Pixar Gets It Right With Brave

I get so caught up sometimes in reaching the need for more strong female role models for our girls in mainstream movies and TV shows, that I often times find myself being a little cynical.



Though I was more than a little excited the first few times I saw the trailer for Brave, the cynic in me couldn’t help but wonder how the great idea for this movie and character seemed almost too good to be true. I wondered how long it would take for that great idea it to be ruined part way through the movie. I also wondered if maybe the movie would just fall flat and no matter how great it was it would end with her riding off into the sunset with her prince. Just like every other princess movie.

But despite my fears that it wouldn’t live up to expectations, I was still hopeful.  After all both my son and daughter wanted to see it as much as I did. So we went to go see it. Within the first ten minutes I was covered in goosebumps, and was sure that Pixar had gotten in right.

Brave is the story of Princess Merida, a skilled archer and the daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. Merida is determined to carve her own path in life by refusing to take part in an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the Scottish Highlands where the film is set. Inadvertently Merida’s actions unleash chaos in the kingdom. When she asks an old Witch for help Merida is granted a wish that backfires but forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery and of love.

There are so many things I absolutely adored about Brave (beware of semi-spoilers from this point on) that the only way I could think to get them was to simply list then in no particular order.

  1. Merida is beautiful. I don’t mean in the traditional thin, blond and blue-eyed way we often get served our princesses. I mean in a healthy natural way. Her hair is wild and unkempt, she is not offensively skinny, and has an athletic body shape (as this horse riding, rock climbing highly skilled archer should). Merida is the closest thing to natural real beauty I have ever seen in animated film. If your daughter wants to be like Merida, simply recommend hiking, rock climbing and a lot of outdoor activities.
  2. Merida is too young for love and boys. No, this is not something we the viewers figure out, this is something Merida clearly states over and over again. Unlike most Disney princesses who are dying to get married as soon as they possibly can. In fact the movie ends not really clarifying if Merida will ever be ready for marriage. BUT she will be ready to chase her fate, whatever it ends up being.  Seeing Brave sparked a wonderful healthy conversation about how girls don’t have to grow up to get married. Girls can grow up to be whatever they want.
  3. Queen Elinor. Though I suppose I could be wrong, but in my recent memory there has never been an animated movie that takes us through the parent child relationship from the viewpoint of a mother and daughter. And the best part was that in the conflict between mother and daughter both are wrong and both are right. As it often is in real life. In a family we sometimes have to work hard to understand one another, and many times the conflicts that happen in a family are not a simple case of right and wrong. Communication is key.
  4. The women save the day. I love that in all the dangerous fight sequences in the movie it is strictly Elinor and Merida doing the saving. At no point are they rescued by the men (with the exception of some crafty help from her three younger brother when trying to escape the castle). Finally my kids got to see a movie with action and conflict where there was no prince coming to the rescue at the end of the day. Nope, it was the daughter saving the mother and the mother saving the daughter.
  5. My son loved it. I had no doubts that my little Irish dancing 7-year-old daughter would adore Merida and this movie. I was pleased that she loved it even more than I thought she would, but I was by no means surprised. I was however amazed at how much my 9-year-old Avenger loving superhero worshipping son loved it. “That was one of the best movies I have ever seen, mom!” He exclaimed as we walked from the theater. I want girls to have a role model they can truly identify with and be inspired by, and Merida fits that bill and then some. But the idea of boys, such as my son, not seeing Merida as a “girl” but just another awesome action hero to emulate while playing make believe outside, filled my heart with joy.
  6. It was a beautiful movie. Not that you’d expect anything less from Pixar, but I have to note the soundtrack and the beautiful Scottish highlands were exquisite and simply stunning to watch and listen too. Though this may not mean much to the kids, I have to admit certain shots took my breath away.

In the end, my cynicism was for naught. Brave was everything I hoped it would be and so much more. On the way home I asked my kids what they thought the lesson of the movie was (noting that there were a number of lessons to be learned).

My daughter answered, "Daughters should listen to their mothers AND mothers should listen to their daughters." My son added "and EVERYONE should listen to their heart."

This was by far one of the most fabulous movies I’d seen in ages. If you are a mother, a daughter, a lover of action, of beautiful animation, fabulous writing, and being inspired, than go see Brave. Today.

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