Thursday, July 5, 2012

Finally Got to See "Brave"

I've really been looking forward to "Brave" ever since I saw the first still images late last year.  A Pixar movie with a female lead? And in a Scottish setting? Huzzah!  My husband belongs to Clan Donnachie and wore a kilt at our wedding, and I am a life-long devotee of Irish music and dance.  My first Irish dance teacher had hair just like Merida's and I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world.  Plus, I own and shoot guns (I love archery too, but guns have more practical applications in the modern age), and Merida's handiness with a bow appeals to me.  

Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with the film. The concept was good, and it's great to have a fairytale-style heroine who doesn't need a romance. But, trying not to give away too much for those who haven't seen it, I have three main complaints:

1. In the past, Pixar has had some really excellent male leads but also well-rounded secondary characters (like Jessie in Toy Story 2 and 3), whereas I thought the characters in "Brave," with the exceptions of Merida and Queen Elinor, were pretty flat. I saw some of the Brave shorts before I saw the film, and those really rounded out the character of King Fergus (especially in his relationship with Merida) in a way that the movie didn't. A couple minutes of Merida riding or whining could have been cut to include the scene of Fergus taking over Merida's lessons for a day, which was cute and helped develop the father-daughter relationship.
2. The whole arranged marriage thing is overdone in movies of this type, and they could have been a little more imaginative about the source of the conflict.
3. The epilogue could have been a minute or two longer. We saw quite a lot of Elinor letting her hair down and riding with Merida and only about two seconds of Merida working on a tapestry with her mother. Elinor has clearly changed and loosened up a lot for Merida's benefit, but if you had blinked you would have missed any indications of long-term change in Merida. And Merida definitely needed to change--although she was right to protest the arranged marriage and some of the strictures her mother tried to place on her, she also allowed her pride to lead her into making a huge mistake, one that nearly cost her mother's life. Merida needed to change, too, not just in her realization that she really loves her mother but also in her behavior in the long-term.  Also, the emphasis on Elinor taking up the less-girly tasks, while Merida apparently continues to scorn most of the more feminine behaviors her mother tried to instill does not say good things about traditional femininity.  A lot of children's films with female leads these days feature women subverting the traditional order and taking on--and totally pwning--historically male-centered activities.  There's nothing wrong with women wanting to ride, shoot, wear their hair loose and have comfortable clothes.  These are all things I do myself, and my husband happily brags that I shoot a rifle just as well or better than he does.  Nevertheless, I also cook and crochet and occasionally wear slightly uncomfortable clothes just because they are pretty and I want to look girly badly enough to put up with high heels, and these feminine things are praiseworthy in their own way.  I don't think it would be awful for the movie to show Merida giving in to her mother a little more. Balance is good. The short epilogue made it seem like there was meant to be a moral to the fable, but they just rushed through it, leaving me unsatisfied by the ending.

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