I have to admit …. it was a sell. Normally, I do not have to push hard to get my two nine year old sons to agree to a movie. But when the protagonist of the movie is a girl? They were not impressed. They were not anxious to see Disney’s new movie, Brave.
They got more impressed when I promised that it had fighting, knights, swords and arrows. Those things pushed them over, and they agreed to go.
They really wanted to make sure the movie was up to BOY standards. And in a way, so did I.
Disney has not been good to girls… or mothers. The daughter/mother relationship in an animated Disney movie is far more a fanciful imaginary thing than fairies, giants, wizards or witches. Much,much more than witches…definitely.
Going to an animated Disney movie always made me glad that I was a boy with a Dad. Mothers there are an endangered species… consider the mothers of: Bambi, Nemo, Aladin, Jasmine, Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, Mulan, Pocahontas, Belle…. dead, dead, dead, dead, dead,dead, dead,dead, dead, dead, In the two instances where the mother was replaced by a step mother in that group… one was evil, and one was magically evil. Two had mothers who were not dead– Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel… but both their mothers were absent through all their development, and one had an evil, magical adoptive Mom, the next thing from a step mother.
(Spoiler alerts from here…) So, basically, a custodial mother who was able to breathe would be an improvement in a Disney movie…. and on that, Disney delivers in Brave. OK… so she does spend most of the movie as a BEAR, but…at least she is never gone, raised her daughter to adulthood, and living.
Now, about Merida, the princess in Brave. She is out to break free from the Cinderella mold. As she calls it in the movie… “breaking free of her destiny”… the Disney, “my prince shall come” destiny. (Or one supposes). It is ironic that the character in the movie holding Merida’s feet to the iconic destiny fire is none other than… her mother. (Didn’t the bitch get that she was just lucky to be alive? Guess, she did not get the memo…)
Merida attempts to do what only one Disney princess before her, Mulan, has done…to compete in a man’s world. While she initially does so effectively, it only goes to turn her Mom into a bear. Literally. And a mother/daughter fight ensues.
Merida is fighting to not have to marry one of three goofy princes. Not one of them is of the yummy princes that Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine or even Belle (and we are talking Beast pre-transformation), but three truly nerdy goofball prospects. It is as if Disney does not have enough confidence in its women independence theme to have a woman self assured enough to walk away from a beef cake dreamboat.
In the end, Merida wins. Sort of. But so does Cinderella and all that she has forced on the Barbie-doll ideal soaked girls of this generation. Merida, by humbling herself, understanding all that her mother has done for her and saying “I’m sorry” gets her freedom from having to marry one of the three geeks. She gets to hold out for love.
Say what???? Yes… that is the big prize. The three geeks get to woo her, and she gets to marry the one she falls in love with. I am sorry… but that is no big advancement. Ariel , Belle, Jamine, Rapunzel… they all got the guys they picked out and fell for too. Only Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White took on the guys that got dealt to them.
I wanted to see this end with the independent queen… an empowered female who did not have to wait for the guy. That is who I wanted my sons to see as well. Dammit Disney.
Well… maybe in Brave Two: The Studio That Finally Stood Up for Girls’ Psyches.
I know this is an older blog post but I just wanted to mention that the mother of the Disney version of Mulan was very much alive as well as her grandmother.
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Rob, that was a good movie critique. I am still excited to see the movie and plan to go with my kids next week. It is unfortunate that the girl in the movie has to marry one of the three dorks– even if it is the one she falls in love with. What if she doesn’t fall in love with any of them? I DO like the idea of a dork turning out to be something other than what she thought, so she WOULD actually be able to fall in love with him though. Because to me, that message is saying, hey, people have many sides to them, and sometimes you have to look beyond your first impressions. And from a female perspective— I really like love. I like being in love and falling in love. I confess, I would always be a girl who would fall in love eventually, unless all the prospects were just awful and had no good side what so ever. I do NOT like the Disney theme of the girls always needing to be rescued, that ticks me off. I like that they made this gorgeous red head with a firey spirit who could take care of herself. I will let you know my full critique after I see the movie myself 🙂 AP
I agree that this is a big improvement over past portrayals of what it means to be female, but still has a way to go. You did an excellent job describing this. You post reminds me of a satirical series I saw on youtube. Here is one of them: