I simply had to see Brave - it is a story of a tough little medieval princess with gorgeous hair. I also still have a thing for Disney princesses. And fairytales. That incredible cloud of red curls, combined with the magic word “BRAVE” lured me for months from huge billboards all over LA. I was excited about it. I entered the cinema filled with expectation of romantic princess fun mixed with a bit of healthy emancipation. I left the cinema furious, agitated and full of anger. And unfortunately ended going to the only restaurant in the neighborhood where they don’t serve hard liquor. It took two glasses of red wine to get the bear out of my head. Yes, the bear.
Brave is a story of a cute little red-haired tomboy princess who loves riding and archery. Her dad is nice. But he is also ugly, fat, crippled, and incapable of bringing order among the three other clans in the kingdom. His pretty and nice but also tough wife (who gave him 3 boys and a girl) does this for him. The time arrives for the princess to get married to a prince of one of the clans. This marriage is important to keep the kingdom united and peaceful. She doesn’t want to get married because she wants to ride her horse and feel the wind in her hair. Also, the 3 princes are losers. But she has the privilege of choosing the art in which they will compete for her hand. She chooses archery, decides to compete with them, and wins, thinking that now she won’t have to get married. But mother still insists on the marriage and in a fight, princess cuts a tapestry her mother has been working on for decades, and the mother throws princess’ bow in fire. Princess runs off, reaches witch’s cabin in the woods (the witch is the best, and unfortunately the shortest character in the movie) and asks for a spell to change her mom. (Yeah, she doesn’t really know what she wants). To cut the rest of the story shorter, mom changes into a scary, huge, black bear that at a certain point (or two) wants to eat her daughter, and also almost gets killed by her husband who lost his leg to a bear. Mom-bear also has a terrifying fight with another giant bear. A fight so aggressive, that the cinema was trembling and children were crying. Of course there is a happy end. Mom becomes human again and princess doesn’t have to get married. She wins.
Maybe my reaction was purely personal – I have a great respect for my parents, and an incredible relationship with my mother. The idea of a daughter turning her (great and lovely) mother into a monster which almost eats her child and gets killed by her husband – just to escape her duties and win her freedom – simply feels wrong to me. I do understand, and absolutely support, the fact that young girls need to see more emancipatory stories. But if we are already emancipating our daughters, let’s not turn them into disrespectful and spiteful rebels who will selfishly and egoistically fight just for their own personal benefits. And let’s not make them fight their mothers. Let’s not turn women’s emancipation into a women-against-women war. Because what they really need to fight in order to win their position in the society is the male establishment.
I would have loved to see a movie in which she understands her responsibilities, but still cleverly finds a way to create a win-win (wins her freedom but keeps her kingdom together) situation. Maybe an ending in which she wins her victory over the guys and decides to become a warrior-queen and keep the peace and unity in her kingdom without a man on her side (for now). Or a movie about a “have it all princess” in which a princess who is already married and has two kids manages to be a wonderful ruler of her kingdom (yes, why don’t we tell our daughters the story of Maria Theresa?). Or a story in which she decides that her freedom is important to her but not on other people’s costs and doesn’t hurt her mother but leaves to create her own destiny. Maybe just a different ending would have made the message better. I just can’t stand the idea that pure rebelliousness, stubbornness and selfishness (which endangers lives of most beloved ones) gets awarded for its own sake. Kids need to learn to be strong but they also need to learn about altruism, respect, responsibility. About giving and caring and sharing. There must have been some consequences for her attitude (and a consensus).
It is a beautiful movie. The animation is absolutely fantastic. I was grateful for not too many songs (even as a kid, I hated songs in Disney movies). It was entertaining. It was daring. It had good intentions. Still, it was not a movie I’d like my daughter to see. Don’t want her to turn into a self-centered, irresponsible brat. And me into a bear.