I generally avoid reading movie reviews, partly because I don't want to go see them with a preconceived bias - positive or negative - and partly because I so often disagree with the critics anyway. I will sometimes read a brief synopsis, which is exactly what I did last night. Those few sentences led me to believe that BRAVE was a movie I'd probably appreciate...plus, it's Pixar and really, how wrong can you go with Pixar?
Up to this point, it seemed to me that the Pixar films had mostly avoided the Disney mantra that permeates nearly every movie they make. What mantra?
The Child always knows what's best for himself more than those stodgy, uptight adults who love him. He must rebel, throwing off authority and tradition and anything else that might rob him of his freedom to choose for himself. Follow your heart and your TRUE destiny awaits. The Stupid Adults realize in the end that The Child was right all along.
BRAVE's Merida is just the latest face on this storyline.
But I have an even bigger bone to pick with this modern "fairytale." Over the years, we've lost not only our awareness of what constitutes a true fairytale, but we've also lost our knowledge of The Real Point of fairytales. The whole "princess gets rescued from death by a prince" thing has been severed from that which it intends to image: The Bride has fallen prey to some kind of evil from which she is unable to rescue herself; The Prince lays down his life to rescue her and exalt her as Queen. Fairytales are not about how helpless women are apart from men, or how every woman needs the ideal man in order to bring meaning to her life. Fairytales are variations on The Gospel.
In BRAVE, the princess's primary rebellion is that she doesn't need a prince to rescue her. She is fully capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much. She is sufficient in and of herself. Because we misunderstand The Real Point in the first place, our liberated society demands that we throw off the "woman without man is dependent and helpless" storyline and embrace the "woman is strong and independent and man is entirely superfluous" one in its place. Problem is, that mindset reflects a deeper worldview that also throws off mankind's inability to rescue itself from death. Who needs a saviour? WE GOT THIS!
Secondarily, we see the princess is unwilling to lay aside her own wishes for the good of the kingdom and in order to fulfill her responsibilities. Sacrifice her own desires for the sake of The Kingdom? That would be weakness! REAL strength lies in standing up to those who would require her to go against her own heart.
Lastly, we have the all-too-common personification of manhood in three fools: a pompous ass, a blubbering idiot, and a childish coward. Who would want a "prince" like that anyway? NO ONE. If I were Merida, I would resist too. But the movie fails to set these false princes over against the glory of a True Prince who is humble, strong, courageous, and willing to sacrifice himself to rescue the bride and restore the kingdom.
I feel like I've drained all fun and enjoyment from what some would declare is simply a piece of lighthearted entertainment, but what can I say? I was disappointed. I'd be interested to hear from you if you had a different take on it.