THE BRUISES ON MY LIFE – my history of abuse in “elite” education

In the ongoing living nightmare that is the sexual assault allegations mounting against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a frequent defence used by the right-wing media in their attempts to diminish the stories of his accusers (at least the ones who aren’t outright claiming it never happened) is the old “boys will be boys” excuse. They claim that this is normal behaviour for a teenage boy, that they meant nothing by it and were just joking around, and that Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick are simply exaggerating harmless events for political gains. These assumptions are vile and destructive and enable the cycle of violence that keeps toxic masculinity alive in our society, but they are of course far from new.

Survivors of sexual harassment and assault have been forever seen as hypersensitive and untrustworthy, but especially so for those whose experience didn’t go as far as rape. They are made to be seen like what they went through was nothing because they weren’t “actually harmed”. But physical damage isn’t required to cause trauma. Sometimes, mental and psychological effects can be just as or even more damaging, leaving scars on the soul that may never heal. I know this because, though I never experienced anything quite as harrowing as Dr. Ford et al, I spent my adolescence in an environment not too dissimilar to Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep, and the scars I received there are still bleeding.

My parents, in the hopes of improving my education, sent me to a prestigious UK boarding school at the age of twelve. As a pudgy closeted trans girl who was neither academically nor athletically inclined, I was like a ripe piece of meat dropped into the lion’s den of these entitled hormone monsters. I had spent most of my life up to this point in state education. Most of these boys had spent their entire lives in some form of privileged education, growing up in an environment that constantly reassured them that they were better than everyone else. I had no chance of making it out of here unscathed.

For six years, this was my life. This wasn’t just inconsequential gibing on the school playground. This became nearly every moment of my life not spent in a classroom. I couldn’t even sleep without fear of something happening to me. What I faced at that school encompassed a large span of the abuse spectrum. There was simple name calling and social rejection, which then might escalate to the spreading of disparaging rumours and public embarrassment, then on up to the stealing and/or destruction of personal belongings, followed by direct physical and emotional torment, all leading up to the ultimate act: borderline sexual abuse. Rarely did it reach this culmination point, but on the times it did, they were the moments that broke me the most.

Now let me make it clear: I am not a victim of rape or attempted rape, and the students involved probably wouldn’t classify what they did as sexual abuse. I do not want to conflate what I endured with survivors of far more despicable acts. But on the other hand, and this is what so many of these allegation deniers so infuriating, that doesn’t make what DID happen to me OK.

The shameful acts inflicted upon me and, worse, the ones I was forced to inflict upon myself, still haunt me to this day. They didn’t know I was a girl at the time, and neither did I fully to be honest, but if I had been a cis girl enduring these events, there’s no question what I endured would be classified as sexual abuse. And it’s not like this was info privy only to me and one or two abusers. They told their friends about it. Sometimes, they even filmed it and shared it with who knows how many people.

And the worst part is I was made to feel like I deserved it. My bullies saw everything they did to me as a joke. The vast majority of the time, the other boys just stood there and watched; sometimes they were even coerced to join in. Any time I looked for help from teachers, my pleas were usually brushed off. I was told I needed to take a joke better, to man up and learn to put up with the changing room banter. And why should they have believed me? The boys I kept talking about were model students in their eyes, doing the school proud in their studies and sports performance and acting perfectly mature whenever they were around. From their optics, they thought I was being overly sensitive and needed to mature. But that doesn’t mean they had to do effectively nothing, and by doing so it just enabled my tormentors’ behaviour. And no, I didn’t tell the teachers about the sexual stuff. I was shamed and embarrassed into silence, and I feared the teachers would brush it away just like everything else.

I was gaslit by this constant torment into believing that I was the problem and that no one was willing to help me. I was constantly told that I was an anti-social freak, that all of the girls thought I was weird and disgusting (and any time they showed signs of sympathy was just disingenuous pity), and that I’d never achieve anything in life. I vividly remember one time, a boy literally grabbed my head, forced me to stare into his eyes, and directly told me that I was worthless and that nobody could ever like me. I owe that one moment for why I, to this day, struggle keeping eye contact with people in conversations.

