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Lesley Manville

'Maleficent' and why we love our childhood villains

'Maleficent' and why we love our childhood villains

She is the meanest woman ever to get her own plush toy.

Maleficent, the wicked fairy from "Sleeping Beauty" who condemns the infant Princess Aurora to die, is the protagonist of a new movie starring Angelina Jolie and an unlikely character to boast her own, $175-million, PG-rated fantasy, complete with tie-in Hot Topic fashion line and huggable, 7-inch doll (retail price: $11.99).

But this villainess — who carries on her black wings a complex history of women and power — has a surprisingly avid fan base of outsiders and eccentrics, beginning with the movie's 38-year-old star. For Jolie, as for some others who sidestepped the princess phase, Maleficent represented a...