Brave–Did Pixar Get It Right?


I try to only go to bad movies on purpose.  This means I sit in front of the 27 inch computer screen, (moving my head up and down like some strange bird, trying to get my trifocals in the right place) the light glaring right in my eyes, passionately reading review after review, trying to figure out ahead of time what I’ll disagree with.  Sometimes I look at Roger Ebert’s face before he got sick and remember Gene Siskel and the banter between the two of them.  Sometimes I mourn for the feminist paper Sojourner we used to have in Boston because that paper had a killer film critic who I really liked.

By the way, I googled feminist movie reviews and the site I found was pretty cliched.  We all know about Bound and Fried Green Tomatoes and all the other lesbian and pseudo lesbian movies because THERE AREN’T THAT MANY.

Back to Pixar.  The reviewers all claim that Brave’s protagonist is a boy in a dress, that the creators at Pixar could only imagine a girl wanting to do everything a boy can do.  Ummm…isn’t that basic reality?  I mean, I get that there are femmy straight girls who liked playing with Barbie’s and still want to have power, but as a tomboy, football-playing, competitive girl, I have to say I always wanted to do everything boys got to do.  Basically, Brave’s protagonist is ME, so if feminists have a problem with this, ummmm….HELLO!

And really, the core relationship in the movie is one of a girl with her controlling mother–is there something anti-feminist about that?  Because if there is I better shred everything I’ve ever written–or just about.  Foregrounding a mother/daughter relationship is about as women-centered as it gets.

And of course, the movie is gorgeous, even if we didn’t see it in 3-d, which I mourn deeply.  And the mother/daughter focus makes the plot unexpected in some ways–it’s not a love story, and you keep waiting for the boy to show up, and he never does, which is, frankly, pretty cool.  There’s also myth, magic and all things Celtic, which, as a Celt, I really dig.

Speaking of culture, it was really a riot to be surrounded by the crinkling of plastic bags, the smell of popcorn and that slightly sweaty summer kid smell that is both sweet and a little sour, the sounds of gasps, and bursts of laughter, and whispers all around us in the dark.  Once I went to see Dream Girls on Christmas Day–it was me, my partner, our queer friends, and the African American community…a packed theatre.  I loved hearing the women calling out at the screen, the “you tell ’em, girl,” their loud applause at different emotional or comic high points and at the end.  Sometimes, you just get lucky like this.  Going to a movie becomes something more wonderful than sitting with strangers in the dark.

Jump to the end of the story:  I liked the movie Brave.  It might not be the best movie Pixar has ever made, it might rely a little too much on cliche without the sneaky adult humor, but it did make me cry, and it’s basically about girls like me, who like to ride horses and shoot arrows and beat everyone at, well, everything.  So.  Tell my story, Pixar.  I’m not a boy in a skirt, or even very butch, but I have Merida’s fierce desire for freedom, her wildness and rebellion, her longing to determine her fate.  I might wish her more idiosyncratic and complicated (like Mulan), but I’ll take strong tomboy movies over romances any day of the week.

Not feminist?  I mean, really.

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