Friday, September 7, 2012

Reading "Brave" as a Refreshingly Nonmodern Fable

Thirteen films in, Pixar has shown a pretty consistent trend of original, fresh storytelling that goes beyond entertainment. They are producing art that considers and illuminates life. With “Brave” we get their most traditional animated story—at least in the tradition of Disney animation. We get the princess story. Visually it is stunning. The story has the right amounts of humor, excitement, inspirational moments, and the accents of the characters are a delight to listen too; but it is a pretty “paint-by-the-numbers” Disney plot.

That being said, there is a great attempt at a lesson in the mix, but one that most—including the people marketing the film—seem to be missing.

The story here is all about Merida not wanting to be forced into an arranged marriage, and thereby into growing up and becoming a responsible lady. In our modern, western way of thinking we have heard and told this story a million times. No one should be forced into such a huge decision that (ideally) impacts the rest of one’s life. We should be able to make our own choices when it comes to matters of the heart. Even the tagline of the film highlights this aspect of the story, “Change your fate.”

But when you really think about it, this story is about two viewpoints being changed. Sure, the parents decide to let the next generation have more say in their own lives; but the younger generation—specifically Merida—learns that responsibility demands that they see themselves as a vital part of a larger community. Her life and her choices will affect everyone else. She needs to sacrifice some of her self-determination for the greater good.

Where did we even get the idea that romantic, emotional and hormone driven “love” is the best basis for making a life-long match? This story is refreshingly devoid of young love. The only example we see of a marriage, successful or otherwise, is in Merida’s parents. One would assume that their marriage was arranged and they are a loving couple. The sort of responsibility and self-sacrifice that this film calls for would help any couple, matched or craved, to have a successful relationship; so is there really an advantage in allowing the youngsters to find their own way?

(On a related note, there have been a lot of compelling arguments recently that point out that we have messed up in pushing for young people to wait longer and longer to make the marriage commitment. For example, see here. They may have a point.)

1 comment:

  1. We have long been overdue a pixar movie that tackles the mom-daughter relationship. While this one felt very familiar in a not-so-good way (princess story) what I loved was a mom who understood responsibility, who was literally holding her kingdom and family together as best she knew how...and when her family was threatened, she did what most every mother would do. She became a huge bear capable of enormous strength and courage, entering a battle for her family, doing what she never thought possible. She literally became mama bear saving her cubs, willingly sacrificing herself for them. The ferocity of a mom taking care of her kids...Can I just say, I totally related. And in a weird moment, the final fight scene was when I teared up.
    And I also read the ct article making the case for early marriage - and as one who works with singles, I would love to see our young people, with the wise counsel of their communities, begin the married parts of their lives much earlier. But my thoughts on this are complex enough, I should probably blog about it sometime...:)


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