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Pilate and Maleficent

by Tianze Li

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019) – Plot Summary – IMDb

Pilate is a character in Song of Solomon, written by the American novelist and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. There are similarities between Pilate and Maleficent from the Disney movie Maleficent and its sequel Maleficent II: Mistress of Evil. Names are a motif in Song of Solomon, and Pilate is named after the man who killed Jesus. Maleficent, similarly, means “causing harm or destruction.”


Ebiri on Maleficent: Don’t Let Her Be Misunderstood

They’re both stigmatized by society: Pilate because she doesn’t have a navel, and Maleficent because she has horns. In addition, they’re similar in their nonconformity to archetypal feminine traits. As Morrison describes, Pilate cuts her hair short, wears her shoelaces undone, a knitted cap pulled down over her forehead, and doesn’t dress like a woman according to Macon Dead Jr. (Morrison 20). Maleficent, as the picture above shows, isn’t very traditionally feminine either, especially as she changes in the story. 

Pilate and Maleficent align in their identities and values. Pilate is orphaned at 12, and becomes a quasi-witch when she grows up. Maleficent, also orphaned, is an “evil” fairy. The theme of environmentalism, almost anti-industrialism, is a trait that shows up in both characters. Pilate makes wine with fruits, chews pine needles, and doesn’t use electricity. Maleficent, although portrayed in another setting, defends the forest and habitat of Moors against King Henry’s conquest. In the sequel of Maleficent, there’s a fairies/humans dichotomy, with fairies as a symbol of nature and humans that of industrialization. 

Living in this way, “they’re crazy,” as Milkman says, talking about Pilate and her family (Morrison 182). Morrison writes, Pilate’s pursuit of knowledge and “her alien’s compassion for troubled people ripened her and–the consequence of the knowledge she had made up or acquired–kept her just barely within the boundaries of the elaborately socialized world of black people” (149). In other words, Pilate is kind, and she lives at the boundaries of her society. In an interview, Angelina Jolie says that Maleficent “doesn’t quite fit in the world… She’s very maternal and she’s a bit crazy” (On the Scene). 

Neither Pilate nor Maleficent are willing to conform to the definition of being “normal” to others. Further, like Pilate, Maleficent is “fierce and loyal and a fighter for what she believed in… She has a strong sense of justice” (Angelina Jolie – Maleficent Interview). These qualities would later serve as the source of their power, both for Pilate and Maleficent. 

Within these contexts, there’s great parallelism between Pilate in Song of Solomon and Maleficent in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. When the man beats Reba at Pilate’s cabin, Pilate jabbs a knife into the man’s skin and has “a little talk” with him. She makes the man promise that he’ll never put a hand on Reba again, before plucking the knife out of the man’s shirt. Pilate is protective of her daughter and this scene shows that she’s very maternal, especially when she says to the man, “Still, I’d hate to push it in more and have your mama feel like I do now” (Morrison 94). 

In Maleficent, when the antagonist, Ingrith, fires an arrow at Aurora, Maleficent takes the hit and disintegrates. Aurora’s tears then cause Maleficent to regenerate. Ingrith pushes Aurora off the tower. Maleficent goes to save her, and they tumble across the ground. Both Pilate and Maleficent fiercely protect their daughters, and in doing that, they’re able to exert power onto others–rightfully, despite their marginalized identities. 

Works Cited

“Angelina Jolie – Maleficent Interview.” YouTube, 29 May 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQM3q3Ii0UE. Accessed 25 Nov. 2021.

Ebiri, Bilge. “Ebiri on Maleficent: Don’t Let Her Be Misunderstood.” New York Vulture, 30 May 2014, www.vulture.com/2014/05/movie-review-maleficent.html. Accessed 25 Nov. 2021.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019) Plot.” IMDb, www.imdb.com/title/tt4777008/plotsummary. Accessed 25 Nov. 2021.

Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York City, Knopf, 1977.

“Why Angelina Jolie Finds Playing ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ So Delicious.” IMDb, www.imdb.com/video/vi78888729. Accessed 25 Nov. 2021.

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