Deechelle Discusses: Brave

Posted: August 5, 2012 by Dee in Dee, Deechelle, General Media, Jach, Movies

Brave is about Princess Merida, a wild and free spirited woman who wants to ride horses and shoot arrows instead of learning how to be a lady with her mother, Queen Elinor. Years before her father was attacked by a vicious bear and lost his leg, and ever since he’s told stories about the bear and how he’d eventually get his revenge. Merida is horrified when her parents announce she will be betrothed to one of the sons of the warring tribes. A long time ago all the tribes came together to make peace, and it holds on by a very small thread. This marriage will build an alliance of sorts, but Merida only sees it as a way to destroy her independence against her will. She fights with her mother and meets a witch, who gives her the chance to “change her fate.” Change her fate aka change her mother. Apparently the source of all her problems. She uses a curse that turns her mother into a bear, so the two of them have to work together to find the cure before Elinor’s stuck in that body forever.

Feelings on Pixar in general

Dee: I think it’s no secret that the world in general loves Pixar, and that’s because they’re amazing in pretty much every way. I haven’t loved every single movie (A Bug’s Life, Cars, Cars 2), but I respect their hard work and incredible animation. They have a beautiful ability to balance a movie for children and adults. Personally I’ve always felt their movies are much better for adults because the issues they deal with require a certain maturity to really appreciate. Toy Story for example deals with envy and the idea of social power (Woody’s jealousy and replacement by Buzz), Toy Story 2 deals with loss and feeling old, and Toy Story 3 was about finality and moving on. I’m sure I can go into what each one means, but Pixar is always a step beyond most animation, and they are held to a higher standard. Which leads into my more critical opinion of the movie which I’ll get into below. Just FYI, I did a lot of media theory studies and I’m a former entertainment journalist, so I tend to take a more jaded eye to things. Sorry in advance!

Jachelle: So, I know I’m in the minority here, but I have always hated Pixar. There’s just something about their films that rub me the wrong way. I really don’t think they deserve all the hype. And I am completely messing with you right now. I adore Pixar and their movies. I have ever since I first fell in love with Toy Story. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t loved every single film they’ve produced, because my respect for them far outweighs that. Like Dee pointed out, they are fantastic at releasing films that deal with complex and mature themes that both children and adults can enjoy together. And of course their animation has always been superb. They’re a fantastic company and I will always look forward to their new projects. And even if I don’t completely fall in love with them, I know I can always get some enjoyment out of them.

Opinion on Merida

Dee: I’m so going to end up the naysayer about this movie, but I’m not surprised, because I can be overly critical of movies. But Dee, why don’t you ever just watch movies and enjoy them? The answer is I do! I’m critical of things I love just as I am about things I hate. I’m annoyed as hell that Ebert said she was cool because she was “one of the boys,” and all the speculation about her being gay because she didn’t want to be married and disliked traditional feminine qualities. A gay main character would be fantastic, and I hope that happens someday. If it’s subtext here, I’d personally rather it be text. I know people are critical because this is Pixar’s first movie with a female main character. I’m critical because I’d love a female character who doesn’t have to reject femininity in order to be interesting. I happen to be what people call a tomboy. I love video games and science fiction and a lot of things that are “traditionally” considered male tastes. I’ve been called “one of the boys” before myself. But I don’t necessarily like the idea of women only being “cool” if they don’t act like, well, women. Buffy Summers, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was a great female icon because she embraced all aspects of her personality and background and tastes. It’s hard to explain exactly what I’m trying to say here, but I’m not sure that Merida is the feminist icon they were looking for. And I’m not saying that traditional feminine tastes/roles are any better, that someone has to like dresses and make up to be a woman, since I’m not big on both of those things. I’m just saying that going so far in the opposite direction, by showing disdain for those options, is not exactly better. I also am kind of annoyed that Pixar chose their first female character to be struggling with a forced marriage, which is honestly kind of an outdated trope at this point. I’m used to them being a bit more forward thinking and not ripping off a lot of older Disney movies. Ahem that being said I like Merida okay as herself and not as an icon. She’s smart and funny and spirited. She’s also selfish and reckless. I like that they allow her to be flawed and mature as the movie goes on. My issues with her stated above are more about Pixar than about her.

Jachelle: I am in love with Merida’s hair. Can I just start out by saying that? I think her hair was the real star of this movie. Also, I think tiny Merida may be the most adorable thing I have ever seen in my entire life. She made my heart burst from cute. But enough of that. We’re here to talk about her character as a young woman. While I agree with Dee, that Merida’s actual storyline isn’t one I would have picked for Pixar’s first female lead, I did enjoy the actual character. I enjoyed her a lot, actually. Her personality was fun and entertaining to watch. She was spunky and funny and there were a lot of moments when I could identify with her. She was bright and energetic and engaging as a main character. What I really appreciated was that the writers let her be selfish and self-absorbed in the beginning and mature and learn throughout her experiences in the movie. There were a few times early on when I caught myself thinking that Merida needed to stop acting like a complete brat. I was annoyed with her for a few seconds before I remembered, “Of course she’s a brat. She’s a teenager.” Teenagers are brats. They’re selfish and overdramatic and think the world is ending if they don’t get their way. I love that the writers were okay with letting her be unlikable in those moments because it makes her decision in the end of the movie more powerful. We can see how much she’s grown. So all in all, I really liked Merida. Yes, the forced into marriage/I’m going to rebel against everything feminine tropes are out-dated and over used, but that didn’t stop me from still enjoying this character or her story.

