Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A to Z Blogging Challenge: Mists of Avalon and Morgaine

"The Mists of Avalon" is a feminist re-interpretation of Arthurian legend. Based on the 1983 Marion Zimmer Bradley novel of the same title, the book and made-for-TV-miniseries caused me to drastically redefine how I think about the past.

In the past, most of our legends and stories were spoken of and written down by men. In past times (and sometimes in the present), the influence of patriarchy strongly interprets even the most progressive tellings of events.

"Mists of Avalon" changed that for me. It follows the struggles of several prominent women in Arthurian legend - defined by their roles and men in a patriarchal, male-centric society that includes a king. I will go into more detail about Queen Guinevere in a future "Q" entry, but today I'd like to talk about Morgan Le Fay, or Morgaine (Juliana Margulies), as she is represented in this 2001 Uli Edel film.

Typically, Morgan Le Fay is seen as a flat character - a mysterious and evil sorceress jealous of her brother's power as well as the good fortune of other characters, including Guinevere. "The Mists of Avalon" goes behind that, exploring the effects of Arthur and Morgaine's traumatic childhood.

In the film, Morgaine is given to Viviane and the Isle of Avalon, where she is trained in the female-centric pagan faith, learning to worship and revere the Goddess. Once she comes of age, Morgaine participates in a great hunt ceremony in which she is (unbeknownst to her) paired (yes, in that way) with her brother, King Arthur.

This confusion as well as much of Morgan's path in the book, is dictated by others. It is clear that the patriarchy is not the only culprit in this, as Viviane directs her religious order to contend with the rise of Christianity.

The true crux of character development for Morgaine is her realization that not everything is black and white - and furthermore, that she is simply a pawn to most of the people she knows.

Given the power to sometimes part the mists between Avalon and England, Morgaine obtains a level of spirituality possessed by few others. Overall, Morgaine's complex journey, resulting in her epiphany about her own powerlessness, is a resounding echo of the journey many females experience.

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