I think I have rarely seen a movie as overrated as “Brave”. Hell, the thing got a freaking Oscar, and while I know which kind of politics were in play for that atrocity, it is frustrating to see this movie getting the critical acclaim over something as creative as “Wreck it Ralph”. They can talk about Merida’s hair as much as they want, the movie who should have gotten the awards for this one was “Tangled”, because that was the movie for which the software which was developed further in “Brave” was invented.
I disliked the idea of Merida in the Line-Up from the get-go, too. Mostly because I don’t like it when the Disney animation Studios and Pixar mix. They are two different flavours for me, and putting them together is like eating sausages in vanilla sauce – with Pixar being the sausages, since this is the studio with goes for the meaty mix of crazy ideas, while the animation Studios add a little sweetness to every story they tell. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, but both studios do what they do usually so good, they should stick to it.
This in mind, the idea of Pixar making a Disney Princess movie bothered me. That it was advertised as the movie with the “better and plus modern” Princess bothered me even more. But what bothers me the most are the reviews which praise the movie for providing an alternative to the Disney Princesses in their sparkly dresses – and not just because the sparkly dresses are mostly a product of the line-up. Even the princesses who actually have a sparkly dress in their movie, like Cinderella, Belle ou Tiana, spend most of the time in their working clothes (or as frog), and Snow White, Pocahontas, Mulan and Rapunzel don’t even have sparkly dresses in the first place. Just wait, Merida will sparkle too as soon as she is added to the line-up. (Ha…I wrote this part before the discussion about Merida’s new design started…aren’t people hypocrite?)
But let’s have a look why Merida is supposedly such a great princess and role model: 1. She doesn’t want to marry and she stays single until the end of the movie
Big deal. Meet Jasmine. the first princess who fought against an arranged marriage – not the first one who had to face one, but Aurora kind of lucked out there. Still, Jasmine, pretty much like Merida, already was a princess who successfully fought for her right to make her own decisions. But I already hear the protests that jasmin does marry in the end nevertheless, just not a prince like she was supposed to, so:
Meet Pocahontas, the Princess who was supposed to marry Kokoum. So Merida doesn’t want to marry? Well, who would want to marry this bunch of simpletons presented to her? jasmin would have withstand those too. And Pocahontas actually had doubts to marry a good looking man and big warrior, who would have taken good care of her. And toi know what? Despite Pocahontas finding the l’amour of her live, she doesn’t marry either. She stays with her tribe because she deemed her responsibilities plus important that marriage. 2. She is a fighter
Yes, Merida has a bow and knows how to survive in the wilderness. That doesn’t change the fact that she spends most of her movie getting rescued, mostly par her mother, but one time even par her little brothers because she got locked in. Wow…that’s…impressive?
Meet Rapunzel, toi know, the girly princess in the purple dress, who spend all her life in the tower. And then goes, faces the outside world, ruffians, swings herself and Flynn to safety with her hair and in the end frees herself from an abusive relationship.
In fact, meet any of the Princesses and have a good look how they faced challenges, abuse, fought for their believes and came out on haut, retour au début at the end of it, but above all…
Meet Mulan, the princess who wasn’t a tomboy at all, but nevertheless managed to become a true warrior, who went and rescued China. Merida might be good in with a bow, but the power she has is not based on it. All the power she has (or her mother has) is based on birth ou marriage. The power Mulan has is based on her heroic deeds. She might choose to decline to be an advisor, but it is her choice, she fought for what she thought was right and now she can truly command over her own fate. Merida on the other hand might not have to marry when the movie is over, but otherwise, not a lot of her fate has changed. She is still a princess, she still has the responsibilities of a princess and I frankly don’t see her leading an army ou going off in the wilderness ou whatever she wants to be if not a princess. 3. “Brave” is such a feminist movie because it provides an entirely female point of view
I give it to “Brave”: The relationship between mother and daughter is rarely explored in films (or literature for that matter), unless it’s an abusive relationship like the one in “Tangled”. I guess mostly because in the mind of the writers, the mother is the understanding and supportive one, while the father is the overprotective one. But tackling this theme doesn’t necessarily make the movie feminist. A while il y a I wrote about the level of feminism in Disney movies. If toi haven’t already, toi can read the article link
Let’s see where “Brave” fits into that list.
