I’m somewhat surprised that this film has been nominated for an Oscar for Animated films, but I guess that depends on how this category is actually judged (besides all of the campaigning and gifts and bribery that apparently gets most of the Oscars winners across the line). The animation itself is fabulous, although it does suffer from making the women far too ridiculously slim and fragile (regardless of what action they are doing) whilst making all of them men extremely ugly and ridiculous looking.
Merida is a princess, the daughter of Scottish King Fergus and his wife Elinor. She is reaching an age where she must be betrothed. There are three main suitors, each more unattractive than the last. Merida has allowed her mother to teach her how to be ladylike so she can be a queen, but at heart, she is a tomboy who would prefer to riding wild through the woods and hunting. Neither she nor her mother will listen to the other’s arguments for what her life should be like, and Merida disappears into the forest where she meets a witch and is given a spell to use on her mother to change her. Problem is, it changes her into a bear (there’s backstory with the king losing his leg to a bear early on) and Merida needs to find a way to change her back within some time frame.
A website I really enjoy is Film Autopsy, by Thomas Caldwell, who also reviews films for the Breakfasters on Melbourne’s Triple R community radio station. I quite enjoyed the film, feeling that the moral lessons are not too heavy handed and that some kind of compromise was made by the end of the film. Of course, everyone is happy ever after, but that goes without saying. So I was very surprised to hear how much he despised the message that the film was sending – that a girl needs to follow the path her parents set for her and not find her own way or there will be trouble. (I’d better go back to the review and see if I am totally misrepresenting him here) I’ve mulled this over for months. I mean, usually, I am the first one to get a bit stroppy about the type of representations of women, so why did I not notice this? After much consideration, I can concede that he has a point, however I have a different take on it.
For me, I don’t like the fact that, as a princess, she has a set path that she must follow, she must marry one of these men, and that is that. By the end (spoiler alert) she has not committed to any of them, however she has conceded that she has responsibilities to her family and her role as a royal. (Insert plenty of anti-monarchy stuff here. It’s needed) However, she tries for the quick fix, and instead of reaching a solution, she makes it much worse and hurts her mother. She must find a way to fix the problem and save herself and her family. In doing so, she finds a different path; one that may satisfy both her and her family.
This, to me, is a good message. There is no quick fix. Anything that is worth anything takes hard work. It’s not told in the best possible way, and it’s not the most effective film. Plus, if this is not the message that is getting through, then perhaps it’s not working.
I’ve no interest in seeing the film again, but it was a long way from being the worst film I’ve endured with small children. An Oscar? Ah, what does that really mean anymore anyway?
Brave won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, the BAFTA for Animated Feature and the Oscar for Animated Feature.