[ ] .WORK /pausetalk

Relieved to be Asked

Let me set the scene. Lonnie (Mulan's daughter) drops by the dorm room of Mal (Maleficent's daughter) and asks for Mal to do her hair. Being from rival groups (good vs. evil) Mal asks Lonnie why she should help. Lonnie offers $50, which might be a lot in this universe since Mal is from a prison island and all (long story). Mal's friend Evie (the Evil Queen's daughter) accepts the money and convinces Mal to help Lonnie, who has been perfectly polite and friendly while asking for the favor (and not acting like she is buying the services of the prison girl - which would have been a terrible take on the scene). However, here is my problem with the scene: Mal is acting like she doesn't want to help the whole scene through, even when her friend Evie is asking her to help Lonnie. Yes, Mal does help in the end, but in a very reluctant, and slightly annoyed, way.

This is a perfect example of a scene that could have been way more interesting and character-building if the director had told the actress playing Mal (Dove Cameron) to be reluctant, but relieved to have been asked, in the moment when she finally says okay to helping her fellow teenage girl. This small change in the way that 1 second was presented would have given the character the sense of humanity that the movie struggled to inject subtly in so many other scenes, since the character is supposed to be from an evil family while still being a good person deep down. Making this change would achieve the thing the movie was trying to do anyway, but it would tell the story of the character through how she felt when doing good acts in addition to, or instead of, her doing separate good acts later on. It is not black and white. You can have your "evil" character do good acts, while on paper being against it, but in the moment portraying a sense of relief that she is allowed to do good. Subtlety makes all the difference.

This concept of reluctantly doing something, while actually being relieved that you were asked/told to do so, is not only relevant to Disney Channel movies - or media in general. A lot of people probably recognize the feeling of wanting to do something, but being afraid of how that act would affect how you are viewed by people who know you and if it would be "uncool" or whatever. However, then if a friend asks, tells, or dares you to do it anyway, this hesitation might disappear and you might do the "uncool" thing anyway - acting like you are doing it reluctantly, while actually being relieved that you got the opportunity to do it, without losing your "cool" demeanor. Some might notice the relief in you, most probably won't, but in the moment you are showing a tiny bit of who you are without actually doing anything different - but by simply feeling differently about something you're told to do. This subtlety is important in real life and I appreciate when movies are able to use such kinds of subtlety to build characters, since it doesn't require any change to situations - only to how the actors portray their characters in these situations in the most subtle of ways.

In conclusion, it is possible for Maleficent's daughter to help Mulan's daughter do her hair while seeming reluctant to do so, but actually being glad she was asked.