Disney's "Brave": Not for the Faint of Heart

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The fact that the suitors agree with Merida about marrying out of choice is a nice twist that I wasn’t expecting. But the constant brawling and buffoonery among the males shows the difficulty that Hollywood seems to have in creating a movie with decent examples of both sexes. Is Brave telling us that the presence of strong women in a kids’ film needs to be counterbalanced by goofy men? An extreme thought perhaps, but in this film all of the men are shown to be pretty juvenile and prone to violent outbursts. The males are minor characters to be sure and they are there, in part, to provide comic relief, but a little intelligence and balance would be welcome.

For me, the most surprising thing about this film was the violence. Perhaps I am guilty of stereotyping in assuming that a film with a female protagonist would include adventure and action without a high degree of violence, but wow, I was shocked. There are knives thrown, including a cleaver to the head of a stuffed bear. As Elinor in bear form begins to turn more wild than tame, she nearly attacks her daughter.

 

And Mor’du is truly frightening. Merida and Elinor save the day at the end of the film—a nice change from most movies in which even the most courageous females are pushed aside to make room for male heroes—but the final battle between Elinor the bear and Mor’du is extremely nasty, capped by a very scary scene in which Mor’du pins Merida to the ground and very nearly closes his mouth on her head. The stuff of nightmares for sure.

While Brave succeeds in giving children a strong, un-sexualized female protagonist, it fails to achieve excellence overall because of its excessive violence and one-dimensional male characters.

I can’t help but think that Pixar lost confidence is its very likable protagonist and her compelling if familiar story, fearing that she would not appeal to the all-important male audience on her own, and believing they needed to pad the story with silly sight gags and lots of weapons and hand-to-hand combat in order to attract male viewers. It is wonderful to see Pixar step outside their comfort zone with their first female protagonist, but they need to ditch the gratuitous violence and puerile humour* in order to do their heroine justice.

What do you think? Have you seen Brave yet?

 * Examples include mooning, men walking around bare-bottomed, and the use of a maid's ample bosom to hide a key only to have one of the sons dive into her dress to retrieve it. The latter scene is implied but not shown.

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