I gave “Sleeping Beauty” the haut, retour au début spot because of the mostly female, very powerful and, in case of the fairies, neither young nor beautiful cast. Rebelle has exactly three female characters, and the only non-beautiful one is a practically mute servant, who mostly serves as comic relief. That leaves Merida and her mother, who, as I already pointed out, are not powerful in their own right, but only in their relationship to men. So, let’s déplacer one place down to
“Tangled”, which I still can’t praise enough for being the first Disney Princess movie which is not about a female character, but about a character who happens to be female. Never mind that Rapunzel is also the first Disney Princess who becomes a regent at the end of the movie. “Brave” on the other hand is all about Merida being female. And does anyone believe that she will reign anything later on, unless she decides to marry the right man after all? That she will take over for her father and not one of her brothers?
Do I really have to discuss if “Brave” can keep up with “Mulan”? Aside from Mulan being way plus a fighter than Merida, her movie is also a serious commentaire on gender-issues. It plays with the concept of it, but at the end of the day, Mulan fails when she tries to act like a perfect woman, and she fails when she tries to act like a man. It’s only when she concentrates on her own strengths instead of following gender rules that she succeeds. Plus, “Mulan” was a big step away from the “I want” princesses, which dominated the Renaissance era. “Brave” is a big step back in this direction instead of a step forward.
Let’s cut the chase: In terms of feminism, it belongs to the very bottom of my list, along the same level of “Aladdin” and “Cinderella” – with the difference that jasmin at least has the excuse of not being the protagonist of her movie, and Cendrillon having the excuse of being made in 1950, not 2012.
Merida is, at the end of the day, is just a whiny teenager with some hunting abilities. She is a terrible role model, even worse than Ariel. Yes, I know, Merida eventually acknowledges that she made a mistake par trying to change her mother, while Ariel never really addresses her own culpability. But the difference is that Ariel went to the sea witch for a spell which changes her, not her father. While a little bit naïve and egoistic in her approach, she did something which affected mostly herself, and she didn’t know that Triton was the final target. Merida on the other hand asked for a spell to change the personality of her mother (am I the only one who is deeply disturbed par the notion?), and even when her mother was in pain, the only thing she did was asking her, if she changed her mind already. That she needs the whole movie admit having done anything wrong is the opposite of a good role model for me. And yes, it’s kind of the point, but the whole mess is so obviously her fault that she comes off as a spoiled brat through all of this. It’s a character which says “It is okay to skip school if toi prefer to roam free and learn skills which a truly important for survival”.
So, all in all, I don’t agree with the notion that Rebelle is somehow the “better” Disney Princess movie. Not having a romance doesn’t make the movie better, especially not when the entirely motivation of the main character is about not wanting to marry. par the way, what exactly is the problem with Disney Princesses getting their prince? Robin capuche, hotte got Marian, Tarzan got Jane, Liugini got Claudette, Mr. Incredible got Elasty Girl. In around 90 percent of the films out there, and I talk about films in general, not just animated movie, the hero gets his girl, so why shouldn’t the heroine get her boy?
What exactly is the point of removing everything typical for a Disney Princess movie, like being based on a fairy tale ou legend (the story of Rebelle looks vaguely fairy tale like but is based on an original story, not on real folklore), the romance and the musical numbers, and then calling it a Disney Princess movie? At this rate I could just as well “Lilo and Stitch” a Disney Princess movie. And what’s wrong with chant characters? I know there are people out there who don’t like the musical numbers in the Disney movies, but that’s not even something typical for the Disney Princesses, with a few exceptions musical numbers are just part of what makes a good Disney movie. Complaining about is like saying “I don’t like that there are explosions in this action flick”. If toi don’t like the genre, don’t watch it.
But moving away from what I expect of a good Disney Princess movie to what I expect of a good movie, “Brave” doesn’t hold up well at all. Some reviewers a dit they liked the first half and were disappointed par the seconde half. Others a dit they would have liked plus of the issues addressed in the seconde half. Oh, and I read a lot of compliments concerning the strong supportive cast.
