25 February 2012

Brave: Gutsy Girl Proves Herself: News at Eleven

Brave is the first Pixar movie with a female main character:
Merida [Kelly Macdonald] is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane). Merida's actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Wise Woman (voice of Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it's too late.
See trailer
Why I'm looking forward to Brave

- Awesome hair.
- Billy Connelly.
- AWESOME hair.
- All the clips so far have been effortlessly funny.
- Doesn't seem to have "find true love" as the main plotline.
- Billy Connelly.  [And Emma Thompson and Robbie Coltrane, for that matter.]
- OMG the HAIR!

I am so definitely going to see this movie.  And I know I'll enjoy it.  I love the adventures of Girls Doing Stuff.

Why I'm not looking forward to Brave

It's not just that we've had this story before - that stories about a girl proving that girls can do "non-girly" things are about the only Girls Doing Stuff stories that some people seem able to tell.  It's the way this one seems to be presented.

Merida starts out exceptional (a princess).  She disdains things normally associated with girls (dresses).  Her skills are greater than all her peers (beyond exceptional).  She chooses to refuse the role her society expects of their princesses (getting married off to the winner of an archery contest) and this brings disaster (possibly because the three fathers of the archery contestants will end up in a civil war unless their princess obligingly settles the rulership of the land on her back).  Trying to fix the situation brings about a curse (I would assume that this is the bear which Merida will kill, thus resolving the curse).

Problematic.

The story so far is GIRLSCAN'TDOTHAT GIRLSCAN'TDOTHAT GIRLSCAN'TDOTHAT GIRLSCAN'TDOTHAT - even if they're super-exceptional.  Girly things are bad.  Girls doing non-girly things cause disaster.  Disaster is to be fixed by girl doing non-girly thing.

At a guess Merida will end up being allowed to inherit her kingdom rather than being a vessel for someone else to inherit it.  She will probably win her freedom from those horrible restrictive dresses.  Possibly she will be able to inspire less exceptional girls to disdain girly things and kill bears as well.

Whether any of this leads Merida to attain the political and economic nous to actually rule a country is another question.  And, oddly enough, everything I've seen of her suggests that Merida's mother would be a great person to learn how to rule a country from.

I'm sure Brave will be a wonderful movie, and I expect to enjoy it.  But instead of Merida-Hates-Dresses trying to escape an arranged marriage, I would have adored Merida-the-exceptional leading her people into battle, or Merida-the-wise outwitting those trying to undermine her father's rule, or Merida-the-can't-shoot-straight inventing a new and far better method of killing bears.  All of those great possible stories which I could love, which will never come into being because over and over and over again the story has to waste its time on GIRLSCAN'TDOTHAT.

This is why I write egalitarian worlds.

11 comments:

  1. But at least there's the hair.

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  2. I had much the same feeling a while back...but it's a Pixar movie, so I'm resigned to see it 50 times whether it's any good or not, so I figure I'd better give it a sporting chance.

    (I eventually came to appreciate even Cars, which has a less problematic but slightly more hackneyed plot. It took about 8 viewings though)

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  3. Is it so hard to create stories which don't revolve around the fact that being a girl is a barrier to being a hero?

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  4. @ Andrea, If it is set in the past, YES. Girls were property back then.

    Maggie

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  5. So don't set it in the past. Set it in an alternate past. One where girls can do things, and curses make bears...oh wait.

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  6. I like this rant, and I like your egalitarian worlds. :)

    I agree, both that I expect to love Brave, and at the same time I'm tired of seeing the same stories over and over. I have a similar problem with some fantasy novels where _every_ named female character struggles angrily against oppression. No one is happy to be an innkeeper's wife or a mother; they _all_ want to take up arms. _Every_ princess runs away from her life, none of them learn to love politics, or art. When the only awesome stories about girls are about them proving themselves physically, trying to be one of the boys, it can play into the idea that "female" pursuits are inherently unworthy. See also: in some YA when _all_ girly girls are shallow, useless bitches.

    It isn't that those stories shouldn't exist, but that I wish there were a broader range of stories presenting a broader range of possibilities!

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  7. Very true, Lindsay. In some stories women seem to come in three categories: girlswhokickass, prostitutes and background. And while I enjoy girlswhokickass, I dislike the implication that every other kind of girl is boring or bad.

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  8. Andrea, I hate to bug you but could you post book four for the touchstone series as a paperback on Amazon. I want to get several sets before Christmas as gifts. I went to go order the first set and there isn't a hard copy of grat. ending. Some of the people I'm getting them for don't use computers.

    Maggie

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  9. Whoops - sorry! I've been lazy. I'll look into it today.

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  10. Okay - TPB version released into the wilds. It's up already at CreateSpace (https://www.createspace.com/3812520) and will make its way to Amazon in about a week and then wend its way to other outlets over the next couple of months.

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  11. Maggie SilverthornMarch 1, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Thank you Andrea

    Maggie :)

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