Sweet Snow White and demure Cinderella are passé, yet my young daughters still adore them. Even so, the archetype for Disney's leading ladies has shifted over time to valiant heroines who don't need any rescuing. In fact, the new Disney princesses of the past 20 years have started saving the prince too. Therefore I expected Brave
to be a tough, girl power film, and it is. It also proves princess movies don't have to have lots of pink or even (for the first time) a romantic love story. What I didn't expect is for Brave
to go so far as to be anti-male and anti-marriage to push its feminist message.
The protagonist, Merida, is a princess living with her parents and three little brothers centuries ago in the highlands of Scotland. When her parents plan for her customary betrothal, Merida rebels, and by taking matters into her own hands, sets off a sequence of cataclysmic events.
Her mother, Queen Elinor, symbolizes everything Merida loathes. In early scenes, she is loving and playful with her daughter, but over time, the Queen becomes rigid and unhappy, married to someone who's not her intellectual peer. She attempts to tame Merida's fiery free spirit by turning her into "all that a princess should be...perfection." Merida doesn't want fancy clothes or to sit like a delicate flower - she'd much rather shoot arrows and ride her horse. "I don't want my life to be over," she declares. "I want my freedom!" I kept expecting someone, anyone, to come into the film at this point to show Merida how wonderful and harmonious marriage can be.
Instead, all I could think was, I wouldn't want to marry any of the men she has to choose from either
. In fact, not one boy or man in the movie is shown in a positive light. Her little brothers are juvenile delinquents; the suitors are all stupid and ugly; and her own father plays the central buffoon, a barbarian who can't stop retelling the same story of his hatred for bears. I kept waiting for a man, any male at all, to be shown as respected. Even Merida's male horse, Angus, lets her down.
It is said in the film that "one selfish act can turn the face of a kingdom" and it does. Merida is not brave, but selfish, and her mother pays the highest price. Merida barely apologizes until her mother is in mortal danger. Until then, we are supposed to buy that mother and daughter are learning to appreciate one another. Queen Elinor is forced to let go of her perfectionist ways, but Merida - she doesn't change much at all. She doesn't show compassion for her mom, who must lose all her former dignity before she can see Merida's point of view. If any of the characters are supposed to be brave, it's Queen Elinor - certainly not Merida. Brave
earns its PG rating mostly for violence. There are several brawls and scary bear chases. There are also a few sorcery scenes that could be scary for younger viewers. Though it's an animated film, in one scene a group of men are left without kilts and we actually see their bare butts. That's a first as far as I know for animated films.
The music, animation, and landscapes of Scotland are nice to see on the big screen. Teens might identify with the mother/ child miscommunication. Yet overall, I can't recommend Brave
, which is a shame after all the hype.
Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of 4 young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues. Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com