I sat down to watch Brave with few expectations. All I knew about the storyline was that there was a red-headed girl… and archery… and Scotland… mysterious standing stones… and a bear?
Ten minutes into the movie, I thought I had its number. It was obviously going to be a girl runs off to have adventures denied to her because she’s female, and saves the day movie. Maybe with a dose of …then she meets a handsome dude who’ll love her for who she is thrown in for good measure.
I was wrong (oh, you tricksy, tricksy movie!).
Merida does have adventures–and you can say she saves the day–but only after she messes up. The emotional core of the story is not a romance, but the relationship between mother and daughter. Merida’s growth as a character is not becoming the Warrior Woman Who Saves the Clans, but about recognizing her own part in her conflict with her mother.
I was delighted by this movie, which came at just the right time to dissipate some of my YA fiction fatigue. I’d gotten to the point where I’d drop a book like a hot potato when the dreaded words “but the hot new guy knows more than he’s telling” (and their variations) appeared in the blurb. I was tired of books with female protagonists surrounded by guys, with nary a meaningful relationship with another woman in sight. I didn’t like how parents disappeared off the face of the earth in most young adult fiction. And I was so over seeing martial prowess as the only type of strength worth aspiring to.
Brave tackles all of these in the best way possible. I almost cheered at the lack of hot dudes (really, most people do not meet Mr. Right in high school, or at the equivalent age). I was moved by the relationship between Merida and her mother–the clash of their strong wills, their inability to reach one other, the strength of their love underneath the hurt and guilt. I love how Merida’s mother shows her strength as queen, not with a sword in her hands, but with her words. I love how she can stop a brawl in her hall just by walking down the length of it. She shows Merida another kind of weapon to add to her arsenal (along with her archery prowess), just as Merida shows her mother that it’s okay to be a different kind of princess.
This was a refreshing addition to the coming-of-age genre. If you watched Brave, what did you think of it?