Sunday, June 24, 2012


This weekend's new pick for me and my Viewing Companion was Pixar's Brave.  I'll admit, I went in with high expectations - like Ridley Scott, Pixar knows how to make a stunner of a movie in terms of the look of the thing and on that score, Brave is wonderful.  The scenery is so detailed and realistic that I caught my breath more than once.  I wasn't sure of the storyline, though.  This is a joint effort between Pixar and Disney and I've been an outspoken critic of Disney princesses.  Don't get me wrong - I cut my milk teeth on Disney animation and I like it just fine.  However, Disney sanitizes its fairy tales to sell tickets to the Younger Set and the Mouse tends to like weak female characters.  Face it, the stories of Disney princesses tend to be of girls who are sweet and good and gentle who have bad things happen to them and who then need saving.

And don't even bother telling me to lighten up, that it's just a movie, and a kids' movie at that.  What on God's green earth could be more important than the messages we send to children?  As Brave puts it, "Legends are lessons."  We absorb a tremendous amount of identity messages through popular culture.  The rationale behind not having female-driven stories has always been that girls will go see/read stories about boys, but boys won't go see/read stories about girls.

Here's hoping the box office shatters that myth once and for all, for Brave tells a story we can all benefit from hearing.

I will admit that I sat in the darkened theatre as the credits played with tears running down my face.  Now, Pixar's made me cry before (if the first ten minutes of Up don't get you weepy, seek clinical help), but this was different.  My whole life, I've been waiting to see Brave, I just didn't know the title.  Maybe this is just a "girl thing;" I don't know.  But I've yearned to see a girl take charge of her own life.  A girl who demands that she be given the same choices that a boy would have - and the same opportunities to rule her own destiny.  Brave also does some really nice things with (of all things) hair.  Look at how wild and untamed Merida's red curls are as opposed to her mother Elinor's smooth, restrained locks - there's a nice metaphor going on there.  Also, unlike many Disney pictures, there's no evil here (which is often portrayed as female - a witch or a stepmother, for example).  In Brave,  the bad things happen because of poor choices that are made, including the failure to listen, and Merida then chooses to square her shoulders and fix the mess she created.  It's a powerful message to send to children - girls and boys both - and seeing that story told, and told so beautifully, got me to crying.

Nothing wrong with tears.  Madness often springs from the inability to shed them.

All this said, Brave has a few scenes that are probably too intense for very young children.  But they'll be old enough to benefit from this story of a strong girl raised by strong parents and the ties that bind us together soon enough.  And I'm so glad that kids are going to have this movie as a touchstone - girls and boys both will grow up thinking that Merida is pretty darned cool and we'll all better off for that.

By the way, Pixar also included a short called La Luna to go with Brave.  Absolutely gorgeous and another jewel in Pixar's crown of family-oriented stories.  Be sure you see it.

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