Against the backdrop of the medieval Scottish highlands, Brave presents wild-haired, free-spirited Merida. She is Pixar’s first female protagonist and, perhaps more significantly, Disney’s first heroine without a romantic connection by the end of the film. In our world where little girls’ futures are often reduced to finding the right man, Brave offers an alternative. The focus is on Merida’s relationship with her family and finding her place in her community.
Merida and her mother, Elinor, disagree about what that place should be. While Merida loves the outdoors and archery, her mother reminds her that princesses shouldn’t own weapons. Mild irritation between the two bursts into strident generational conflict when the time comes for Merida to be betrothed to a son of one of the three neighbouring clans. In desperation, Merida resorts to magic, only to see the spell backfire and her mother turned into a bear, the mortal enemy of her father. The relationship between mother and daughter takes centre stage as Merida seeks to transform her mother back to her original form.
The solution that the film offers is for Merida and her mother to learn to listen to each other. It’s only when Elinor loses the power of speech that she begins to understand her daughter’s world. Similarly, only when Merida starts seeing her people’s story through her mother’s eyes does she understand her place in it. Elinor comes to offer her daughter freedom to discover her own path; ironically it is this very act that helps Merida to locate herself within her people’s story.
Generational conflict is a familiar theme for Christians, both in our family and church life. This story points us beyond a grasping for our own rights; it’s as the two women start looking to the needs of the other that they find relational harmony. In Brave, we hear echoes of James’ words: ‘My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.