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.

10 February 2012

Research - Apocalyptica by the Sea

Attempting to write apocalyptica (not post-apocalyptica - this is a [partial] apocalypse in process rather than one of those 100 years later jobs) set in the near-now is something which it helps to fact-check - or you'll have a percentage of your readers falling out of your story because they immediately spot an impossibility in your setting.

The first setting in And All the Stars, St James Station, was a fairly easy thing to research, since it's the station I use going home from work.  Even then I've blithely swapped the location of the toilets for the sake of dramatic convenience ( :) ), a change I'll probably have to include an author's note about.  Now that the unfortunate Madeleine is departing its dusty confines (with a brief side-trip to Circular Quay), I took a lunch hour last week for Actual Research on the next setting in the book, Finger Wharf in Woolloomooloo.

It's about a twenty minute walk from where I work, much of it through the grassy The Domain, and was a very useful trip for getting a good visual grip on the location for the next three or four chapters.  [Not to mention a chance to get a pie with peas from Harry's Cafe de Wheels, which sadly will not be open during the apocalypse.]

Finger Wharf is an odd place, sitting between two peninsulas, with a spectacular view of the Sydney skyline (and, ah, strange alien spires).  It's right next to a botanic garden/park on one side, and a naval base on the other, and is the home of very very rich people.  [I gather Russell Crow lives there, among others.]  And there I am, feeling immensely out of place wandering along past the row of incredibly expensive restaurants, and trying not to be too obvious peering at all the apartments and working out how one gets inside them.  I am by no means the kind of person with the chutzpah to try and talk my way inside for an inspection, though I did handily find some interior apartment shots thanks to my friend Google.

The trip did bring to my attention all the massive boats lined up outside.  They made me want to put a water chase scene in the book - I mean, Sydney Harbour, it cries out for water chases!  But there's the pesky issue of keys...

Anyway, And All the Stars proceeds apace.  I'm not a quick writer of first drafts, but progress is being made.