Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Brave (kinda)

I feel like there's no point in reviewing Brave because apparently nobody else has bothered to.

Apparently, the memo that I missed detailed that all reviews of Brave should instead be either sexist or about sexism. Or, absurdly, accuse Merida of being a lesbian. Because, you know, that's important.

I can see why some people are going off on other tangents. Brave is a movie the wouldn't really inspire people to wax poetic about it or build a major fandom, or anything like that. It's a good movie, it's indeed a very good movie. But that's about all it is.

Personally, I think that's okay. I enjoyed the film, I thought the visuals were beautiful (though it took time for the animation style to grow on me) and the voice acting was amazing. Merida was a fun character, I enjoyed her, she reminded me of me.

Only, you know, if I was any better at archery. But that's another point for another day.

My point for today though, is that it takes two combinations of things for Brave to hit home: you have to be a girl that can identify with Merida on some level and you have to have a specific kind of relationship with your mother, and probably be old enough to understand why your mother was how she was when you were a teenager.

I saw one post that got it right, Brave is a movie that doesn't shy away from the fact that teenage girls aren't perfect and are often terrible. And that mothers of teenager girls are often terrified for them and don't know how to communicate with them. And that in the end, once you get through the teenage years, everybody can see the other's person's perspective a little better and it forms a particular kind of relationship. If you've lived through that, and felt that, then Brave will probably make you cry (it did me, that's for sure).

If you haven't, then there's nothing wrong with you, you just had a different type of family and that's awesome.

The problem lies in the fact that outside of masterfully presenting this mother/daughter dynamic (which is rare enough to be worth praise), the movie doesn't really press the envelope anywhere else. Which is why critics are so distracted.

About half the reviews talk about how poorly the movie treats men. Most of the rebuttals to those comments are "that's how women have to live every day, qq more newb." Which is fair, except for the fact that Brave doesn't marginalize it's men. They're all pretty well drawn out for supporting characters. Merida's suitors are comic relief, but they all have charms to go with their faults. The triplets are crazy and "get away with murder" but they're also really smart and resourceful and even without lines they have a depth when you think about their relationship with Merida.

As for the people trying to make a case that Merida is a lesbian because she likes to shoot arrows and doesn't want to marry a guy that she probably couldn't even carry on a conversation with...there's just nothing for those people. I've got nothing, I can't even contemplate how stupid and terrible life must be for them, having so few brain cells. The point of the movie was about choosing your own fate and your own life, and creating it yourself. To force Merida into a stereotype because it makes your brain feel a little better is to go against everything it stands for. Who knows what kind of person Merida is attracted to, I doubt she even knows. But she'll figure it out and it might be one of the guys and it might be another princess, and the world will keep turning on.

Oh, and to the person who said that Merida still wasn't a good role model or a positive step for women for being the protagonist because she's still a princess...go lock yourself in a tower. In fiction, women can be depicted as princesses as a metaphor for the responsibilities and struggles we face because of stereotypical gender roles. One would think a media or literary critic would understand that much, that's like Women's Lit 101.