Six years of this does a lot of damage to a developing mind, and I’m still unravelling the number it did on mine. I went from a shy but good-natured child to a cold and perpetually anxious human being. I was forced to try and make myself the kind of person this school would accept, essentially disassociating my mind from my body, and it only further drove me into depression. Some days, I could cope just fine. Others, I struggled to even stay sane. Sometimes, it would take just a few little acts to drive me over the edge, and that’s exactly what happened on the day of my vain attempt at suicide at age fourteen. I didn’t really want to die that day. It was just a last-ditch attempt at getting the help I needed. It never came.

If you met me between 18 and 24 and found me a bit distant and odd, it was because of experiences like this. This period of my life made me harbour a deep mistrust of people and their intentions. I’m often still waiting for that moment everyone will turn around and laugh at me. I know the real world doesn’t work like that, and I’ve done my best to fight those fears and just be myself, but I was conditioned for years to expect that; I was made to believe it was what I deserved. I’m a much happier and more cognisant person these days, surrounded by friends who do care about me and love me for who I am, and that’s mainly come from deprogramming everything I learnt about who I had to be at that school and discovering who I want to be.

And you think now maybe these people regret their actions? That they too have moved on with their lives and learnt to become their own independent people? Some of them, maybe. To be honest, I’ve cut ties with most everyone from that time in my life. But in a lot of cases, people brought up in that bubble tend to stay in it, and the Kavanaughs of the world continue to look back upon that time fondly, completely unaware of the trauma their adolescent fun left in others’ lives.

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I remember seeing this post several years ago pop up in my Facebook timeline. I’ve censored all names, including my own deadname, but I’m the one this guy fondly remembers “tormenting”. He brings it up in passing like a good memory; a bonding experience between him and his friends. (The other boy referenced they were “wedgying” was Muslim by the way, so not much respect for others’ religious practices either). This was about three years after graduation. They still think this was funny. And they claimed I was the one who just needed to grow up.

Privileged educational environments like the one I suffered in and people like Brett Kavanaugh thrived in are a breeding ground for the worst kind of toxic masculinity. Children and adolescents are being thrown into these environments and asked to sink or swim, and those who prosper in these places go into adult life with an enormous sense of entitlement. Some of them experience the real world for the first time then and realise their behaviour is wrong, but many don’t. Mainly the ones who end up in politics.

I’ve known many a Brett Kavanaugh in my life, and if he’s the kind of person who still holds what he did in high school as a highlight in his life, he’s not someone who should represent the people of America. I can only imagine the horrors his victims have endured, but from my experience I have a pretty good idea what it’s like to be subjected to the fleeting whims of an entitled brat who has never been punished for their arrogance.

This culture of toxic masculinity needs to end, and a good place to start is to stop enabling this kind of behaviour in our schools. Stop teaching rich kids that they are better than everyone else. Stop excusing reprehensible behaviour because they are good at maths or can throw a ball really well. Stop belittling the experiences of victims and telling them they should “man up” and learn to be more like their oppressors to survive. Future generations should not have to put up with backwards crap like this, and we can make a difference if we make sure these abusers can’t use their privilege to bully the entire world when they become adults.

#MeToo #BelieveSurvivors

I WISH I WAS A GIRL: pretty much my life so far

I recently read this inspiring Twitter thread by Huffington Post journalist Kimberly Yam. She talks about growing up hating her racial heritage as the child of Chinese immigrants due to cultural racism, and only learning to embrace her identity in adulthood when she realised how much she lost as a result. Give it a read here:

Reading this, I felt so much empathy. Growing up as a closeted trans girl, I experienced similar feelings of self-hatred and attempted to suppress them. I’ve talked a bit about my own personal experience in my web series, but I’ve not gone into full detail. Reading Yam’s thread, I felt inspired to do something similar.

I originally wrote this to be a Twitter thread…and then realised it was way too long. So here it is on my blog. I’ve spared more specific details like names and places, but otherwise this is the truncated truth…

Age 5

I’m mostly friends with boys. I make one female friend. All my guy friends now won’t hang out with me. They say boys don’t play with girls. I’m forced to disown my friend. I hate being a boy.

