Merida’s “Brave” New World
Originally posted June 26th, 2012, I wrote this review of the movie “Brave” after watching it opening weekend. In the first two weeks of the film’s release, it received an outstanding 5000 hits on Yahoo Voices.
Merida’s “Brave” New World
Princess Merida and Queen Elinor have a problem: when they speak to one another, neither is truly listening. To Merida, her mother seems like all rules and discipline. To Elinor, her daughter Merida seems reckless and rebellious. Merida doesn’t seem to process that she is a princess and heiress-apparent who must someday rule with wisdom and grace and would rather ride her horse, explore her beautiful kingdom, and practice her archery.
In other words, Elinor and Merida are just like most young women and their mothers, each feeling she is right and neither wanting to walk in the other’s shoes. Merida is so convinced her mother won’t listen to her that she seeks to change, anyway she can, what she feels is an inevitable imposed life of misery scripted by her mother. Along the way, mistakes are made and mended to the transformation of both.
If none of this sounds to you like your typical Disney princess movie, you are absolutely correct!“Brave” is, indeed, a brave new world for Disney-Pixar. Traditional Disney princesses are pursuing romantic love; finding a husband and having a wedding have been the focus of countless Disney-animated films. But “Brave” is different. In “Brave” our heroine feels she is much too young for marriage and fights to preserve her maidenhood, to stay young and feel for as long as possible, shirking adult responsibilities instead of throwing herself into them headlong. Merida is strong, independent, and a bit unruly; a strong departure from Cinderella, Princess Aurora, and other beloved Disney heroines.
Another feature to “Brave” is its beautiful rendition of medieval Scotland. Here the art is resplendent, full of Celtic knot-work and stone carvings. Celtic stone circles feature prominently in the film. In “Brave” they are holy ground, sanctuary against dark forces with our heroines often retreating to them. Without any particular references to religion in any direction, “Brave” uses the stone circle as a sort of symbol of Celtic culture, powerfully connecting the clans to both past and future. The climactic battle at the end of the film happens inside the great stone circle seen across the film with good prevailing against the apparent odds inside its borders.
In “Brave” Disney-Pixar create a new kind of heroine, strongly Celtic and true to ancient Celtic culture, yet feeling equally modern and timeless. Every girl and woman can relate to Queen Elinor and Princess Merida. Boys and men will love its constant action. It even addresses that age-old question of “what do men wear under their kilts” both tastefully and comically. Humor can also be found in King Fergus and Merida’s triplet brothers, all of whom will have audiences of all ages rolling in the aisles!
I have been a fan of Disney animation for most of my life. Yet I will come out and say that of all the Disney films I’ve seen, THIS ONE is the film I cherish most. Without relying on musical numbers, it speaks to the heart and soul of everyone and reminds us that no matter how difficult communicating with our mothers or daughters may be, in the end, the quest is worth it!