The psychotherapist Carl Jung wrote about the role that archetypes play in our collective unconscious. The Trickster, Hero, Maiden Wise Old Man, Magician, Witch, Faithful Dog, etc. are familiar types — as is the Shadow (the representation of the dark side of an individual). These archetypes are everywhere in fiction —from classic fairy tales and sitcoms to Disney movies and noir detective novels.
Classic Disney films drew archetypal characters in ALL CAPS — there was never a question about the motivations of Cruella de Vil (“101 Dalmatians”) or any subtly in the Disney versions of familiar fairy tales. I’d better state right here that I was never a Disney kid. Aside from a few of the movies —“101 Dalmatians” & “Fantasia” — come to mind, I usually found the movies simplistic or frustrating, as I didn’t like the Disney brand of humor.
This is not to say that I don’t respect Disney’s accomplishments and innovations as a movie studio and entertainment company. I was very impressed with “Destino” — the Disney/Salvador Dali collaboration produced in 1945 and not released until 2003. I just think that the Disney incarnation of familiar archetypal characters are very hard to shake. They’ve become entrenched in our imaginations. The pure, sweet, beautiful princess IS our incarnation of Jung’s Maiden. Magical women — witches and sorceresses — are always dangerous, while magical men — magicians and wizards — are more likely to be mysterious and powerful.
It’s Jung all the way! (Through a Disney lens.)
That’s why I was so happy to see “Maleficent.” I caught it on a plane and it did more than pass some time in the air — it upended the Disney/Jungian archetypes with all the production values of a Disney creation. Even if you’ve had your fill of Disney fairy tales, find your way to this one and see if it doesn’t shake up a few of those all-too-perfect archetypes.