I rarely get to see a movie in the theatre, but I was super excited to see Brave this past weekend. I had been looking forward to it as the “If I get to go to the movies, I’m going to see that” movie. I didn’t have any reason to want to see it other than the fact that the girl is beautifully animated and has a seemingly confident personality in the previews. I didn’t even know the plot line. It was a redheaded girl, and something about being brave. Good enough.
I was happily surprised to find out that it was not your traditional Disney Princess story at all.
Spoiler Alert, don’t read any more unless you want to know the entire movie, not that I’m not three weeks into it’s release or anything.
So, here’s what I appreciated about the film:
While it seems that the conflict hinges on the daughter’s desire not to marry a firstborn son from one of the three other clans, the conflict is not played out between her and her suitors. It is between Merida and her mother, Queen Elinor, that the conflict and resolution occur throughout the story. We see glimpses into their past as a loving pair- contrasted with the current “Why won’t she ever listen to me?” relationship they have in Merida’s young adult years. Family ties and tradition are upheld in this story, not just in a “something you ought to appreciate” manner, but in a deep “You’ve got to love your Momma” manner. A win for Disney Pixar, in my opinion.
Once the mother is turned into a bear, more on that later, she is forced into a position of listening to her daughter. Merida, is on the other hand, forced to care for and protect her mother, from her father who is out to kill the dreaded Mor’du, a huge crazy-strong bear, that once took his leg in battle. Being a bear is not in her mother’s best interest. Being forced into these new roles, they learn to understand each other. Queen Elinor discovers that her daughter is wise and capable, and even catches her explaining the family history to the other clans in order to pacify their discord. She had been listening all along. Merida discovers that there are, in fact, consequences to her actions. She also learns that, while she may be a strong individual, other people in her life are there for a reason, and she still needs them. In the end, repentance and love are embraced by both mother and daughter and they enjoy a renewed relationship. Win for Disney Pixar number 2.
Oh, yes, and there is that little bit about witchcraft and magic. But if you don’t know me well, then you may be surprised by what I’m about to say. Yes, I’m a Christian. Yes, I appreciate this aspect of the movie. For this reason, witchcraft and magic and other supernatural things do in fact exist. You can’t make them go away by pretending they are not there as the father does in the movie. I’ve spent the last month pondering the pool in Bethesda in John 5. It is there, recorded in Scripture, something very odd, and Jesus didn’t attack that man for waiting there for years in hopes of being healed, he healed him. There is no sin in the existence of the supernatural. There is opportunity for sin in how and why we interact with it. In first world countries, we tend to behave as if it doesn’t exist at all, except in stories and legends. We are too afraid of it. In third world countries, the opposite is the trend. They know it is real and they often worship it. I vote that we ought to do neither, and go read Ephesians 6.
In the movie Brave, the daughter deals with a witch, and with selfishness seeks to change her mother, and actually in classically Biblical fashion, gets exactly what she asks for as punishment. Her mother turns into a bear. A change which will be permanent by the second sunrise unless they “mend the bond torn by pride.” This provides you with PLENTY of things to discuss with your children. Go do it.
Can I just throw in that I love the characters voices?
Back to my analysis.
There are two more “wins” for Disney Pixar in this film. First, the daughter, who engages in activities uncommon for a lady or a princess, does not seek to turn herself into a man or lose her status as the daughter of royalty. Major win. We see way too often characters who would rather give up their position in life to “be themselves” without realizing that it is also a part of themselves the position which they would so willingly lose. Has God made you a princess? a beggar? a student? a single person? a widow? Go think about that. Merida simply does not want to marry and be tied down so soon. As I’ve already mentioned, she also does not ask the witch to make her a man. Good choice, Writers. Way to uphold the fact that women can do awesome things, and stay feminine. Beauty and strength are an excellent combination found in varying expressions within every woman.
For the fourth and final win, the mother-bear and daughter combo ride back to the castle seeking to “mend the bond” and turn her mother back into a human before the father finds out and kills her. They believe that this means they must sew back the embroidery of their family that her mother had been working on, which Merida slashed with a sword in a fit of anger. I am delighted to find that this did not work. In the end, as the sun is slowly rising, Merida places the tapestry over her mother, as a “see, I did it, I mended the bond” expression, in the hopes that it will do the trick, and her human mother will return. As the bears eyes grow black again, and she finds that it is not working, she breaks down crying and says, (paraphrased, my kid was trying to play with the lights on the stairs at this point) “I am sorry. This is my fault. I did this to you.” This is exactly the way we are teaching our kids to apologize. To own up to their own fault in a matter, admit it, and seek forgiveness. Superficial stitches never hold. True confession and repentance are what change relationships and lives. Upon her admission and begging, the familiar hand of her mother brushes her thick frizzy hair, and she is joyfully surprised at her return.
Oh, and maybe a post-script fifth win for this movie is that, at least twice, the mother becomes a real bear, and even attempts to attack her daughter. Yet her daughter stays true to their relationship and never abandons her. This has serious implications in any relationship. We are all sinners, and the effects of sin cause some serious consequences. It can turn us into “real bears”, but we are not to abandon anyone we are joined to- friend, spouse, parent or otherwise. This is going to step on some toes, but if God has called you to be faithful, loyal, to a person, you must be. We have far too many marriages and families being torn apart by the consequences of one or more person becoming a “bear.” Stick with them. It may be scary. They may even attack you. But love and pray and be loyal to God first, and to them as He has called you.
Go hug your Mom.