In October, Angelina Jolie will reprise her role as the complicated villain from Disney's Sleeping Beauty in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. The titular witch, whom Jolie portrayed for the first time in 2014's Maleficent, is treated with much more nuance in this franchise than she ever was in the fairytales. And now, Jolie wants to make sure all of the world's witches receive as much respect. In a new essay for ELLE, Jolie examines our dark history with women perceived to be witches — and how much we owe them.
Jolie begins her essay with a brief lesson about history's witch hunts, in which (mostly) women were murdered for "maleficia, the alleged crime of evil deeds through magic."
"Women could be accused of witchcraft for having an independent sex life, for speaking their mind on politics or religion, or for dressing differently," Jolie writes in the essay. "Had I lived in earlier times; I could have been burnt at the stake many times over for simply being myself."
Jolie — who has long worked with the United Nations, currently as a Special Envoy and previously as a Goodwill ambassador from 2001 to 2012 — goes on to discuss the human rights violations against women around the globe. Practices such as forced marriages, genital mutilations, and so-called "honour killings," Jolie writes, is a way to keep women in "secondary positions." She notes that women who run for office, protest injustice, or go against societal norms are often labelled with witchy terminology.
"Looked at in this light, 'wicked women' are just women who are tired of injustice and abuse. Women who refuse to follow rules and codes they don’t believe are best for themselves or their families. Women who won’t give up on their voice and rights, even at the risk of death or imprisonment or rejection by their families and communities," Jolie says.
She concludes her essay with a call of action for her daughters.
"I often tell my daughters that the most important thing they can do is to develop their minds. You can always put on a pretty dress, but it doesn’t matter what you wear on the outside if your mind isn’t strong. There is nothing more attractive — you might even say enchanting — than a woman with an independent will and her own opinions."
Watch Jolie as a literal wicked woman in the Maleficent: Mistress of Evil trailer.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil hits theaters October 18, 2019.