Disney totally lied. They said they weren’t going to do anymore princess movies. Something to do with getting more boys into the theater and seven-year-old girls wanting to be hot. (I was planning on following up that fragment with a sarcastic statement along the longs of “because that’s a lovely image” but then I realized that, no, it doesn’t even deserve to be dignified.)
Disney and Pixar lying, I will admit, was the first thing to go through my head upon seeing the Brave trailers. This leads me to believe that Brave is probably going to be a transitional movie, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, just like there’s nothing inherently wrong with making a princess movie or a movie feature a “hot” girl.
And before anyone starts to think that I really didn’t like Brave, let me just say that I actually did. Despite everything the studio did to put a bad taste in my mouth, Brave is an amazingly good movie. I wouldn’t say that it’s for really little kids, but even then, seeing it wouldn’t hurt. And on top of having great visuals and a strong theme, the main characters, Merida and her mother, are very well developed.
There seems to be a lot of pressure lately to write female characters a certain way so as to not be called sexist, and it’s very apparent. It’s also very apparent that the studio doesn’t know how to portray said characters half the time, which is sad, because the solution to making a poorly-written female character into a well-written female character more often than not comprises mostly of just giving her a personality. I kind of felt this way about Snow White and the Huntsman. I felt as though everyone had scrambled to make the lead likable and strong, but in the process they completely missed the mark. Although, I can give them props for at least trying.
Brave also makes a conscious effort to have a strong female lead, but none of it felt shoehorned in. I thought it all fit together nicely with Merida’s personality. Yes, she’s the typical princess who doesn’t want to be a princess. Woe unto her life, right? But I give the movie a lot of credit with this and it handled the situation well. It took the time to show that being a princess wasn’t as grand as it sounds, and it also took the time to develop Merida’s personality. It’s not even that being a princess is just so terrible (her mother, Elinor, doesn’t seem to have any problems fitting into the royal lifestyle); it’s more so that the restrictions it brings clash with Merida’s free spirit. This in turn creates the main conflict: Merida’s and Elinor’s strained relationship.
Spoilers from here on.
Neither Merida nor Elinor listens to the other. Merida completely rejects the court, while Elinor tries to push it on her. And neither of them truly sees the emotional damage caused, because they are both too busy thinking that if the other would just relent, they wouldn’t have these problems. Their relationship hits an all-time low when Merida cuts the tapestry Elinor made of their family and Elinor retaliates by throwing Merida’s bow into the fireplace.
Merida runs away on her trusted horse, Agnus, and finds a witch in the woods. She believes that if she can change who her mother is, she can change her fate, because Elinor is in charge of “every aspect of [her] life.” And at the moment, Merida’s biggest concern is that she doesn’t want to get married, not because she rejects the married life, but because she’s not ready for it. The witch eventually gives Merida a cake that will change who Elinor is.
Unfortunately, the cake turns her into a bear. Watching a bear try to act like a regal queen and scold people into behaving properly is hilarious.
Also unfortunately, Merida’s father and all the other people really like bear hunting, and her father has always wanted revenge against the bear that ate his leg off. And like sane people, they don’t believe Merida when she tries to tell them that that’s her mother.
Not only does Merida have to race to save Elinor from her father, but also from the spell, as after two days it will become permanent, and Elinor’s mind is changing too. The original bear who ate the king’s leg is someone like Elinor, a person who was transformed, and acts as an antagonist but is in many regards part of the internal conflict and a reminder to the audience that Merida risks losing her mother forever.
The lesson Brave offers is a beautiful one, as Merida and Elinor both need to learn to meet each other halfway and support one another in their endeavors, as well as own up to their own mistakes. This is a movie well worth checking out.