Maleficent And Other Women Of Power

Disney has officially released a teaser trailer for Maleficent, the live action take on the classic Disney version of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the villainess. If you haven’t seen the teaser, here it is:

For a thoughtful analysis of the trailer and speculation on what the film is about, check out “Maleficent Speaks” from Witches Can Be Right . I agree with the post that it could be an interesting take on the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty, and that they don’t make Maleficent too sympathetic. Her name is Maleficent. Her job is to be evil.

However, reading the post and watching the teaser got me thinking about the portrayal of powerful women in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I’m not talking about Ripley from the Alien franchise, who runs around with a big gun and kicks booty. I’m talking about women who take on political positions of power, whether as queen or rebel leader, as villain or heroine.

If you are asked to portray a powerful queen, sorceress, enchantress, ninja princess, etc, here are 5 stereotypes to follow:

1. Speak in a stilted, deep voice (preferably in a British accent)

Everyone knows someone with a proper British accent is more classy and powerful than someone with a more colloquial dialect. Imagine if Princess Leia spoke to Grand Moff Tarkin with a Bronx accent. (Actually, I could see Carrie Fisher doing that.)

The accent alone, however, is not enough. In order to convey power, apparently a woman must deepen her voice.

Is this a way of masculinizing her?

Also see: Every episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, the Empress in Dungeons and Dragons The Movie

2. Make sure to YELL.

If you watch this movie, every grand speech by either Snow White (Kristen Stewart) and the Queen (Charlize Theron) culminates in each character YELLING at their subordinates.

Every rousing speech to inspire your followers, or minions, should include yelling.

3. Wear appropriate headgear: The bigger, the more likely it is to channel your awesomeness.

Willow!

From Doctor Who: Rings Of Akhaten.
(Smaller headgear = less political power?)

Unless you’re the Empress from The Neverending Story

Update: Awesome headgear, and a fabulous belt. How could I have not included Wonder Woman?

Okay, not from Sci-Fi or Fantasy, but you have to admit it is great headgear.

And how could I not give a shout out to the Queen of Soul?

4. Dress fashionably: Headgear alone is not enough. You must look gorgeous while commanding the entire cosmos.

Really, this is everything combined in one poster.
This is for The Great Queen Seondeok, one of the great Korean Soap Operas you can check out on Netflix.
If you go check it out, then I’ll see you in a few weeks.
Korean period soap operas are far too addicting.

Before going crazy on Merlin

After going crazy on Merlin.

Although, at this point Amidala is moving from powerful politician to worried romantic interest.

Update: And just for Geektasticmama, here is Queen Regina from Once Upon A Time. This lady is almost always dressed fabulous (Though, we’ll exclude a few outfits from the pilot).

5. Sharpen Your Cheekbones: This evokes a sharp intellect and cutting wit.

While many of the above are often used by male characters with power (see below), I think they are more noticeable in the few women of great power portrayed.

Dae Jo Young, from the Korean soap opera of the same name, but his nickname between my sister and myself is “Cool Cheekbones Guy.” Check out that awesome facial structure.

With strong females like Maleficent and Katniss leading their own movies, there will hopefully become a greater diversity in their portrayal.

  • What do you think of the Maleficent trailer?
  • Do you have examples I missed?
  • Are you going to work on upgrading your fashion so you too can become powerful? Isn’t it said you should always dress for what you want to become? (This can apply to men too).
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19 thoughts on “Maleficent And Other Women Of Power

  1. I’m always leery of movies and books that try to humanize a villain, especially one like Maleficent. I loved how evil she was because you don’t see many gloriously evil female villains that are as badass as their male counterparts. So, I’m looking at it with caution.

    As for women of power, would Hermione Grainger count? She isn’t a queen or princess, but she seems to be the one that solves most of the problems. Actually, the Alice in ‘The Looking Glass Wars’ series is a princess and pretty powerful. Other than that, I only have Jasmine from Aladdin and Merida from Brave.