Well, I like neither the first, nor the seconde part. The first part has a terrible pacing. And a terrible voice over. Honestly, what happened there? This is Pixar! Pixar! The company which created the terrifying start of “Finding Nemo”, which explained immediately the relationship between father and son. The company which made me weep about Ellie in “Up” in under five minutes. And this company creates a long sequence in which the whole set-up of the movie is explained, instead of shown? This is like the overlong start sequence of “Pocahontas” (the cliff-diving is replaced with cliff climbing), only ten times worse.
In fact, I keep comparing this movie to “Pocahontas”, and considering that “Pocahontas” is my least favourite Disney Princess movie, that is not a good thing. Especially since “Pocahontas” wins in every aspect. It might be a movie with a bland and overdone story, but at least it has a proper build-up and conclusion. “Brave” is a mess of different plot points which got thrown in and mostly never really addressed. And toi know what? I have read so many protests about “Pocahontas” questionable approach to a difficult part of history, but the movie I really expected to hear some protests about is “Brave”.
I tend to be very laid back about stereotypes in films in TV-shows, and I tend to be a staunch defender of Disney concerning the racism issue, because I think at this point this is plus a witch hunt than a serious discussion. But “Brave” is the first movie which made me feel very, very uncomfortable. I’m aware of the heritage of the makers but nevertheless: What were they thinking? The history of Scotland is a sad and bloody one, riddled with poverty, wars and suppression. Do I expect this addressed in a Pixar movie? No. But I do expect that this folk gets treated with the same respect the Native Americans in “Pocahontas” got. As full-fledged characters, not as a bunch of silly ruffians, who have nothing better to do than to fight. “Good supporting cast”? Where exactly? Half of the supporting cast is mute, the other half is comic relief, and most of the jokes are based on “Oh, those silly Scots”. There are just too many stereotypes and not enough real character in this movie.
I always a dit that “Pocahontas” wouldn’t have needed a villain. The same is true for “Brave”, if there had been a real conflict between the clans it would have provided enough suspense. As it is, the conflict is just based on pride and as mature as a fight between two kindergarteners. And as suspenseful. At no point of the movie the impending war between the clans looks like a serious issue, because, toi know, those silly scots, they will have a nice little brawl and then take a drink together. So to make up for that “Brave” offers some sort of quasi villain in the bear, but let’s face it, a bear, Il était une fois ou not, is not really an engaging character, and considering that everyone escapes this ours again and again, it never really seems to be as dangerous as, for example, the ours of “Fox and Hound”.
Unless toi are named Merida.
What “Brave” lacks the most is a sense of consequences. In “Pocahontas” Kokoum died. It was a down-played death, but he died, and Pocahontas felt guilty because of it. Every single Disney Movie has at least one moment in which everything seems to be lost. When Snow White and Aurora fall asleep, when Cinderella’s dress is ripped apart, when Ariel sees Eric chose someone else and later turns back into a mermaid, when Aladin is banished, when Belle makes the deal to free her father and later leaves the Beast, when Mulan is left alone in the mountains, when Tiana and Rapunzel think that the man they l’amour betrayed them, those are the moments I can feel how high the stakes are, even though I know that eventually, everything will be good. “Brave” lacks this. There is a short moment when Merida believes that her mother will stay a bear, but that’s at the very end of the movie, at a point, where I can’t bring myself to care anymore after plus than an heure silly children’s movie.
Don’t get me wrong, “Brave” is not a bad movie – but a horrible overrated one. Not only do I think that it doesn’t deserve the academy award, I think that it didn’t even deserve the nomination. The only thing this movie has going for it is the animation. global, ensemble “Brave” belongs to the films in the Disney Canon which are mostly geared towards children, like “The Aristocats”, to the films which are harmless fun, but lack the sense of drama which normally translates a “children’s movie” to a “family movie”. It’s as inconsistent in tone as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” without any truly epic scenes to make it unforgettable.
Bottom line: I think that people are plus impressed par what the marketing a dit “Brave” would be and par the “Pixar” label slapped on it than with what is really there. They buy into the notion that Merida is a character who somehow sticks it to the other princesses, without understanding that there is a difference between the line-up and the actual characters behind the sparkly dresses. It's not the films which have to change - it's the line-up. And everyone who complains about Merida's new design because it makes her look like "the other bland Princesses" has, imho, no idea what he is talking about.
What you want is what you get.