Age 6

I get a new winter coat. It’s silver and shiny. I think it looks cool. I go to school wearing it. Turns out a girl in my class has the same coat. I’m made fun of for wearing “a girls’ coat”. I never wear it to school again. I hate being a boy.

Age 10

I struggle to fit in with the boys. I’m delicate, I’m naïve, I’m effeminate. I do my best to be one of them, but I hate it. I prefer hanging out with my sister’s friends, though I’ll never admit it. I wish I was a girl.

Age 12

I’m sent off to boarding school. The boys there are meaner. The bullying gets worse. One time, the girls notice me forced to sit alone at breakfast by the boys. They sit with me. They comfort me. They get the teachers involved. It helps, but not much. I still feel alone. I wish I was a girl.

A couple of friends decide to dress in drag for a school disco. I decide to help, along with several girls. The girls offer to dress me up too, but I refuse. Deep down, I really want to, but I’m afraid I’ll be made fun of. I wish I was a girl.

Age 13

The torment continues. I’m made to believe that I’m weak, that I’m worthless, that all the girls think I’m disgusting. Other students rarely intervene. Any attempt to seek help from teachers is usually met with a variation on “man up”. Far worse happens, but there are some things I won’t share; those wounds haven’t healed yet.

I ponder if my life would be easier if I was born a girl. It feels so right, but I dismiss it. That can’t happen. I’m a boy, and so I have to be one.

Age 14

I reach a tipping point. After one bad day, I attempt to strangle myself with a tie. I don’t intend to kill myself. This is a desperate cry for help. I hate being a boy, but I can’t be a girl. Why can’t I be me? Someone finally notices. Things get better, but not for long. I wish I was a girl.

Age 15

Puberty rears its head. I egg it on. I’m often picked on because I look young and effeminate. Maybe if I look like a man, that’ll finally stop. Maybe I’ll even feel like a man.

That doesn’t happen. I just hate myself more. I wish I was a girl.

Age 16

My only friend gets expelled. The bullying stops being so blatant. Now, I’m just isolated. I don’t fit in anywhere. With no other options, I commit to being a boy to survive. I don’t care about trying to fit in. I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I just want out of here.

My drama teacher mentions the concept of the gender spectrum. I immediately relate. Could that be me? Could I have been a girl all along? I dismiss it. “I’m normal”, I convince myself. “That happens to other people.”

Age 17

I’m alone in the house. I end up in my sister’s room for some reason. I see her clothes lying out. I get the sudden temptation to try them on. I resist. What if someone came in and saw me?

I start researching the trans community. I see how mistreated and isolated they are by society. I relate so much, but I deny it. I already feel mistreated and isolated. I don’t want to make my pain any worse.

Age 18

I finally get away from high school and head off to uni. I find myself surrounded by generally nice people. I begin to rebuild my self-confidence, but I still feel empty. Being a boy has been so knocked into me, I struggle to break free. I’m afraid of what will happen if these people I’ve grown to love see the real me.

Age 20

I decide I want to be a writer. I find that my protagonists more often than not end up being women. I don’t know why. I just intrinsically feel more comfortable writing from their perspective. I wish I was more like one of my characters.

I volunteer at my local film festival. Most of my fellow volunteers are women. I allow myself to socialise exclusively with women for the first time since childhood. I feel comfortable. I feel like I belong. I wish I was a woman.

Age 21

I’ve been living with my parents since finishing my BA. They go off on holiday, and I’m left alone in the house. I’ve been watching Sense8. I relate to Nomi so much; she’s the first trans person I’ve seen who isn’t someone to be pitied, laughed at or worse. I want to be like her.

I find myself in my sister’s room again. I search through her clothes and make-up. This time, I know nobody will suddenly walk in. I give in to the temptation.

Everything suddenly feels right. Then I look at myself. I cry. All I can hear in my head are the judgement of others. The ridicule, the rejection, the hatred. I give up. I tear off the clothes, wash off the make-up, and vow to never give in to that feeling again.

I break that promise almost immediately.