    • I think there needs to be a separate blog post for strong women in sci-fi/Fantasy. With both Hermione and Merida, they are individualistic and seek only to be themselves. Their ability to be their true, strong selves gives them what they need to defeat whatever lays in their past, whether it is OWL exams or turning her mother back from being a bear – and Merida can sew and ride a horse at the same time. I find that much more impressive than archery.
      As for Jasmine, while she is technically a princess, and therefore politically powerful, I’ve never seen her as a powerful character. She has a strong personality, and some spit-fire, but she doesn’t really have a moment of greatness and courage.

      • The moment of greatness and courage for Jasmine was when she tricked Jafar. It was seduction, but she did show bravery getting that close to someone who could easily defeat her. She definitely took more action than the classic princesses of Disney.

        • Good point, though I think classic Disney princesses have more autonomy than people give them credit for. I’ll have to go back and review Aladdin. It’s a long time since I’ve watched it.

  2. I would add in Regina from Once Upon a Time personally. Her hair is always large and her fashion is A-FREAKING-MAZING. Also, now that you mention the lower octave, she has a fairly deep voice for a woman.

    • Regina does have a deeper voice, but the actress, Lana Parrilla, is able to inflect more emotion, and often menace, than the stilted tones of a lot of other powerful female characters. In the slower episodes of Once Upon A Time, when I find myself skipping through much of the story, I usually pause for scenes that involve Regina and/or Rumplestiltsken – especially when there is both. I think the show may be better as a buddy-cop type story with them as evil but likable protagonists forced to work together.
      Also, I thought about Regina after scheduling the post. Because of your comment, I added her to the fashion section above.

  3. As an antidote to the sexy-at-all-cost female lead, I offer Amanda Waller of DC’s Suicide Squad and more recently the Justice League Unlimited animated series. Short, dumpy, black… forceful, tough and capable. Amanda Waller proves it doesn’t have to be about the clothes.

  4. Princess Leia was my childhood icon of a strong woman. Sadly, they put her all in white for the first film (I didn’t think the long dress was very fair, do you?) But she still rocked it! I may need to get a headpiece to make me more powerful. Or a belt like Wonder Woman had. Or both! 😉 Love this post!

    • Wonder Woman has a belt and a headpiece, which is why she is so powerful. If you have both, you might not be able to handle your own strength.
      I think one of my favorite Leia moments from the first movie is when she takes the blaster and shoots a hole into the garbage shoot to escape. Without her, those boys would not have made it out.
      (I think I need to add Wonder Woman too.)

  5. Great post. I feel like you could even expand on this if you ever wanted and take on an even more analytical post, which I’d be most interested to see! Actually, can you write a whole essay on it? Haha. “Powerful women in film and television and how they are portrayed.”
    Do you think somehow, because Hollywood is mostly run by men, they only did what they know? They basically took what they consider a “strong man” and tried to make it equal a strong woman. So they lower her voice, making it masculine, give her tall headgear to make her seem taller, etc. Can’t really figure out the cheekbones though. Maybe because our culture thinks that thin is beautiful, and the dramatic cheekbones make a girl look thinner, in turn it makes her more beautiful? I don’t know, that’s a stretch.
    Funnily, I loved Queen Amidala’s accent and loved Xena’s wardrobe. I wonder if I internalized what the media was telling me.
    I liked this post. Thanks. 🙂

    • The commonness of cheekbones is easy to explain: Cheekbones look cool. It’s that simple.
      I think it will take a series of Blog Posts to talk about the portrayal of powerful women. This one I kept simple because it was a fun break from working on NaNoWriMo and finishing up grad school applications.
      It’s also important to remember that movies and media are meant to manipulate your ideas and emotions to get you invested in a story. Just because it’s manipulative doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. There is no shame in loving Xena’s outfit or Amidala’s accent. These things are repeated because they work.

  6. Ha, Princess Leia’s temporary British accent always cracks me up. (And I love that you included Willow! Jean Marsh also played the evil Princess Mombi in Return to Oz and her voice gets even deeper–and as if impressive headgear weren’t enough, she actually has a closet of heads to wear for various occasions.)

    And thanks for the mention!

    • No problem!
      The queen from Willow is wonderfully diabolical. As for Leia’s temporary accent, maybe she’s lived so long among the British-accented Imperials that she picks up a trace of their accent when she’s around them. My dad picks up a mid-western twang now and then from having spent two-years on an LDS mission in Kansas, and we live in California.

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