Friday, 7 September 2012

Why every little girl should see Disney Pixar's Brave

Since Dreamworks' Shrek turned the classic fairytale model on its head in 2001, many films aimed at families have continued to rework old myths and legends in an attempt to update them for a modern audience. Disney Pixar's Brave does just that and Merida, the young princess of Clan DunBrock, is a far cry from the usual fairytale princesses of the Disney archives with her untamed ginger hair and immense archery skills.

Merida's mother, however, has more traditional views on how a princess should behave, and insists that Merida learns how to behave 'properly' and act 'like a lady' - a princess 'rises early', 'does nae stuff her gob' *nom nom nom* and 'doesn't place her weapons on the table'. It's a constant battle between how Merida's mother, Elinor, wants her daughter to act and how Merida actually presents herself to the world. Kind of like the old-fashioned version of someone telling you that you can't drink out of a pint glass because it's 'unladylike', or a bloke saying that women can't play football because it's a male sport, or that girls don't fart *parp*...

Instead of aimlessly wandering around the woods singing 'one day my prince will come' to a swarm of woodland animals who are transfixed by her beauty and do her every bidding (pick your Disney classic), Merida also decides to take charge of her fate and change it. Her life goal is not marriage. Hurrah! She fights for her own hand in marriage by beating all of her suitors in a game of archery. She quite literally breaks out of her constricting dress to do so however, which cleverly depicts how women's fashion and women's rights can, and have gone, hand in hand. You can't do much if you're forced to wear clothing which not only inhibits your every movement but also your breathing. The addition of a female director (Brenda Chapman) to Pixar's predominately male creative team has clearly had an effect and is definitely something that should have happened a long time ago.

Without revealing too much, the plot does not center around a romantic relationship, in fact there isn't even a hint of it when it comes to Merida, instead it's about the relationship between a mother and a daughter, which rivals that of the father-son relationship in Finding Nemo. One particular scene between Merida and Elinor towards the end is especially heart-rending, and will resonate with any girl or woman who has ever felt misunderstood or suffocated by their mother (or even any mother who has ever felt snubbed by their daughter). They go on a journey together and the customary Disney happy ending is not one in which Merida finally conforms to her mother's wishes, but that they eventually learn how to listen to each other's frustrations with a new found understanding of one another.

But just when you think that Pixar have successfully managed to create a story which both tackles gender stereotypes and maintains plenty of fanatsy, magic and humour, the marketing and merchandising team release this...

(source: @meanderingmthr)

Which yet again shows just how strong such gender roles remain for young girls. How about a toy bow and arrow set or something like that? No, instead we get makeup jewellery and a trinket box.


*all images copyright Disney Pixar yadda yadda...

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