Age 22

I’ve been raiding my mother and sister’s wardrobes on and off for a year. The temptation comes and goes. Gaps between these indulgences are sometimes mere days, sometimes months. Every time I finish, I tell myself it will be the last. I don’t believe I’m trans, but only because I’m afraid of what might happen if I’m wrong. I feel like I need someone to tell me I am trans, but I’m too afraid to talk to anyone about it.

Age 23

I get accepted onto a master’s course. I leave behind all my feminine possessions. I vow to be a man again. I am basically putting myself to the test. If I can survive this without temptation surrounding me, maybe I’ll be rid of these thoughts.

I quickly find myself socialising almost exclusively with women again. My self-confidence takes another boost. Maybe I can be happy being one of the girls without going that far? This feeling doesn’t last long.

One of my friends slowly drifts away. Eventually, she won’t even talk to me. Much later, I would find out it was because she thought I had a crush on her. I had suspected as much. I feel rejected. I am reminded everyone sees me as a man. My self-confidence dives as low as it has been since I was a teenager. I wish I was a woman.

I begin jumping back into old habits in private. I really begin to hate myself. I feel like nobody sees me, but I’m still too afraid to break the façade. I am trapped in the fortress I built myself, and now it’s beginning to starve me.

I cry myself to sleep every night. I dream about finally having the courage to be myself. But every morning, I wake up back in my body. The body I hate more and more every day. I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. I feel a great pang of pain every time I hear, say or even see my own name. Everything is a reminder.

Again, it takes one bad day for me to break down. But this time, I don’t try to hurt myself. I stop denying feelings in the attempt to make things easier. I take a look myself internally and make a decision. If I so badly wish I were a woman, I should pursue that. I jump back into research with earnest and start making arrangements to see a counsellor.

Age 24

I finish my master’s. I decide to move in with a friend from uni. Before I do, I come out to him in a fit of tears after hours on the phone unable to spit it out. He accepts me immediately. A few weeks later, I come out to my family. They are quick to remind me they love me no matter what.

I move in with my friend. I meet his new girlfriend; the first person to only know the real me. She accepts me without question. I come out publically on Facebook. I am met with nothing but encouragement and support from close friends and those I haven’t seen in years.

My friend gets me a temp job at his work. For a variety of reasons, I present male. The dysphoria is more obvious than ever. Every day, I just want to go home and be myself. After calling in sick after an intense anxiety attack the previous day, I am amicably let go. I can’t go on pretending any longer.

I struggle to find a new job at first. I decide to be myself in interviews; after all, that’s who they’re hiring in the long run. I’m constantly afraid of what other people think of me. A lot of my prospective employers clearly have no idea what to make of me.

I begin presenting female full time in public and legally change my name. Soon after, I secure a job. I enter my first major social group as myself. The usual anxieties of fitting in rear their head. To my relief, I am welcomed with open arms. For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong.

My job involves a lot of public interaction. As a result, I’m met with a lot of misgendering. It upsets me, but I soldier on, and my co-workers are there to console me when it gets particularly bad.

After a few months of back-and-forth with counsellors and doctors, I get prescribed HRT. Within mere weeks of starting, I feel so much better. The fog of self-hatred begins to lift. Slowly, the misgendering grows less and less frequent. My body has begun to synch up with my mind, and it feels so right.

Age 25

I’ve been out publically for nearly a year now and on HRT for six months. My job is simple but I don’t mind; I’m slowly working on my writing ambitions whenever I can. Right now, I’m just trying to be me. I still have my dark days, but I can control those feelings better now. I now know I have people around me I can trust whenever I’m in trouble. I’ve still got a way to go in my transition aspirations, but I’m in no rush. These things take time, and I’ve already come so much further than I could have imagined when I started.

I write this to show the journey I have been on. To show how this confused and lonely child grew to love herself when no one else could see her. To inspire those young trans kids who are struggling themselves, to remind my trans brothers and sisters that every trans story is unique, and to educate everyone else on what it feels like to grow up not knowing who you are.

This is my story. You can’t take it away from me. You can’t tell me how to live my life anymore, because I’ve spent most of mine living for others already. I’m ready to forge my own path as the woman I deep down have always wanted to be. I’ll tell you all about where I’m going when I get there.


