by Cam Ostrow
Let me begin by saying that I am somewhat of a Pixar enthusiast. Pixar films hold two spots in the list of my top five favorite movies, and if I had the attention span to think of my top ten, I’m sure at least three more would pull impressive rank. So when I heard that Pixar was coming out with a film featuring its first female lead, I was excited.
I loved Brave, but it’s definitely not a perfect movie. It almost undoubtedly lacks the staying-power of Toy Story and the star power of Finding Nemo, but nevertheless it’s entertaining, fun, and the animation looks so real it’s unreal (ahem, please excuse that pun-reel). And anyways, a Pixar film is kind of like a Snuggie: even if it’s not the best ever made, it never fails to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
The film’s centers around Merida, a young girl (with an adorable Scottish accent, might I add) who is fated to become a queen and marry one of three suitors who will compete for her hand. As far as badasses go, Merida is pretty up there. She kills it at archery, she rides her horse like she’s one of the three horsewomen of the new-wave feminist apocalypse, and she absolutely does not want to get married. Without giving away the ending, I’ll just say that when Merida gets the chance to change her fate, she goes for it.
As far as persona goes, Merida rocks. She’s independent, smart, strong-willed, and free-thinking. But even more than that, from a feminist perspective, the characterization of Merida does something that film so often forgets to do with female characters, which is to give them their own stories. Brave, to me, is a positive film for young girls because is featured female is totally awesome, but also because said female finally gets to be a star without having to share the spotlight with a male. To be fair, Merida is certainly not the first positive female character in children’s films: there’s Shrek’s Princess Fiona, Tangled’s Repunzel, Mulan, and the list probably goes on. But what makes Merida unqiue is that she exists completely outside of male affection. The “male gaze” in Brave exists only to be laughed at, and Merida is free to develop into something more than someone’s girlfriend. Not only does Merida not need a man to make her happy; Brave as a movie does not need a man to make its plot progress.
So maybe it’s true that Brave is not the world’s greatest movie, and maybe it doesn’t address every single issue plaguing women today… but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t present one kick-ass female who deserves to be seen by young girls everywhere. And answer me this: if ya had the chance to show young girls a movie with a strong female lead, wouldjya?!?!