Jul 082012

Spoiler alert: Please do not read this post if you would like to see the movie Brave, but haven’t yet. Go see the movie, then come back. I’ll still be here; I promise. If you’ve already seen it then grab a cup of tea, and don’t leave without letting me know what you thought of the movie, or what you think about my thoughts about the movie.

We’d been in “tragedy” mode all week and needed a diversion from checking the internet for updates and huddling around the TV waiting for live briefings, so I took the kids to see Brave. All I knew about the new Disney-Pixar animated film was that it was set in Scotland and featured a young princess with hair like mine, just a bit redder. As the Waldo Canyon Fire burned, and brave firefighters continued their fight to save my city, we slipped into theatre five with a massive bucket of popcorn and a couple icy sodas.

It turns out I have a new favorite Disney movie. Did I even have an old favorite? I don’t think I did. If I did, I can’t think of it. What kind of favorite would that be? I have a lot of least favorite Disney movies. Oh. Oh. Oh. Wait! I did have a favorite. I liked Toy Story. Toy Story was a different kind of movie for Disney. It wan’t the typical story of a motherless princess who at the tender age of 16 has all the vavoom of Gloria from Modern Family and the personality of a wet noodle. Brave is a different kind of movie, too, which is why I like it!

I go to a movie to be entertained. I’m not a professional movie reviewer, I’m not versed in the nuances of the art of film and animation, and I’m certainly not looking for life lessons and mentors for my children or myself in the fast moving frames of a Disney movie. That said, I’m not immune to the subtle messages a movie sends its viewers, and a message that comes across loud and clear in so many Disney movies is that mothers are weak, disposable, expendable, unnecessary, and invisible. Daughters are supposed to remain childlike, oblivious, asleep, cloistered in a tower, or cleaning house until Prince Charming comes along.

A Disney princess movie with a plot revolving around the relationship between a mother and a daughter? A Pixar film with a female protagonist? Rare, if not unheard of! Until now. The quintessential perfect movie? No. The answer to world peace? No — but for this independent minded, athletic mom it might just be a step in the right direction. Yes, Merida, the young, feisty, athletic princess has a mother who loves her and is actively involved in her life! She has a father who enjoys her company, and she has rambunctious siblings. She has a family! Reason enough to like this movie.

I like it also because Merida’s strong and independent just like her mother. Is Queen Elinor a perfect mother? Of course not, there is no such thing as a perfect mother, just a mother who is perfect for the job of parenting her children. Elinor is overbearing in her determination to make Merida conform to her image of a princess who is ready and willing to marry the eldest of one the neighboring clans. Not that I have any experience, myself, with being overbearing. Stop … really, come now … stop laughing! Sometimes I might be a bit overbearing a person might be overbearing because of her fierce love.

Before Merida even comes face to face with the suitors, she is determined to have some say in her own fate. This is significant because the complete ineptness of the suitors has nothing to do with her mindset. (Their ineptness does, however, help cement her resolve.) Is Merida a perfect daughter? No, she’s a young person trying to figure out how to relate to adults even as she becomes an adult herself: growing pains. Some young adults feel their growing pains acutely. They have sore joints and bones; they have awkward strides and strained vocal cords; they say and do things they later regret. For some, the growing pains happen in the quiet of the night with hardly a notice, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Young adults hold the world out at arm’s length, they examine it and take it back. They learn to say I’m sorry and I love you from a place deep, deep inside. If they don’t go through those growing pains then the I’m sorry and the I love you remain in that childhood stage: a place of duty not ownership.

Both Merida and Elinor go through some significant growing pains, which is something very important to note. There is no magical age when a person is finished growing. Yes, moms and dads, sometimes we have growing pains too. There is no limit to the depth of our love.

In my humble opinion, that’s what this movie is about. That, and really cute triplets.