How GHOST IN THE SHELL could have fought back against Hollywood’s diversity issue, but didn’t

WARNING: Major spoilers for the 2017 film Ghost in the Shell follow

Paramount’s live-action adaptation of the legendary manga Ghost in the Shell debuted over the weekend to lukewarm reviews and disappointing box office, and there are a lot of reasons why it may have failed to find an audience. The marketing sold the film on its visuals but did little to promote its story or ideas, it’s been released right between the monster hit that is Beauty and the Beast and potential monster hit The Fate of the Furious, and the fact that Ghost in the Shell isn’t a highly recognised brand to mass consumers in the way that most studio blockbuster fare is. But more importantly, it just wasn’t very good.

But of course, there is also the racial controversy that may have dampened its initial reception. Ever since it was announced that Scarlett Johansson would play Major Motoko Kusanagi in the film, the Internet went into uproar. Some saw it as yet another example of Hollywood whitewashing, whilst others (including the filmmakers obviously) defended the decision by saying that Johansson was simply the best fit for the character.


But the real answer is far more simpler: financial security. Not only are there very few female Asian stars in America, there are definitely none who can sell a major Hollywood blockbuster. Ghost in the Shell is a high-concept movie that requires a large budget, and investors aren’t willing to back a picture without some guarantee of success. Attaching a star is one easy way to do that, and Scarlett Johansson is someone who most certainly fills that criteria. The filmmakers aren’t inherently racist, but they are working in a system that isn’t exactly doing much to curb it.

From a personal perspective, I wasn’t up in arms about Johansson’s casting. I would have greatly preferred a Japanese actress in the role, but in all honesty The Major isn’t a character who is particularly defined by her ethnicity. Her struggles with identity and reality are universal concepts relatable to all walks of life, and her detached but determined personality is certainly within Johansson’s wheelhouse as seen in her performances as Black Widow. Given the state of affairs, this is an issue I was willing to let by. If this is the concession that has to be made for Ghost in the Shell to be made, I can just about accept it. But then they had to go and draw attention to it in the worst way possible.


First, a little bit of context. Johansson’s Major goes by the name of Mira Killian and has no memory of her past life before the terrorist attack that killed her human body, with her human consciousness now transplanted into an artificial shell and working for the counter-terrorism group Section 9. She only sees brief glimpses of what may have been her origins, and her lack of memory leads her to feel more robot than human; she has no connection with her own identity. As the film goes on, it’s revealed that what little Major was told about her past was a lie so she could be manipulated into joining Section 9, but she is handed the key to her real past. It turns out her brain originally belongs to a young Japanese girl called Motoko Kusanagi, an anti-augmentation radical abducted by robotics company Hanka and used as a test subject for their experiments into full-body prosthesis. So essentially, our main character has been literally whitewashed within the story.

Making the issue even more troubling is the fact this revelation is played without any comment on the race issue. Major seems no more troubled by this than Jason Bourne discovering something about his past, and the fact that no one ever even comments on this discrepancy makes the decision seem even more tone-deaf. It’s almost like the filmmakers wanted to pay tribute to the original but, like how the film glosses over the more philosophical aspects of the source material, they didn’t linger on the unfortunate implications of their decision. They would have been better off leaving the issue alone, but now they’ve only gone and made it larger. At first I felt disgusted by this, leaving me feel uneasy throughout the rest of the film, but on further thought I realised something. Under better circumstances, this idea could not only have worked, but in a way that helps break down the diversity issue rather than accentuate it.


The filmmakers were essentially forced into casting Johansson for financial reasons due to the lack of bankable Asian actresses, but decide to reveal that their seemingly Caucasian character is actually Japanese after all. Why not take this unfortunate situation and use it as a wake-up call to Hollywood? The film could have so easily used the concept of an Asian character transplanted into the body of a white person as meta-commentary on the lack of diversity in American cinema. Major should be mad at Hanka for not only taking away her memories, but for warping her identity into something she inherently is not. You could have Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) question why Motoko had to be transplanted into a white shell. Perhaps Cutter (Peter Ferdinando) could have insisted upon it for the sake of “image”? What if the reason Kuze (Michael Pitt) and all the other failed experiments didn’t work because their brains were being transplanted into incompatible bodies; the wrong race, the wrong age, the wrong gender?

