Not Another Princess Movie: Why BRAVE Matters

I was very surprised and pleased by the Pixar film Brave. This article elegantly expresses why. How many good, fleshed-out mother-daughter narratives do we see?

Strange Figures

(Posted this at zekefilm.org earlier today.  Thought I’d share it with you all, too.)

I didn’t see Brave on many best-of-the-year lists, but it made mine. I’ve been watching children’s movies as a parent for over twenty years and Brave was not only one my favorite films this year, but I thought it was an important film; a movie that matters.

I have young daughters and like most little girls, they like princess movies. We’ve seen our share of Disney princess merchandise pass through the house, and I confess that the youngest daughter even got a Disney princess poster for Christmas last week. We’re also Pixar fans here, and it was exciting news when Pixar announced that it was releasing a film with a female lead – a first! This didn’t just grab our attention, but was heavily anticipated by feminist film critics who were thinking that after 17 years…

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About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

20 responses to “Not Another Princess Movie: Why BRAVE Matters

  • Colleen

    Good post. Thanks for giving it a bit of your space.

  • palecorbie

    Not enough! I would like to see a story someday where someone rescues their mother…the reverse is thought natural enough, and the media clearly thinks fathers are worth dragging out of armed conflicts or their own bitter addictions, after all.

    Does Brave have zigzag inheritance going on, or is its vague Once Upon too late for that?

    • jubilare

      The driving force of the plot is Merida trying to rescue her mother from a curse and keeping her (the Queen) from being killed. ^_~

      Extreeeeemly vague. Look not to this film for remotely realistic representations of any location or period in history. That way madness lies.

      • palecorbie

        Chouette!

        I’m just long glad it’s a chance for Americans to see Scots-accented folk not being purely 1) comic relief or 2) psychotically violent Weegies. *grrmlHobbitgrrmbl*

        • jubilare

          Well… it doesn’t get wholly away from that. “Brave” has it’s problems, but blindly patriarchal messages aren’t among them.

          The Dwarves in The Hobbit are such a random mishmash of accents that I stop hearing them. I have to wonder, though, how and why Dwarves became Scottish by default. It’s a rhetorical question, really, because I can think of possible answers, but it seems to be one of those fluid idea-monsters birthed in the primordial soup of pop culture.

          • palecorbie

            That’s a start, then.

            I recall they were all from the fabled realm of Scotireland except the royal, who was *(&#ing English as a sort of insult to injury.

          • jubilare

            *winces* Mm… that is a bad insult, I agree. It would have been better for all the Dwarves to share the same linguistic confusion. Your ear is probably more trustworthy than mine in this matter, but most of them, including two of the three royals, had far more confusion to their speech than “scotireland” dialect. Though pop-scottish seemed to predominate, there were sounds from my side of the pond, among others. It was as if I were listening to a mishmash of nearly every English-speaking dialect under the sun.

            For all its faults, though, The Hobbit film does better by the Dwarves than the LotR films did. I can’t say that I am satisfied, but I am glad to have them fleshed out as something more than brawlers or comic relief.

  • Mary

    I loved Brave too! It was completely not what I was expecting but it is now my favorite Pixar movie.

  • Sharon Autenrieth

    Thanks for posting this here, Jubilare! Fascinating blog you’ve got, by the way. :)

  • bekindrewrite

    I guess I better see this one. The trailer was so vague, I assumed the movie was your typical “I-can-do-all-the-things-boys-can-do” story – something I can stand if the particulars are interesting enough, but without even a hint at particulars, my level of interest was exactly zero. Well, maybe .5, but only because of her hair.
    Then a few people I know saw it and these were their reviews:
    Sister: It was good.
    Best friends’ mom: Finally a story about mother-daughter reconciliation!
    Brother: It basically says kids can disobey their parents and get away with it.
    And now this! I guess I’ll just add it to my Netflix queue and judge for myself.
    Also, I am way behind on your Dwarf posts. : (

    • jubilare

      Some people I know only saw the “you control your own fate!” mishmash that we get pre-digested from Disney all the time and so lost interest. That is, in my opinion, a gloss over the surface, a Disney-requisite. The deeper, more complex narrative is very strong, and that drove my interest in the film. As soon as I realized that the Queen was not just a plot-point, but an actual character involved in the story, I was hooked. The wisps are also fantastic.

      I have to disagree with your brother. I can see how one could get that message from the story, but I do not think that Merida, at least, “gets away” with anything. Her brothers… well, they are a different story. :)

      I was going to say “it isn’t like they are going anywhere,” but it seems like you caught up in one swoop! I had no idea you had such a high tolerance for ramblings!

      • bekindrewrite

        My cousin-in-law said they edited to change the plot so many times, they were forced to make the trailer vague, so that explains some things. I’ll give it a chance! I’m likely to agree with you.
        I have a high tolerance for *intelligent* ramblings on subjects that interest me – especially the ones that give me reasons to like things I love even more.

  • petunialu

    Maybe I should give this one a try ;-) I’ve pretty much given up on princess stories- Austin watched Tangled by himself because I get too snarky :-)

    • jubilare

      I surprised myself by enjoying “Tangled.” It’s fun, but it is still a Disney princess story at its heart.
      “Brave,” on the other hand, is only incidentally a princess story. In fact, I heard somewhere that Merida was originally a blacksmith’s daughter, but that Disney pushed for a princess. I don’t know if that is true, but it seems to me that the story could work for any mother-daughter.

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