Instead of following the well-worn spurned lover path, though the film cleverly brushes aside the heterosexual romance plot in favor of a focus on Maleficent’s growing affection for Aurora (Elle Fanning), the girl she cursed. There’s a prince wandering around on the edges of the story, but Aurora only meets him once, and how can you fall in true love with some dude you’ve only met once? Real love in the film is what a mom—a stepmom no less—feels for her daughter. One of the ultimate heterosexual romance stories is turned into a parable about improbable female friendship, and loving your daughter, however she comes to you.

Maleficent doesn’t just tell Sleeping Beauty anew; it argues with it, questions it, rethinks it. That’s important precisely because certain old stories are so ubiquitous and inescapable. Princes are always swooping in to save the fair maiden with the gift of true love, just as, it seems, we’re forever doomed to have superheroes saving the universe by hitting some bad guy in the face. Girls wait to be saved; boys save via violence. If we’re going to be different people, we need to figure out how to make our stories say something different.

Not that I’d necessarily trust Disney to make a habit of always getting it right. It’s true that The Jungle Book makes some thoughtful alterations to Mowgli’s fate. But it’s alarming that the female protagonists of the studio’s first three modern Disney remakes—Mia Wasikowska as Alice in Tim Burton’s 2010 film, Lily James, and Elle Fanning—are all white, thin, young, and very blonde. Going by these movies, you only get to be a Disney heroine if your looks fit into a very narrow mold. If you’re a person of color, someone who’s anything other than movie-star slender or, heck, a brunette, you’re out of luck.

Yet there’s reason to hold out hope. Reboots don’t have to be just another dull reiteration of the same race and gender tropes. As The Jungle Book and Maleficent show, they can be a way to magic those tropes into a new shape. Let’s cross our fingers for movies that show us, as Maleficent‘s voiceover says before the final fade, “the story is not quite as you were told.”

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