These ideas not only compliment the source material’s established themes of feeling at odds with your identity internally and externally, but it would have been a genius way of playing by the rules of the broken system whilst simultaneously giving it the finger. “Yeah, we were forced to cast an American in the part,” the personification of this movie would say. “But we’re not happy about it and it’s pretty f*cked up that we had to, right?” It would have given the film a new layer of context beyond the intentions of the original and, if the audience showed support to the idea with their wallets, perhaps make Hollywood executives take pause about the ingrained diversity problems within the industry.


Get Out recently woke up moviegoers to the indwelling racism still present in our society and, if you’ve seen the film, perhaps now you might realize that it and Ghost in the Shell have more in common than you might think (though the former’s subtext is definitely intentional). This movie could have made a statement on that excellent film’s level if it was even half as smart as it think it is. Maybe there was some intention of this ilk considering how the filmmakers blunder all of the other subtleties of the source material in its adaptation, but I sincerely doubt it. As is, Ghost in the Shell comes off as completely clueless and misses the opportunity to be more than yet another example of Hollywood mining a property without understanding what makes it special.

Why Maleficent fails as a feminist film

Maleficent, Disney’s reimagining of their beloved classic Sleeping Beauty focusing on it’s beloved antagonist, recently hit multiplexes across the globe to box office success but mixed reviews. What did I think of it?


To quote the late Roger Ebert’s classic review of North: “I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it.”

But until I really thought about it, I couldn’t figure out exactly why. Sure, there were obvious things like the contrived and nonsensical plot, the bland and uninteresting characters, the terribly stilted dialogue combined with the flat direction of the actors, but there was something else deep within this film that just didn’t sit right with me. And when I finally figured it out, this film went from just another bad movie to quite possibly the worst film I’ve seen so far this year. And I saw Sabotage. But to do this, I’m going have to go into SPOILERS. So only proceed if you’ve seen the movie or you don’t plan on doing so. If it’s the latter, best keep it that way.

To give you an idea of what leads into this insanity, allow me to briefly recap the plot. The story opens with a young Maleficent, who’s now a fairy or something with massive wings and horns, flying around through the magical forest without a care in the world. She comes across a young boy with a horrifically overdone Scottish accent called Stefan, who tries to steal some glowing rock that never becomes important (my guess is it was some unobtainium). The two begin to bond through the briefest of montages, culminating in them sharing “true love’s kiss”. But Stefan’s lust for power, hinted at offhandedly when Stefan points at the castle and says, “I want to live there one day”, draws him away from Maleficent. Because all men are evil or some sh*t.

“You see that over there? That’s my poorly defined motivation sitting on that hill.”

So it’s years later and Maleficent has grown up into Angelina Jolie, causing her skin to become paler and bright red lipstick to be permanently stuck to her mouth. The king and his men come to her forest for its “treasures” (again, I’m pretty sure it’s unobtainium), but Maleficent and her not-Ents ward off the evil men and injure the king in the process. Now on his deathbed and without an heir, the king promises the crown to whoever can slay Maleficent. And who should happen to be in the room but Stefan, now played by District 9’s Sharlto Copley with an even more overdone Scottish accent, who I guess went from random farmboy to nurse to the king during…however long it’s been since he dumped Maleficent. With his “evil man” urges kicking in, Stefan sets off to the woods. And this is where it starts to get disturbingly bonkers.

I’m not sure what’s more disturbing: the wings, the horns, or those massive cheekbones.

Stefan reunites with Maleficent, who seems initially bitter about Stefan’s abandonment but then quickly forgives him for being such a power-hungry jerk. Actually, correction: the intrusive and unnecessary narrator tells us she quickly forgives him for being such a power-hungry jerk. After snuggling together by the lake, Stefan gives Maleficent a drink from his flask. But surprise! Stefan has pulled a Snow White on Maleficent and fed her a sleeping potion. Knocked out and I guess now numbed to any pain, Stefan initially plans to kill Maleficent in her sleep but can’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he simply chops off her wings and brings those before the king as proof that he “killed” her. Maleficent wakes up the next morning to discover her wings gone. She cries out in grief, now believing that “true love” is a lie and her path to the dark side begins.

