I just saw Pixar’s new movie, BRAVE. It’s been at the top of my must-see list for a long time because although Pixar makes excellent movies, they’d never made one starring a girl or woman before. I couldn’t wait to see Merida, an amazing archer with wild red hair, save the day.
First, I must say that the movie is gorgeous — absolutely stunning. It’s the first animated movie I’ve seen that, in my opinion, rivals the work of Miyazaki. I could stare at each frame for days and it would still take my breath away. Truly, the animators outdid themselves and I am still in awe of what they accomplished.
SPOILERS BELOW THIS POINT
Here’s what BRAVE is:
The thrilling story of a young girl trapped in a life she doesn’t want by her controlling mother. In an attempt to “change her fate,” she asks a witch to change her mother, hoping that her mother will no longer want her to marry someone she doesn’t love. The spell goes wrong, as these sorts of spells always do, and Merida spends the rest of the movie trying to undo the horrible thing she has done. In the process, she and her mother finally learn to understand each other and begin to compromise. [SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER] In fact, it is critical to the story that Merida’s mother becomes more fierce and fights, and that Merida does something ladylike and stitches.
It’s a wonderful story, and it’s filled with humor and danger and many moments where I was holding my breath, worried that something terrible would happen. I love that the two main characters are women and that the story is about their relationship with each other. If this had been one of Pixar’s many movies starring girls and women, I would have enjoyed every last bit of it.
But it’s not. It’s the first one. And as such, it made me sad and kind of angry.
Here’s what BRAVE isn’t:
The thrilling story of a young girl who saves her people or her world, or even her family. Nor is it the story of a girl who uses her amazing skill at archery (which she earned every bit of) to do something useful like kill a bad guy or snap the right rope at just the right moment or to signal the reinforcements. She doesn’t go on an adventure, she doesn’t explore the world, and she doesn’t learn any great truths except that her mother loves her and that she loves her mother, too. The movie’s title led me astray. BRAVE makes me think of adventure, and I didn’t really see one here.
Now, try to picture a Pixar movie where a boy stars in that plot. Where his father is making him marry someone he doesn’t want to marry so he finds a witch and wishes for something horrible, then has to make it right. The whole story is about his relationship with his father. You know what? You’re never going to see that movie. Because to Pixar, boys are heroes and girls — when they exist outside of boys — need to overcome the fact that they’re girls. Compromise, not bravery, is the key.
So yes, I was frustrated and sad during the movie. The story they chose to tell is told extremely well… it’s just not the direction they should have gone in, in my opinion. Not for the first movie with a female lead. Merida is a fantastic character and she deserved a better fate than this one.