Spoiler Alert * if you haven’t seen it I’ll be describing stuff in the movie * Spoiler Alert
First off, Maleficent is a much reimagined telling of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, with which many of us grew up. At least some of our kids on the autism spectrum have committed that version to memory – so see it when they don’t have to go with you. You know they don’t like too much change, right?
There is plenty going on in the film, but I’ll highlight just two themes that stood out as relevant for care givers:
1) We have to choose what’s right when our accumulated hurts turn us toward bitterness. Maleficent and King Stefan wound each other. Both face the choice to let insult and injury define their lives or to choose a better path.
Care giving brings its share of hurts. We can feel cheated by life, especially by those closest to us; shortchanged, insulted, betrayed – and such feelings can raise up emotional barricades of anger, resentment, cynicism and despair. Maleficent and Stefan hunker behind walls of stone, iron and thorns, dwelling on their hurts and inflicting them on those who come close.
The beauty of the movie is a choice to stop stewing in the hurt, to leave the past in the past, to act for the good of someone else and to take down the barriers that have loomed for too long.
2) Love is a sacrificial embrace of reality rather than fantasy and romance.
The story of Sleeping Beauty turns on the hope of “true love’s first kiss.” This is, of course, a “love at first sight,” romantic kiss in most tellings of the story.
But Maleficent takes this in another direction, in which the kiss is not about romance but about a movement of the heart that makes one person put their own agenda aside for the good of another.
This is at the heart of care giving. We deal with the death of fantasies about our loved ones’ futures and the ways we felt entitled to enjoy them. We have to lay aside the warm fuzzies we crave, and dedicate our efforts to our loved ones with special needs, on their own terms.
Those who can offer this “true love,” the movie suggests, will find broken things healed and new paths opened up.
Those are hopes worth holding after the credits finish rolling.