What Earth Angel and Maleficent have to do with one another

As kids, my little sister and I liked to dance to oldies tunes and Disney songs. We’d put on shows for my parents and give them tickets to our performances. I sometimes danced around by myself.

More so in the dancing-by-myself moments, I’d grab a pillow from the couch and slow dance with it, imagining dancing with a real live boy.

Maybe a real live boy who loved me, and would put his arms around me. And who might say he loved me. While we danced to “Earth Angel.” This likely was because I was a young girl, and perhaps had a little something to do with watching Back to the Future a zillion million times.

The "Earth Angel" scene from Back To The Future
The “Earth Angel” scene from Back To The Future

So what does this have to do with the Angelina Jolie version of Maleficent? Well, I’ll tell you.

If you’ve seen it, or if you’ve read any of the reviews, you know that the classic Disney villain starts out as a lovely fairy until a horrible scene where she’s drugged and her wings are cut from her. She awakens and has an awful scream when she realizes what has happened. I was prepared for that moment in the movie, probably too much so, actually thinking maybe I needed to look away — and in over-psyching myself up for it, that moment didn’t hit me as hard as it could have.

But it did hit me.

What struck me most was the power, grace, exhilaration and freedom she was capable of with those wings, and how defeated, crumpled and unremarkable she seemed without them.

I’ve seen reviews equating it to rape. Clearly there’s that implication; she was drugged by a lover, somebody she trusted; and she awakens to a new reality — one where he has taken something from her and she is changed forever. I wonder if the writers of Maleficent have ever read Andrea Gibson’s poem Blue Blanket.

She’s heard stories of Vietnam vets
Who can still feel this tingling of their amputated limbs
She’s wondering how many women
Are walking around this world
Feeling the tingling of their amputated wings
Remembering what it was to fly, to sing

I also felt like the experience of losing your wings could be paralleled to crippling depression. Some days you wake up and you go to wing around and do all the things you think you can do and then realize you can’t. You’re on the ground. It’s going to take so much longer than it’s supposed to. Why even. I hate everything.

Maleficent realizes her wings are gone
Maleficent realizes her wings are gone

The movie hit chords of all kinds. I’ve been with someone the morning they wake up and have that moment of their wings being gone. I’ve gone to the hospital with them and seen them on the ground walking, seen the wall of thorns go up.

I’ve had my hair cut off; lost my wings slowly over time to somebody I thought I trusted. Not to get all the way into it, but I’m fortunate to never have had an overnight awakening where the wings were gone. Instead, they were ripped off, little by little. I thought maybe I lost them myself, even. I did something to ruin them. I didn’t deserve them. Wasn’t capable of having them.

The wings do come back, though. For that person. For me.

I’m really glad the movie ended the way it did. They do come back. Phoenixes rise from ashes. Wings find their way back home when you need them the most.

I fell for you
And I knew
The vision of your loveliness.
I hope and pray
That someday
That I’ll be the vision of your happiness.

Still with me? Here’s where it comes back to Earth Angel. After the film, there’s a Lana Del Rey version of “Once Upon A Dream” that plays while the credits roll. Cory and I got off the couch and slow danced. The way we did to “Always” the first time we heard it.

I was transported back to slow dancing with a throw pillow. In addition to Earth Angel, Once Upon A Dream was also one of me and the pillow’s favorite dance numbers (My and the pillow? The pillow and I?).

Kate Austin-Avon
“Fae” by Kate Austin-Avon. Click to read my piece “On Soaring.”

11-year-old Kate zoomed forward through space and time, through painful loss of wings, long years on the ground and re-discovering flight, to being in a living room of her own with a real live boy (a husband!) with arms around her and a warm neck to kiss.  Much better than any upholstery. With our sweet boy asleep upstairs. I’m loved and I have my wings.

Happily ever after does exist.

(Hang in there.)

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One thought on “What Earth Angel and Maleficent have to do with one another

  1. Kate… this is beautiful. I just watched this movie on a bus trip to NYC this weekend. You did a beautiful job on this piece and it made me rethink some of the scenes, thinking about the story in a more personal way. Good job!

    Like

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