After Brave: Let Merida explore the world
Princess Merida of Brave might win the prize as my favourite film character of 2012.
There was so much about her to love: her courage, her skills in horse riding, cliff climbing and arrow shooting, her temperament, the gorgeous hair and the charming Scottish accent. But most of all I loved her free spirit and her firm refusal to hold marriage as the prima goal in her life.
That’s also the reason why I hold my breath throughout the entire film, not sure how it would end.
I didn’t doubt for a second that her mother would get out of her enchanted condition or that the princess and the queen would fall into each other’s arms, asking for forgiveness. It was also unlikely that the Big Bad Bear boss would be allowed to do any serious harm; after all it was a movie for children.
The question was how far the movie makers were ready to let Merida go. Could it be possible to have her walk through an entire film without ending up in the arms of some guy towards the end? In popular culture those hook-ups in the end are bound to happen. Women are allowed to be strong, courageous and adventurous, but only to a certain point. In the end the “tomboy” will inevitably turn soft, becoming less daring and edgy as she finally embraces her “femininity”. It’s the same story every time, and it’s depressing to watch. Would Merida turn be another victim in a long row, yet another girl to be tamed, “for her own sake”?
If the film makers wanted to go that way, they could have done it easily. I would have been surprised if a pretty prince would have appeared in the place of the Big Bad Bear as he died, and Merida and he would have taken an instant liking and ended up married. Twenty years ago I’m positive that’s what would have happened.
But lo and behold! Merida was allowed to stay true to who she is, a natural force roaming the woods of Scotland. Things are certainly changing for the better and as a mother of two girls I can only regret that this film didn’t come out ten years ago. This is a film I would have loved to share with them when they were in the right age for it.
A step up
Brave is a big step up compared to most of the animated films I’ve seen in terms of equality. But the more I think about it, the more I see it as a step on the way rather than the end goal.
After all: the whole thing about marriage is still a very big deal in Brave. Merida isn’t primarily fighting the Big Bad Bear like a prince would have done: she’s too busy fighting for her rights not to get married and sorting out her complicated relationship with her mother. I look forward to the day when a hero like Merida will be allowed to do the same thing as a male hero would do: killing dragons, saving the day, reaching the sky – rather than worrying about marriage.
In Brave the fairytale princess has broken the chains of convention and freed herself from the mandatory wedding business. With that out the way it’s time to move on.
It’s time to let Merida and her fellow princesses out in full freedom to explore not just their family relationships, but the world outside.
Brave (Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman, US 2012) My rating: 4/5