I was told one day at Csehy this summer that I have Merida hair. I wasn’t so sure – it’s not red and it’s not that curly or long. But then I watched Brave and found out that the way it poofs out all over the place if I don’t do anything with it and falls into my face – is just like Merida. But that’s about where my identification with Brave ends. I watched the movie recently and was rather disappointed with it, even though I wasn’t expecting much.
I’m not going to talk about the issues of feminism brought up in Brave. Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin have already done that very well here and here. I will just say that there is a way that Merida’s hatred of being prim-and-proper princess is founded. She wanted to be like Bodicea, a warrior queen. But true womanhood is neither of those. It is strong and sturdy, but in a different way than manhood. The Botkins expand on this more, but I just wanted to say a bit in my review.
Along those lines, all of the “men” in the movie drove me crazy. It was pretty obvious the queen was really the one in charge of the kingdom and all the guys were jerks. And I often wondered what the king was doing trying to rule a kingdom when he couldn’t keep his own family under control.
This was clear early on. Even when Merida was a child, there were hints of rebellion, and more than that, of her future confusion. Her mother is prim and proper and wants her daughter to be the same. Her father is wild but passive, and their personalities and standards are always at war with each other. It’s no wonder Merida doesn’t know how to act; her mother and father can’t agree on what a woman should be like and so she doesn’t know where to stand. Also confused are the three boys. Their father lets them do things their mother refuses to allow them to do. And so they are being raised in an inconsistent household where no one knows what’s expected of them.
Merida is very rebellious, and her rebellion only increases in the first part of the movie. I say this so you know I’m not excusing her actions, but there are things we can learn from what she and her mother did.
A phrase familiar to many of us appeared in the movie – “you’re not listening to me!” Both Merida and her mother thought they knew what was best and so ignored what the other was saying – listening while forming what they were going to say next, or listening just to refute the other’s words. They were pushing their agendas and speaking at each other, not to each other – lecturing and not communicating and conversing. This is a lesson for all of us to learn!
Another good point is how Merida’s mother comes to see the good in what Merida wants and see the need for sturdy womanhood (though I don’t think Merida sees the truth in her mother’s words). Also good is how Merida learns to think about what she says and question if she really means what she says. But while these steps are good, ultimately they don’t really redeem anything.
The queen’s agreement that Merida doesn’t need to be betrothed yet ends with the lie of “follow your heart,” in the preachiest way I’ve heard Disney do it yet. It wasn’t subtle in Brave, Merida came right out and said it and was applauded for saying it.
Another problem is that no one ever said “I’m sorry.” There wasn’t true repentance, forgiveness, and restoration of family relationships. Since everything turned out alright then everything was “fine,” but just because something doesn’t seem to have consequences doesn’t mean there’s no need for reconciliation when all is “well” again. Now, I know you have to have “bad” in a character to have any character development – I don’t think it’s morally wrong for a movie to show friction in a family. But the movie’s “goal” was to mend that friction, and it didn’t.
The movie seems to be more about being free than about being brave. Merida runs away from her duty, which is not brave (though one can question if it’s really her duty at that point in time). The danger in it is that Brave is full of half-truths. Many statements sound good, but if taken to their end become very bad. I’m afraid I can’t remember any of these off of the top of my head, but there were statements that I nodded to and then thought “wait, no!”
That’s much more dangerous than the other aspects, but other things were there. I’d never thought of animated characters as being able to be immodest, but there was definitely immodesty, from both men and women. Also bad was the discussion of fate – I haven’t picked it apart but it was definitely odd and wrong.
The witchcraft was frightening, but to be honest I was not surprised by it. An oft-forgotten aspect of Celtic culture is how deep it was in witchcraft and the occult. We like to take the druids out and make fairies good instead of the troublemakers they were. But even so, the spell was never really shown to be bad because it was witchcraft, just because it didn’t work.
Most of the soundtrack was great. I loved the Celtic music, especially the vocal pieces. But there were a few modern songs thrown in that ruined that wonderful wispy Celtic-y feel.
Brave was definitely darker, scarier, and more intense than most of Disney/Pixar’s other movies, and it wasn’t as crude as many animated movies, except for two parts that I can remember, but I tend to block out things I don’t like. Although the humor wasn’t as bad as some movies, it was very cheesy and I didn’t find it funny. Normally there are jokes the kids don’t get but that are funny for adults (Finding Nemo is full of them), but there weren’t any (or I’m still too young to get those but too old to find the kiddy humor funny).
There were things to learn, but I don’t feel like I gained anything from watching it, not even humor or a phenomenal soundtrack. The animation was pretty. After watching Brave, what I’d really like is a film about Christianity coming to the Celts, or at least to finally get my hands on and watch The Secret of Kells.
It wasn’t all bad; there was some good in it. But I wouldn’t recommend it as a good use of your time.
Worth it, not really.