Here’s where the disturbing symbolism kicks in…

If the whole subtext wasn’t made clear in that last paragraph, I’ll spell it out for you. Stefan seduces, drugs and rapes Maleficent. Not literally, but he might as well have.

(Feel free to burst into an overly jovial and awkwardly out of place rendition of “Once Upon A Dream” here to offset the dirtiness of that last statement.)

Wow. Just…just…wow. I never thought I’d see the day where the main motivation of the character of a Disney film is revenge for their metaphorical defilement. Words can barely describe it, but I’m going to try anyway.

Firstly, the lead-up to this event. Maleficent forgives Stefan for ignoring her and lusting after power instead of staying with her. Since when did one of Disney’s most iconic villains become one of those abused girlfriends who refuse to leave their dick boyfriends because “he didn’t mean it. He’s sorry. He really does love me.”? Even before we get to the wing cutting, I could tell something was up from that. The way the narrator tells us that “Maleficent forgave him for his follies”; it came off with a very disturbing vibe. Then Stefan drugs her with a potion that might as well be labeled “Ye Olde Rohypnol”. That doesn’t help sway this metaphor either.

It’s a real accomplishment when the malformed half-alien man you played is less disgusting of a character than this.

But now the “rape” itself. Several times before this, we’ve seen Maleficent fly around her forest and the sky. Her wings represent her freedom, her individuality, her feminine prowess and, most prominently, her innocence. When she does this for the first time as an adult, we get the sense she’s doing it to distract her from the fact she’s felt lonely since Stefan lost interest in her. It’s clear that she’s now a woman, but she still wants that “true love” promised to her as a child. So when Stefan returns to her, she forgives him because she thinks she’s going to get that love. But when Stefan her wings, he takes away what defines her and leaves nothing but an empty shell. The young girl who believed in true love has been destroyed, and she weeps and screams in agony when she realises what has happened to her. Stefan effectively robs Maleficent of her innocence.

Enjoy those wings while you can, Maleficent. Because soon the evils of man will rob you of your ability to escape.

Now let me make this clear: I’m not saying that turning Maleficent into a rape revenge story is a bad idea. If done in a way that lets it go balls to the wall and rip the source material to shreds the way someone like Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore might do, it has the potential to be an interesting deconstruction of the fairy tale. The problem is that it isn’t that at all. The filmmakers don’t have the balls to go through with it, and it just makes the film even more of a jumbled mess of ill-conceived ideas than it already is. If the story had been bright and whimsical but then after Maleficent loses her wings it becomes a darker story, I would have been more on board. But the film is still trying to appeal to the kids in the audience, throwing in bad comic relief such as the three fairies (who, by the way, have gone from the most competent characters in Sleeping Beauty to Three Stooges levels of buffoonish) and instead of an outright revenge flick we get a story about Maleficent learning to become good again through her sudden connection to Stefan’s daughter Aurora. Bull. F*cking. Sh*t.

Maleficent: mistress of all evil and reluctant nanny.

So you’re going to go as far as to have pretty obvious symbolism for rape in your kids’ movie, but then you’re going to sugarcoat it and turn it into a weak attempt at girl power? I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. If you want me to take that subtext seriously, you’re going to have to back it up and make this go in a far more destructive direction. For f*ck’s sake, Maleficent’s name is derived from the word ‘malefic’, which means ‘causing or capable of causing harm or destruction, especially by supernatural means’. Why isn’t she going all out crazy on Stefan and the humans, Magneto style? Why is her joy in causing Stefan pain so short-lived before she starts playing Fairy Godmother to Aurora for no adequately explained reason (I like to think Maleficent sees Aurora as the child she and Stefan never had, which is just another whole shade of wrong.)? It almost feels like the film was initially pitched as more aimed towards an older audience, but then Disney made them tone it down to have broader appeal. If the movie ever had an edge to it, it’s been lost and, much like Maleficent’s wings, any potential power the subtext could have had has been chopped off at the roots. If after all of that bad sh*t happened to her she became the exact character she was in Sleeping Beauty and stayed that way, making her outright villainous but still retaining that sympathy because we can get behind her motivations, this could have maybe worked. Say what you will about Oz The Great and Powerful, but when The Wicked Witch of the West turns evil in that movie she becomes fully evil. Here, Maleficent almost immediately regrets cursing Aurora and tries to reverse it but can’t, and the only way to break the spell is “true love’s kiss” which, because of her scorning, she made the breaker of the curse because she doesn’t believe it exists.

