Thursday, June 12, 2014

Maleficent: A Fairy Tale for Our Times

The new version of Sleeping Beauty showcases something Disney has been good at for a long time: offering a story that reflects the times. Maleficent is not meant to be a prequel, sequel, or addendum to the 1950's tale of Beauty. It's a new twist on an old story that Disney had already altered from its original version. If you think Disney's earlier portrayal of Maleficent should be set in stone, you won't like this movie. If you approach it with the idea that fairy tales are a flexible vehicle for insight into the human condition, you will probably like this movie quite a bit. It's not a perfect story, but it offers a surprisingly moving narrative that intersects with real life more than you might expect.
A young lady wakes up after falling asleep in the arms of a man who says he loves her. He drugs her and violates her by taking something precious. He then abandons her, brags about his conquest, and turns his back on her despoiled life. 
In the aftermath of her abandonment, she chooses to embrace revenge, hate, and a lust for power. Joy becomes bitterness; warmth and laughter become cold cynicism. She builds walls around her heart and her kindgom so no one can hurt her again. She begins to use others for her selfish purposes. And when the opportunity for revenge presents itself, the girl who once loved to help is the first in line to harm.
If you have not heard this story before, you’re not listening, and I'm not talking about Maleficent's updated story. It’s happening around us all the time. Lest you think I am reading too much into this, Angelina Jolie noted: "The core of [the movie] is abuse, and how the abused have a choice of abusing others or overcoming...What could make a woman become so dark? To lose all sense of her maternity, her womanhood, and her softness?"

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Steelheart: Helping the Heroes Along

Have you ever finished a really satisfying book and thought, “How did I not know about this author before?” Brandon Sanderson's YA hit Steelheart is that kind of book. I promptly followed it up with Mistborn: The Alloy of Law, then Warbreaker, then his Mistborn trilogy (in which I am currently immersed).

Brandon Sanderson is a teacher at Brigham Young University who also writes prolifically: he has continued Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series while managing to write seventeen novels, a number of shorter works, and a graphic novel. He’s been nominated for and/or won major literary awards every year since 2005, and he co-hosts an award-winning podcast. I get tired just reading his bio. He probably wrote a novella while I typed this paragraph. 

Even more impressively, his track record would suggest that this imaginary novella I just had him write is very good. I suspect I will eventually read everything he has written. His stories are innovative, thought-provoking, and grounded in a moral universe that fits in well with my Christian worldview.