The Book's Lover

The Book's Lover
Damiano Cali

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Apparently, I need a nap.  A long one.  Two of my most recent reads have been, quite unintentionally, re-tellings of Sleeping Beauty.  Then I caught Maleficent.  This theme is not helping with my yawns.  

Anna Sheehan's A Long, Long Sleep is fun.  Fluffy, and somewhat predictable, but fun. Poor little rich girl Rose Fitzroy has just been woken from her stasis tube...after 62 years.  Needless to say, somethings have changed.  During her extensive nap-time,  the world suffered through a few resurgences of plague--seriously, bubonic plague returned--and social upheaval.  Rose is overwhelmed with the new world, complete with an overload of new technology, political maneuverings she can't understand, and atrophy-induced physical weakness.  Oh, and embarrassing teen crushes (told you it was fluffy, Gentle Readers). 

The ending is a bit odd, and feels vaguely icky, but it does wrap everything in a nice, neat little bow.  I have a feeling that with one of the Big Reveals in the climax of the book, we'll be seeing a sequel, possibly a trilogy.  I'm not planning on reading the possible sequels--this one wasn't strong enough to pique my ongoing interest--but I'm sure there's a YA audience out there somewhere that will.

Speaking of YA re-tellings of Sleeping Beauty, I also finished Karen Healey's When We Wake.  My favorite part of the book is the cover.  This is not necessarily a slam: LOOK AT IT!  It's gorgeous.  The book is, you know, readable.  Tegan is a contemporary teenager who dies suddenly and wakes up a hundred years from now in a military facility.  (Note to self: don't donate your body to science in Australia; you'll become cryogenic government property.Australia is the preeminent world power in a future of food and water shortages, rising ocean tides, and dying ecosystems. So Tegan talks her way into going to school (where she crushes on the one boy she shouldn't), agrees to supervised media outings (that go horribly wrong, of course), and realizes that the future is still full of prejudice, cruelty, and indifference (shocking).  Oh, and there are chase scenes, because, you know, she once did parkour for fun...and now she does it to save the world!   

Will it have a sequel? you ask.  Yup.  I saw While We Run in the bookstore just today.  Nope, I won't be reading it.  But I do want to wear the book cover makeup for Halloween.

Then, absolutely without planning it, I swear, I went to see Maleficent in the local second-run movie theatre.  While this movie is certainly not all it could be, it was pretty good.  I did roll my eyes more than once in the dark, I must admit, but I blame Disney for keeping to the animated Sleeping Beauty script a bit too closely.  Not sure we needed the three fairies, and some of the clunky dialogue could have been re-tooled.  Plus, I know we needed to see Prince Phillip, but I just wanted to give him a haircut; he looks like Justin Beiber.  And am I the only one who noticed that Sleeping Beauty was only asleep for, like, 20 minutes?  That's not Sleeping Beauty; that's Napping Teenager.  
But can we talk about the costumes?  O holy schnikes, Gentle Readers, I want me some Maleficent horns.  Apparently they were made for the movie by artisans who specialize in fetishware.  I don't know what kind of fetish needs to have Maleficent horns, but I might be willing to look into it.  The costumes are just SO GOOD.

I just can't get on board with the critics, though.  This is not a "feminist revisionist backstory" of an evil fairy, O Kate Taylor of The Globe and Mail!  It is certainly female-centric, and yes, it passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, but I really can't see it as a feminist fairy tale.

My biggest issue is the rape narrative.  When greedy Stefan is tasked with destroying Maleficent, he can't stab her to death while she's in a drugged sleep.  They're childhood friends, after all.  But he has no problem sawing off her wings, in a pretty clear rape narrative.  He can't dominate her through penetration, so he violates her body through mutilation.  Thanks, Disney.  You gave me nightmares.  

While Maleficent does reclaim her agency and her power, she does it through violence and a continuation of abuse.  Plus, if we read the narrative in this way, her (spoilers!) reclamation of her wings at the end is a weird negation of the violence visited upon her.  It's as if the movie is trying to erase her trauma.  This doesn't feel like a healthy working-through of issues (or, you know, a kids' movie).  I love Jolie in the movie, and I want her clothes.  But I have serious reservations about the film.  I found it watchable, but I just can't enjoy it.   

I need a new fairy tale to fixate on.  Maybe a nice Little Red Riding Hood.  Death to the wolf, and all that...

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