The Analyzer (acmeeoy) wrote in ontd_pixar,
The Analyzer

The Bold and the Brave

Brave, Pixar’s 13th feature film, is indeed rather brave. Yes, it strays from the romance focus; yes, it gives us a strong female lead; yes, it questions hetero-monogamous-marriage as the happy ending. But the real derring-do comes from the fact that it is woman-centered and focused on a mother-daughter relationship. Less overtly, it also supplies a witty visual onslaught of gender as performance, particularly via the body-swap portion of the narrative in which Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) acts out her uber-feminine ways in big bear drag.

The relationship between the rebellious Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), who is more interested in archery and horseback riding than in learning how to be a “proper lady,” and her very proper mother, the queen, captures the complexity of mother/daughter relationships and (mis)communication. Indeed, the film could serve as a companion text to Professor Deborah Tannen’s book You’re Wearing THAT?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation.

Noting that the book was inspired by a reporter asking her, “What is it about mothers and daughters? … Why are our conversations so complicated, our relationships so fraught?” Tannen wrote:

There is a special intensity to the mother-daughter relationship because talk–particularly talk about personal topics–plays a larger and more complex role in girls’ and women’s social lives than in boys’ and men’s. For girls and women, talk is the glue that holds a relationship together–and the explosive that can blow it apart. That’s why you can think you’re having a perfectly amiable chat, then suddenly find yourself wounded by the shrapnel from an exploded conversation.

In the film, Merida and Elinor have many such explosive conversations, with Merida railing against her mother’s attempts to imprison her in the princess box via directives such as, “A princess does not chortle … rises early … above all a princess strives for perfection. … A princess does not raise her voice.” In these exchanges, Elinor comes off not only as an overbearing uber-critical mother, but also as a defender of the patriarchy. However, referring to Tannen again, who speaks of her own mother’s focus on marriage, “I think she was simply reflecting the world she had grown up in, where there was one and only one measure by which women were judged successful or pitiable: marriage.”

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Tags: brave, review
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