Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and the Male Gaze

I watched Maleficent: Mistress of Evil on a whim, not expecting to observe much or have a lot of it stay with me. The movie was entertaining, and I thought the actors were nice. I was surprised to note that what really stayed with me, though, was what Maleficent was wearing, based on her mood or the way she was set to be perceived. To draw upon that more specifically— how much skin she was showing. 

We start out with a harsh Maleficent at the beginning of the movie. She disapproves of Aurora’s relationship and puts up a cold front. She doesn’t want to attend the dinner with the prince’s family and is generally displayed as harsh, unaffectionate, even unlikable. 

And in this time frame of the movie, Maleficent is wearing her usual garb. She is practically covered from head to toe, which is how she shows up to the dinner party. 

Photo credit: Walt Disney Motion Pictures

During her time wearing this outfit, Maleficent is portrayed as unreasonable, angry, and someone who eventually loses control of herself. She is not showing any skin at this point. 

Photo credit: Walt Disney Motion Pictures

On the other hand, at another point in the movie where Maleficent loses control and isn’t necessarily a positive figure in the movie, she looks like this:

Photo credit: Walt Disney Motion Pictures

She is showing a lot of skin here, as opposed to her previous outfits. She is extremely intense during this period and is not necessarily portrayed in a positive light. 

When Maleficent is finally seen as a hero rather than the villain, her final form is revealed. Her stomach and chest aren’t exposed, but there’s just enough skin to make the form sensual. 

These may be small details, but to me, they speak of the male gaze. According to the theory of there being a “male gaze”, women are portrayed in film in a way to appeal exclusively to men. This was prevalent in Maleficent in that she was not okay until she was showing just the perfect amount of skin. It’s reminiscent of how society tends to stigmatize women who completely cover themselves, like those who wear hijabs, yet criticize women who wear revealing clothes as being “loose” or promiscuous. 

Women aren’t okay when they’re completely covered or completely exposed. They’re only acceptable when they show an acceptable amount of skin— a slit of it is okay, but once there’s any more or less…

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, to me, was a feminist film in many ways. The development and ultimate importance of female characters is a great example for impressionable young people. Despite that, I couldn’t help but notice the clothing choices for Maleficent and how they reflected the mood in the film.

 

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