Sleeping Beauty - Once Upon This Dream, Right Now, Right Here... Please?

Quick Thoughts: Sleeping Beauty

Cursed to die on her 16th birthday, Princess Aurora's only hope is to be awoken by true love's first kiss.

This is a film I was reluctant to put into the Disney Series as I don't like it much. The major fault in Sleeping Beauty is how generic and bland its conceptualised story is. The narrative holds nothing of note. Every aspect of character falls lukewarm, as do the action sequences, the songs, emotional upbeats and downbeats. This is then, in its entirety, an incredibly mediocre film. What's more, this is a, somewhat ironically, pretty ugly movie. The animation if often sloppy with no nuance given to the characters, their movement or expression. This is only embellished by the terrible backgrounds. They are way too detailed with the strong emphasis on the uniform dynamics of lines forcing conflict with the smoothness of the foreground. What this does is distract the eye, pulling it from the characters and action and into the unmoving distance; the lazy background artwork, hardly ever animated. This all coalesces into a Disney film that really isn't worth labelling 'classic'. However, there's always a 'however', the stagnating mediocrity of Sleeping Beauty does make it a very interesting example of the paradigm and philosophy of the fairy tale. It's because this film drowns in tropes, but by design, that we are ultimately seeing a commentary on an idea of the fairy tale in respect to the 'kid's film'.

To set the stage for this exploration into Sleeping Beauty we should start with the title. Firstly, who is the beauty? The more appropriate question is what is the beauty? for it is not a person, it is not Aurora that is the comatosed grace, much rather, an idea. The dormant beauty in this film is its happy ending. To understand why, we have to break down what the film tells us beauty is. Beauty is defined quite simply by this sequence...

The sequence of the 3 gifts--I know there's an implied Jesus thing here, but I'll leave that to you as it's not relatable to what we're going to talk about. The sequence of the 3 gifts defines beauty not in the idea of Aurora being bless with beauty, song and the fix-all of true love's first kiss. Beauty is defined in the act of giving. The guardian fairies bestow their vision of beauty onto the baby princess - and as the cliche goes: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This simply states that the physical beauty of Aurora is manufactured and the product of a perceptual bias. In this we see the construction of a future through the Princess as a mere vessel (yeah, yeah, I know, objectification, dehumanisation, such and so on - I get it). What's more important though is the idea of Sleeping Beauty, of an implied inevitably happy ending; what is characterised to be fate. Fate riddles this film from start to beginning, seemingly plaguing the film with God-awful writing. However, this has clearly been built in the narrative to suggest that the real dream, the real protagonists, are in fact the parental forces featured. This is a film by and for those wanting a perfect world, wanting to create the utopian experience, for those they love. This is all veiled in a thin veneer of selflessness, in a notion of goodness, but that stark truth of this film is that its basically a near-propaganda think-piece on genetic modification. The magic in this film doesn't directly serve as metaphors for creating a test-tube-baby, instead, the human yearning that lies behind the idea of having a perfect future for yourself and your children. So, in this I see not criticism in this film being 'a near-propaganda think-piece on genetic modification', but a coincidental poke at what drives our manipulative agendas in life.

It's in this that we see perfectly the Sleeping Beauty of the film. It is a parental dream of the perfect child living in a perfect world. This is what the implied inevitably happy ending stands to reason. This is a film about a parent's hope. Through this, the crux of the story is in the tests that all the parental figures are put through. The virtues of the three guardian fairies, the Kings and the Queen are of patience, of sacrifice and a trust in their child to become what they wish and are there to spotlight traits of good parenting (as argued by the film). By succeeding in passing all their tests, the parental figures are rewarded with their preconceived happy ending, with fate playing to their wishing will. What this transforms Maleficence into is an idea of pure pessimism, of an almost malicious sense of doubt. In such, the film becomes a fight between the dreaming optimist in face of their crowd of (I hate to use the word, but it conveys the point aptly enough) haters. Maleficence is essentially the grinding thought that one's daughter could not only become entrapped in a banal existence, as represented by a symbol of work...

... the spindle, but be trapped in this mundane reality with spite, without hope, happiness, with the existential touch of death...

What does this film then essentially say? Well...

... but, my kid is going to become president...

... beautiful, huh? And for that, this is a pretty simple film, one that manages to translate this message in a way that isn't all that smug and dickish - which kind of elevates it a notch above mediocre, but, ultimately, a notch not too high.

In the end, the philosophy of the fairy tale presented by this film is that they're stories we use to manipulate our children, to shape them into better people through fear, through instilled hope, fantasy, aspiration and happiness. Not so magic when put in those words, but not so tragic either.

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