It’s Trailer Tuesdays, let’s talk about Brave!
Several things to note right away about this movie: Brave will officially be Pixar’s first movie with a female main character. Not that Pixar hasn’t included women before, but the main character has always been male.
The synopsis for Brave reads:
Since ancient times, stories of epic battles and mystical legends have been passed through the generations across the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland. In Brave, a new tale joins the lore when the courageous Merida confronts tradition, destiny and the fiercest of beasts. Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin, surly Lord Macintosh and cantankerous Lord Dingwall. Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late.
The first thing I noticed in the synopsis, that isn’t stated in the trailer — though it’s pretty obvious — is that the main character Merida is a princess. Now, since Pixar is owned by Disney, I’d say this princess motif has to be addressed.
When a Princess character shows up in fairy tales, one thing is pretty certain, she is not going to be a paragon of feminist virtue. Though princesses in sci-fi and fantasy have changed a lot, the fairy tale princess has remained pretty much the same; she’s usually a damsel in distress, and she usually wants to get married, preferably to a prince. Very rarely do I hear fairy tales creating brave and cunning female characters. But most feminists, while not afraid to point out the flaws in fairy tales, usually forgive them because well, they were stories written centuries ago, and probably told even longer orally. Where feminists really start to have a problem with fairy tales is when they are used to teach “virtues” and “morals” to children. Enter Disney. Today you can buy anything with a Disney Princess on it. The whole franchise is incredibly lucrative for Disney and incredibly problematic to feminists. From Walt Disney’s time, Disney was set up to be the almost-moral compass for pop-culture that the whole family could enjoy and give money to, but the morals and virtues often taught to young girls is rather upsetting even today. So what are some things that all Disney Princesses have in common? They have no mother, they either want something ambiguous or they just want to get married (usually every ambiguous thing they want gets tied up in marriage anyway), and they all get married and live happily ever after… oh wait, they have one other thing in common; no Disney Princess is ever portrayed as having any skill as a monarch. So Disney has a lot of problems when it comes to portraying women, particularly those that wield or will eventually wield some level of power. So how does Merida stack up in this trailer? Is she a strong female character or just another Disney Princess? (That’s all the detail I’m going to go into on Disney Princesses, if you want to know more check out Nostalgia Chick’s video here.)
Well, according to the synopsis, Merida has a mother, though some Disney Princesses have had mothers, they never have any lines and Merida’s mother isn’t in the trailer, so let’s ignore her for now. The rest of the trailer shows Merida riding around the beautiful Highlands of Scotland while a male voice describes how important bravery is to their people and their ancestors. There is a scene that maybe shows a faerie, and there is the iconic Stonehenge where Merida fights what looks like a terrifying bear. Nowhere is there a mention of love, romance, or marriage. In fact, looking at the trailer, the synopsis, and even the voice acting cast there doesn’t appear to be a male love interest what so ever! If anything, Pixar, while connected to Disney, is usually better at their storytelling then most other companies that make children’s movies. Various interviews have revealed that in the development of Brave the most emphasis was put on Merida’s character and staying authentic to Celtic lore.
Could this be the movie that finally gets feminist to like Princesses and gives little girls real role models? We’ll have to wait and see.