Oh yeah, the prince is in the movie. Basically he’s here as a plot device and as a way to rip off the end of Frozen.

But the main reason I take umbrage with this whole concept is because it shockingly comes across as both misandristic and misogynistic at the same time. Now there’s an oxymoron for you! The story paints all of the humans, but especially the men, as complete douches who want nothing more than to rule over everything, and it just comes across as shallow and lazy feminism. I know you can say it’s a fairy tale where everything is morally black or white, but if you’re going to try and give Maleficent all of these shades of grey, why not portray Stefan that way too? Why not make his motivations and character more complex and interesting, or give him a character arc beyond becoming MORE crazy and power hungry as the film goes on? Instead, Stefan becomes a cardboard cutout of a misogynist with nothing up for interpretation.

“Why am I evil? I don’t know. Testosterone or something, I guess.”

But by doing this, it all backfires in the message of the film’s face. The story makes Maleficent a woman scorned in order to give her motivation. But my question is: why, of all the things in the world, did they choose love? Oh right: because she’s a woman, and apparently that’s all they care about. By making her motivation so insultingly simple and belittlingly broad (in both senses of the word), it completely undermines the point it’s trying to get across. Maleficent is, essentially, trying to be a power fantasy for women who feel they’ve been wronged by men and wish they could take revenge; basically Sucker Punch but without the fetishistic tendencies.

I know what you’re about to say: “What about all the male power fantasy movies we always see? Why isn’t it OK for it to be flipped around on men for once?” I’m not saying that at all. I’m all for strong female characters. You don’t see enough of them and even when they try they usually get it wrong. Maleficent is one of the ones that gets it wrong. Instead of trying to subvert, it simply reverses the target. Instead of trying to take a more interesting view on the subject of an abusive relationship, it panders to the female audience for lazy empowerment. And that’s what I meant by that aforementioned oxymoron: it’s misandristic because it paints the male characters in such a despicable light, but it’s misogynistic because the film basically says, “If you wrong a woman, she will turn evil and become hell-bent on taking revenge on you”. Because all women who have an abusive boyfriend apparently become obsessed with causing them misery.

So Maleficent’s motivation went from being “angry because she’s not invited to a party” to “angry because her childhood sweetheart turned out to be a dick”. Not sure that’s an improvement.

What I’m trying to say is: after years of women being portrayed in films and other media as curvy objects meant to fulfil men’s sexual desires, wouldn’t you rather see the women try to take the high ground? Wouldn’t you rather see them be the better people instead of just throwing the hate back in the other direction? Because have both sides throwing venom at each other doesn’t solve the problem. Yes, men more than deserve some sh*t for how women are often treated, but not like this. Can’t we all just act like modern and civilised adults, put aside our grievances, and make something a bit more mature? And by mature, I don’t mean adult or dark. By mature, I mean balanced, thought-out, and provoking in the right way. Maleficent fails as a piece of feminist media because it doesn’t do anything to make itself better than chauvinists it’s fighting against, and by making its protagonist an allegorical representation of a rape victim it highlights this problem with flashing lights and diminishes any respect I could have had for the film. That’s why I find it more than just another poorly made Hollywood blockbuster. That’s why I find it far more egregious than boring trash like Pompeii or I, Frankenstein. Because it horrifically and shockingly fails to do what it’s trying to do. Because of this movie, I will never be able to watch Sleeping Beauty the same way again (for all the wrong reasons), and I’m dreading to think what warped subversion Disney and Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella film will make when it is unleashed next year.