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Brave: Film Review

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.’

Categories: Film Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

3 replies

  1. oooh- we’re going to see this at the drive in tomorrow night. I like your take on the story- can’t wait to see it brought to life ;-)

  2. I found your review fascinating when contrasted with these two:

    http://visionarydaughters.com/2012/07/can-we-have-a-braver-princess-please
    http://visionarydaughters.com/2012/07/a-princess-without-a-prince

    What do you think of their assertion that in addition to no suitable suitors, the film contains no real men of *any* description?

    And this, from their concluding remarks:

    As mentioned, this film has several elements of grim reality to it, but one of the most profoundly truthful is this: Whenever you see crude boy-men like King Fergus and the clansmen, you’re going to see women like Queen Elinor and Princess Merida right next to them – dragging them around by the ears, doing all their talking for them, beating them at their own game, making their decisions for them, treating them like four-year-olds, and scolding them when they act like males.

    “Brave” is a very accurate snapshot of the symbiotic relationship between feminists and perpetual frat-boys, and why it’s in both of their “best” (and worst) interests to keep the cycle going. For as long as the men keep playing, the women can keep running things… and as long as the women keep running things, the men can keep playing.

  3. Hi Andy

    Yeah, there are definite problems with the parents’ relationship – Merida’s mother comes across as bossy and controlling; her father as a henpecked buffoon. That dynamic is presented as dysfunctional for everyone.

    As for the portrayal of the suitors – I don’t think they’re as stupid as it might first seem and they end up questioning the paradigms of their parents too. Like Merida, they are teenagers – unformed persons – and so the film ends, not with set gender stereotypes but with the promise of a new generation.

    (As for the quote, I’m sure you know that I think it’s a pretty unfair caricature of feminism to portray it as being about women running things.)

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