And now finally on to more pleasant things…kinda of
One of the things that may strike you if you read numerous reviews and forum discussions about the movie Brave is the amount of discomfort people express.
the wrongheaded nature of this plot twist completely alters the direction of “Brave,” and not in a good way. —LA Times
Brave (2012) Is Pixar’s Most Impersonal and Least Consequential Film and a More Troubling Failure Than Cars 2–Huffington Post
I can’t help but wonder if some of the stronger reactions are coming from the fact that, despite the English being spoken and the familiar themes this was–for many American viewers–essentially a foreign film.
Our culture, thanks in large part to Disney themselves, is largely steeped in a narrow slice of the folklore pie.* Our archetypes of familiarity come from the most romantic of fairy tales and are stuck in a retelling of the same story. Whether she’s falling in love with a beast or a boy with legs or the idea of love (Someday my prince will come ???), the fairy tales we know and return to are all focused on the Maid. We are a society in love with youth and all its promises. Our biggest trend in fiction for the last decade and a half has been books written about maidens, for maidens and around which we linger even as we ourselves move from Mother to Crone.
Celtic lore–largely overlooked by Disney until now–is different. While there are indeed fair maidens, there are also shapeshifters and wise women. While our myths of comfort focus on dancing girls, the Celtic lore has Queen Maebh killing pregnant women and starting wars to steal cows. It’s a harder series of archetypes to digest to be sure, but one that is ultimately more fulfilling.
It’s interesting to me to see this film coming along now, short weeks after my forty-second birthday when I am assuredly shifting from Mother to Crone in my own life.** To be sure, even Brave with it’s passing grade on the Bechdel test, doesn’t spend too much time on the old Crafty Carver upon whose spells the entire structure of this mythic society have spun for generations. But she is there, and she has the answers. Her age and wisdom are what put things right even as much as they upend normalcy along the way. We’re still most of us stuck trying to figure out Cronehood on our own even as we look back fondly upon the Maid.
Ideally as our society ages we’ll see more stories about older women and their lives. I feel that in many ways Brave was a shot over the bow (as it were) and I’m a bit sad that the oddness people feel from the film may impede the maturing and branching out of our folklore.
*And the award for most awkward metaphor goes to….
**I have an eerie counterpoint in Hollywood it would seem. Father of The Bride came out the year I got married. Friends was the hit show when I was a twenty-something trying to figure it all out and now that I’m getting older and grayer, along comes Brave.