Opinion of the main relationship, Merida and her mother

Dee: This part of the movie I loved absolutely. Disney and a lot of animation typically denies the existence of mothers. They’re usually dead or missing or a footnote. This is a problem for a lot of media in general, but that’s a story for another day. Having Merida’s relationship with her mother as the real heart and story of this movie? Glorious. Their bickering and struggle makes it easy for mothers and daughters to connect to. I’m sure if my mother saw this with her mother, the two of them would end up making parallels and laughing about it. I love how selfish and self-serving Merida is in the beginning, although I think her whole “change my fate by changing my mother” thing is stretching a bit. Still, when she realizes the real repercussions of what she’s done and there might be consequences beyond her control is really poignant. That she understands more of what her mother was really trying to get at all this time, about their culture and the peace between them, was great. For her to stop seeing her mother as just that but instead a Queen and a diplomat and a woman for her people was important and it made her grow up. Plus the amazing mannerisms they put into that bear to still be her mother was just hilariously accurate. I understand the forced marriage was the focal point of their fight, but I almost wish they’d found a way around that since their fractured relationship was much more interesting than the trope that got them there. But still: THANK YOU PIXAR. More mother/daughter stuff since we’ve done toooons of father/son stuff in media. And we get a lot of daughter/father stuff in media too. This area is woefully underdone. Rah rah.

Jachelle: Without a doubt, my mom is the most important person in my life. So it was no surprise to me how much I connected with this storyline and how much it meant to me. I went to see the film with my mom and two younger sisters, and we were all pretty misty eyed by the end. And by that I mean my sisters were misty eyed and my mom and I sobbed like Old Yeller had just gotten shot. It meant so much to me to have an animated movie that centered around a young woman’s relationship with her mother. Not only that, but it was told SO WELL. The way they both come to understand each other throughout the course of events was just lovely to watch.

Final Opinion of the Movie

Dee: From my critical opinion above, you probably think I’m not a fan of the movie. Yes and no is the answer to that. I enjoyed the movie. The animation was out of this world. Pixar’s animation is so fantastic I find myself just wanting to stare at it for hours. I always want to see it in the big screen because it’s better to appreciate that way. The design and setting and character styles, all gorgeous. The music? Beautiful. The voice acting was great. And in general, I had a good time. Do I think it’s up to the standards that I’ve come to expect from Pixar? Not really, no. It does have that beautiful core of the mother/daughter relationship, and it’s a much more personal story, but I was looking for more depth. If this came from any other company, I would be praising them, but yes, I’m more critical of Pixar. It’s probably why the critics were hard on it too, and I don’t think it’s because of sexism or no one connects to a female lead. I don’t think people can necessarily connect to someone now who has to struggle with a forced marriage and traditional feminine roles, because we’re in an age where that’s a little outdated. Yes people should marry who they want. Yes being yourself, even if that self is not “normal,” is a good thing.¬†We’ve just seen this before, right? I’m used to Pixar giving me a little something more. I do love how Merida came to understand in a greater way how her actions had an impact on everyone and not herself. She realized that her role as a princess didn’t all boil down to “ugh I don’t get to do what I want all the time, that’s not fair!” I loved her mother. The other characters were not fleshed out very well, so that’s a shame, but I did enjoy them too. I think it was a good solid movie, great entertainment, and having a main female character at all is a step in the right direction. With the popularity of the Hunger Games I hope to be seeing more of that. I’d much rather little girls look up to Merida than Ariel or Snow White (animated, not new movie). Overly critical ranting aside, I think this is a solid movie and that mothers and daughters in particular should see it together and bring tissues.

Jachelle: Dee touched on one of my very favorite aspects of this film just now. That the title of being a Princess means that you have duties, and responsibilities to honor. Has any animated movie touched on that before? I think Disney might have stuck a toe in the water with Jasmine in Aladdin, but barely. The word Princess is tossed around a lot. It’s used as an affectionate nickname for little girls. And with the Disney Princesses phenomenon, girls are presented with this idea that being a Princess means fabulous hair, pretty dresses, and having animal sidekicks. And yes, Merida has those same things in this film. But at the same time, I was so pleased when she has her moment of clarity in the end and she realizes that it’s not always just about following your heart. Yes, of course that’s a good moral, but so is looking at the bigger picture and standing up to responsibility. And the latter is woefully underused in films like these. So that, combined with the fact that the love story here was between a mother and daughter, I really just enjoyed the hell out of this movie. It’s not perfect, and is a bit below the Pixar-bar for me, but overall I had a great time watching it, and I’d absolutely recommend you go see it as well.

  1. David G says:

    I loved the first half of the movie. But when the “change” happened, I was extremely disappointed. Because it’s been done before, and by a different Disney movie at that. So the second half while I enjoyed pieces of it, I just couldn’t shake the other movie and why Pixar had gone that route.

    I did love everything else though.


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