As the second film in the Maleficent franchise, Mistress of Evil, hits screens later this month, the lead star Angelina Jolie has expressed some pretty unusual remarks about the portrayal modern-day heroines and the impressions of power they exhibit.
The actress, who played the lead role in the 2014 dark fantasy drama loosely based on Sleeping Beauty, said heroines on screen don’t have to show physical strength to be perceived as strong.
“I think that, so often, when a story’s told which says ‘this is a strong woman’, she has to beat the man, or she has to be like the man, or she has to somehow not need the man,” Jolie said at an event to launch the film.
She said her character and that of Princess Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, both “very much need and love and learn from the men. I think that’s also an important message for young girls, to find their own power, but to respect and learn from the men around them.”
Jolie also added, “We have extraordinary men in the film, and I really want to press that point.” It’s a curious statement. The history of film, particularly in the west, has been a tapestry weaved almost entirely by men.
Jolie’s costar, Elle Fanning, remarked about her character, Aurora. “Her strength is her kindness. She is soft and feminine and wants to be a wife and have babies, and that’s a beautiful, strong thing that isn’t portrayed a lot on screen.”
I’m not sure what films Fanning has been watching. Most of the films I’ve seen have featured narratives that constrict a woman’s role to that of a wife and mother – her ambitions reduced to finding a husband, bearing children.
The film isn’t yet in theatres but Entertainment writers have described the sequel as a “modern day fairytale where badass women take centre stage”.
The comments from Jolie and Fanning don’t seem to align with that statement.