I simply could not wait to watch this movie. Not because I love the creativity and classic tales told through animated films, but ever since we started watching movies with our son who is now 3, I realized just how “father-son” heavy most animated features are. They are wonderful stories of learning and coming of age about boys, boys who would be men and men who must bond with their boys – whether those boys be boys, or fish, or little chickens, or cars, or rats, or ants, or even toys. Which is wonderful for my son. But, one day, if I am blessed, I hope to have a daughter, or a niece, or even as I think of the daughters of my dear friends and cousins…I wonder what kind of legacy is being left for them on the screen about what it means to be a girl? And, what messages are there about the mother-daughter bond?
There is a plethora of maternal choices of the evil variety. We have witches, wicked-step mothers, evil queens, awful step-sisters and a thieving hag who wishes to be young forever. Our only alternative is the fairy god-mother who is make-believe, magical and cannot teach our heroines how to deal with life and reality.
The protagonist is abandoned until Prince Charming shows up to save her. Even the more recent movie Tangled (which I thought was adorable) leaves much to be desired in the way of a modern-day character for girls – although Rapunzel is a better fit than her predecessors since she can at least put up a great fight, is feisty and not afraid to speak for herself.
So naturally I went into Brave with high expectations. And, it totally delivered.
This movie is beautiful to look at with sweeping views of Pixar created Scotland. The film opens with a tender moment between the Queen and a three year old Merida – a moment that any mother can identify with – the two are playing a giggle-filled game of hide ‘n seek where Merida manages to outsmart her mother every time. Brilliant.
Merida grows up and is a Princess who refuses the traditional expectations of marriage and motherhood. But, I don’t think that’s why she is a role model for girls. It is her tenacity. Her desire to learn more about herself and to embrace life. She needs to be her own person first – and, that is a beautiful lesson to teach our daughters (and, our sons).
The loving and broken, caring and tense relationship Merida has with Elinor is one to which many girls can relate. It is a relationship where both feel unheard. Listening is a thread that runs through this movie; communication – in all of its forms – is essential in order for any relationship to succeed. It is a lesson that both Princess Merida and Queen Elinor learn.
We learn much about Merida’s headstrong nature and her mother’s desire to see her comply with her royal duties. The film takes all sorts of twists and turns – some are extremely unexpected – but, I loved that at the core of this movie, was the bond between a mother and her daughter. Elinor tries to ready Merida for a life of duty and Merida challenges Elinor to remember who she was before she was Queen, before she was wife and mother. Both witness the love one has for the other. Both finally hear what the other has to say and both come to respect each other at a level that was unimaginable before their grand adventure.
Merida is strong – both in body and spirit. Though she possesses the always-slim-Disney-Princess look – she is no waif. (And, after having recently seen Tangled, I believe Merida’s waistline is a tad “larger” than Rapunzel’s – improvement yes, but still quite unrealistic.)
Best of all is her mass of red curls that must have taken an army of animators to create throughout this film. It had a life of it’s own. Finally! Finally a princess whose hair is not perfectly straight or in perfect cascading waves. A princess whose hair is as ferocious as she is. Really, it’s worth seeing the movie just to see her hair.
She’s a horseback riding, bow and arrow toting Princess who takes on the most influential woman in the country and in her life – the Queen, her mother. This is a touching story of the lengths to which mothers will go to show their girls how much they are loved and that life does not bring easy choices; and, the lengths to which girls will go to show their mothers that they can create new choices for themselves – with just the right amount of guidance and love from their mothers. No fairy-godmother or Prince Charming required. These are two women who can save themselves.
I look forward to adding Brave to my son’s collection of Disney-Pixar films, just like little girls can learn from the adventures that boys undertake, so too can boys learn that a girls’ adventure can be just as inspiring.
Did you see Brave? What did you think of it?