before explaining the true, rather devastating, story of the Wicked Witch of the West. And let’s not forget about Disney’s latest success story, Frozen, which transformed the infamous Ice Queen into a loving sister who was oppressed by her parents and terrified of her own powers.
Part of me is irritated by this latest trend. When I was younger the appeal of reading and going to watch films, plays and pantomimes was the knowledge that you would have a good guy to support and cheer for and a bad guy to hate and jeer at. It was simple. It taught me that there are always going to be villains, but that there will also always be heroes to defeat them.
But a much larger part of my recognises that this is a silly way to see it. These reformed stories convey that, most of the time, the bad people haven’t been bad their whole life and the way they have turned out isn’t necessarily their fault. They also show that good people aren’t perfect, and can have far darker sides. They reveal that while the hero defeating the villain is necessary, it is not something we should all be entirely happy about.
In life, people that you love will let you down and those you hate may be the ones to come through for you in the end. It doesn’t matter how much you don’t like someone, you will never relish their downfall, for they are a human being too. These lessons are ones we should be teaching children. While they are confusing and, perhaps, not as satisfying, they will prepare them for later life.
For while we may enjoy teaching our children stories of monsters, we should try to remind them that monsters were once people too.
-Image courtesy of Global Panorama (https://www.flickr.com/photos/121483302@N02/)