Monday, July 23, 2012

Brave (2012), not the usual princess fantasy

(Bloggers often assume their readers are interested in why they posted in a while.  I have no such illusions.And even if I did feel the need, there really isn't any good explanation.  So, onto Brave.)

My granddaughter and I have been watching tons of kids movies (I think I will wait another year before introducing her to Let the Right One In).  Often, they are painful to watch:  So full of confusing plots, dialogue mostly consisting of sounds of surprise, and saccharine musical numbers that I find myself praying for the commercial breaks.

The musical numbers are the worst part.

Despite my lifelong hatred of Disney, (as a child, my parents dragged me to every Disney film that played in our local theater.  When I say every, I mean not just the ones in the recognized canon, I am also talking about the nature flicks.  Disney nature films never vary-cute, playful animals struggling in a literal fight for their lives against human oppressors, who relentlessly hunt, poison, tortured, etc. them. Fuck you, Walt Disney, for ruining my childhood).

I found these new Disney films to be relief against Mercedes' obsession with talking ponies, dancing horses, and fairies.That is to say, they are pretty good movies  with interesting stories, great characters, beautiful animation, and the occasional (pretty good) musical number. Plus, anything that makes me laugh out loud is golden.

Disney gender roles have not progressed beyond their classic animated films such as Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, where the princess is completely passive, awaiting salvation.  For example, Tangled was an excellent movie, with some great musical numbers (if you haven't seen it, watch this. ) The story was very compelling; a young girl seeks emancipation from the constricting and controlling forces in her life, with a modern vibe. In addition to Rapunzel's quest for independence, Tangled  also presents another major plot line, Flynn, the male opposite to Rapunzel,  also drastically transforms from immature thug to genuine hero. And there were some hysterically funny bits. But at the end, when it was time for Rapunzel to complete her journey to independence,  she balks and it is left to Flynn to literally cut the ties that bound her (and in doing so, saving his own life.)

Yesterday we went to see Brave at the local theater.  It was excellent, it had  a great story, breath taking animation, funny, and there were no musical numbers.

But the most unique aspect of Brave  was there was no love story or romance.  It was quite the opposite of a traditional princess story.  The princess, Merida, is a fiercely independent young woman and not interested in marrying anyone, a position she maintains throughout.  Rightfully so, it isn't natural for modern child to be forced into the bed of a stranger, no matter what the reason, be it protecting the sovereignty of a nation or the integrity of a football legacy.

At one point, Merida becomes her own advocate defends her maidenhood in a hilarious (but creepy, this is a kid's movie!) archery contest.  Am I  the only one that sees the obvious symbolism of the red bull's eye and the contest to pierce it with an arrow?

The archery contest

Perhaps I am going too far with this analysis, but at what point do parents start telling  their kids that not every princess needs a prince?  Brave is an excellent movie for young girls as it has an excellent message: they are the ones in charge of their virginity, not someone else (even a nation).

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