Disney-Pixar's latest loses the prince and focuses on a girl and her mother
You may have heard that Merida, the princess of Disney-Pixar’s Brave, is not like the rest. In fact, we’ve seen her type before. If Cinderella is the quintessential aspirational princess, gaining her title with magic and a positive attitude, those born to the throne like Merida tend to huff around the palace in search of something more. Just once, I’d like to see a Disney princess who adores court life, who troubles herself with fashion and fundraisers, poetry and petty politics, rather than an vague, outdoorsy quest for personal freedom.
From the first reedy sound of bagpipe music, it’s clear that Merida will not be playing perfect princess. She is loathe to sit up straight at the royal dinner table, on which she tends to toss her prized bow and arrow. Being asked to remove it is just the sort of eye roll-inducing injustice she’s come to expect from her oppressive mother.
It’s here that Brave strays from the usual fairytale path, on which our heroine, supposedly thirsty for independence, marches off the palace grounds and into the arms of a boyfriend of her own choosing. Brave examines a much more complicated relationship—that between mother, a typically absent presence in the genre, and daughter. This is also where things get a little weird.
After wisps lead Merida to the forest cottage of a witch/woodcarver with a bear fetish, the fiery redhead makes a deal to change her fate. As a result, her mother spends much of the movie as a giant bear (missing The Little Mermaid yet?). For one harrowing moment, the queen forgets herself and moves to hurt Merida, but then they engage in some mother-daughter bonding while fishing for salmon. It’s enough to make you hope she'll stay a bear forever in a Shrek-like realization that if you can’t beat them…
Ultimately, I suppose, it’s less about living as a bear than it is about listening and being there for your family members (some more than others, considering Merida’s father is a combination of stereotypes—part overweight sitcom dad, part Scottish brute). And so, while Brave may not be Disney-Pixar’s best ever, the reconciliatory moment makes it worth seeing, especially if your daughter's a weapon-toting bear lover. —Kate Guadagnino
Photo courtesy of: ©Disney/Pixar, All Rights Reserved