The first thing you may notice about Sleeping Beauty is that the, supposed, protagonist is sleeping for the majority of the film. Passivity has been a reared desirable trait for women, this displaying the epitome of a passive woman. Further reinforcing the notion is that a man must ultimately “save her from herself“ (if we recall, Aurora is the one who pricked herself on the spindle, making it her fault that she is the victim – read that with thick layers of sarcasm if you hadn’t).
The Prince’s actions reinforce the “nice guy” paradigm. Prince Philip rescues Aurora from her deep slumber with true love’s kiss. There is a lack of moral compass about the appropriateness of kissing a woman who can’t give consent. The movie seems to suggest that because Prince Philip worked so hard to snake through thorny bushes and slay a dragon that he is allowed to kiss our sleeping beauty. Regardless of how much an individual does for another, it is in no way, shape, or form, permission to another individual’s body without proper communication. By raising our youth on movies that promote the prize of obtaining women through hard work, we are promoting the I-Deserve-Her syndrome that “nice” men seem to be suffering from.
The most powerful women is evil – this resonates with a more modern term: power bitch. Women holding positions of power are sometimes referred to as being a bitch – as to where her male counterpart would be praised for his determination. Women are considered aggressive,
Even our biological experiences are framed to deflate our legitimacy. Who hasn’t heard, “Oh you’re just PMSing…”
Even title wise the movie suggest that a woman’s worth is directly tied to her looks and fertility. The film is literally called Sleeping Beauty. Beauty is gifted to the new born baby, signaling how precious this must be. Her mother is unknown except for being the bearer of a bouncy baby girl.
Obviously, Disney doesn’t respect women as autonomous capable beings. Where does that leave our youth who subliminally imbibe these messages?
In Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959) we enter into a fairytale world where everyone is under a deep slumber. Of course they never lived within a time frozen world – it was a curse.
Upon Sleeping Beauty’s birth, the kingdom rejoiced with celebration for the new baby. As such, many are invited to bear gifts – three such being from plump, friendly fairies. Everyone in attendance is white and upper class until Maleficent bursts in to give her gift.
Maleficent is grey hued adorning black attire. Her crow is black.
Her henchmen are black.
The beastly antagonist is black.
Everything dark in this movie is evil.
The movie is filled with the pretty obvious tones of disdain for anything that diverges from the white supremacist layer of the times. During that time, crow was a slur for African-Americans. By making everything that’s darker than beige negative, they are reinstitutionalizing the dangerous permeating messages of racism.
Not only does Disney provide this color scheme for this movie, but a similar dark colored scheme to represent evil occurs unanimously in most Disney movies.
♠ Being independent and powerful make you evil
“Maleficent is a badass. She is the only female character who actually does something in this movie. Why is she evil? Because she refuses to obey what is set in place by the society. Oooh. Maleficent wasn’t even going to curse Aurora until the other fairies told her she wasn’t wanted. I don’t agree that she should have taken it out on little Aurora, but she was willing to have a little compassion until everyone acted like giant jerks. Maleficent is an independent and powerful woman who doesn’t let the so-called standards of the kingdom keep her from doing what she wants. But she’s a bitch for it, apparently.”
♠ Your only use is to bear children
“Do you know what the queen’s name is? Probably not because she’s never addressed by her name, but it’s Leah in case you were wondering. She doesn’t speak and no one ever really interacts with her. Aurora is only referred to as the king’s child, basically making the Queen obsolete except to have babies.”
♠ Beauty is the most important quality
“In this fairy tale, fairies bestow gifts upon baby Aurora. She is given the gift of beauty and song. That’s it. No one bestows wit or intelligence or anything upon her. Beauty and song. So now Aurora has nothing to do except look pretty and carry a tune.”
♠ Love at first site
“At least it takes Mulan and some later Princesses a few days to fall in love. So you meet a random guy in the middle of the forest? MUST BE LOVE”
♠ You’re basically useless
“Aurora is asleep and doesn’t get to do anything for herself. She has no qualities other than beauty and her kindness. Her literal dream in life is to fall in love. That’s it. She has no ambitions or goals other than that, which is why she is able to fall in love with the first guy who walks through the woods.”
♠ No consent is okay
“We saw this in Snow White too. Princess Aurora is asleep. Prince Phillip kisses her without consent. That is not okay. I don’t care that this is a fairy tale and “But true love’s first kiss!” No. This is creepy.”
♠ You need a man to save you
“There’s no escape for Aurora except for being saved by a dude who doesn’t even get consent from her.”
There have been various fairytale revision of Sleeping Beauty – some naughty, some nice. This particular independent animated revision critiques two of the most prominent themes: Sleeping Beauty’s received gifts and her sleeping lack of consent.
Beauty’s gifts are almost useless, according to the video. Instead of anything practical, they wish her beauty and ability to sing. As to where intelligence didn’t seem to make the cut. The satirical short animation takes a dark twist when she meets her Prince’s wife…
One contention I disagree with is the slut-shaming overtone – not sex-positive – but interesting commentary on the rest of the story.
Anne Rice, pen name A.N. Roquelaure, wrote an enticingly fascinating trilogy of Sleeping Beauty. All appropriately titled: The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (1983), Beauty’s Punishment (1984), and Beauty’s Release (1985).
The most prominent aspect from the tale of Sleeping Beauty, and entire framework for the novels, was based on “true love’s first kiss” that wakes Aurora from her sleep. Instead, Rice translates this to ‘first fuck’, leaving out love entirely (arguably, love was never a theme that actually occurred previously).
In the novel, Sleeping Beauty is simply called Beauty. Even though she in the predominant protagonist, her lack of name is evident that she lacks autonomy and initial characteristics aside from her looks.
The BDSM fairytale land often skims the lines of consent so frequently and closely that it gets pushed between no consent and barely consent – at least initially. Beauty essentially develops Stockholm Syndrome, which seems to be her only saving grace in a world where she has no choice, as upon her waking she is given to the Prince as a sex slave.
She eventually loves her capture and punishment to the point of yearning for both. Much like in BDSM when a slave reaches their breaking point, one where it can be a breakdown of their will, attitude, and sometimes thought process, which can lead to a blank canvas type of state in which a Master can paint what they wish. To make a distinction, BDSM has strong and true under layers of everything being safe, sane, and consensual with copious constant communication. That is unlike Beauty’s treatment, where she never consented to the acts.
There comes a line of contention: can something be considered enjoyable if not initially consensual? What are your thoughts?