The Brave is the first Disney movie which brings into the light another type of female-character and another type of subject.
Merida, the central character, is a Scottish princess, which throughout the story tries to exercise her free-will and to convince her mother that she will not only reject tradition, but she will not embrace the life her mother wants for her. However, her mother is a good and wise person, but her flaw is that she doesn’t listen to her daughter’s arguments and she thinks she knows better what is good for her – the existential dilemma of all young people in the present, as we can observe. So, the movie portrays this conflict mother-daughter and the progress of their relationship. However, the movie also includes the feminist theory and points of view which can be seen in the central female-character, Merida. Now, Merida is, how I’ve already said, a princess BUT she is not like the others Disney’s princesses that we know. She is beautiful and good but she is totally different from the others princesses: she loves archery, which is supposed to be a man’s sport, she likes riding and the most important, she doesn’t want to marry.
She rejects marriage and as we can see, she doesn’t end up falling in love or marrying someone and live happily ever after. She has a different ending, which is pretty interesting if we think at the others princesses.How I’ve already said, in the movie is highlighted the feminist movement through the views of Merinda. She wants “a room of her own, an identity of her own”. She doesn’t want to become a princess like her mother, she doesn’t want to have the “traits which a proper princess should have: compassion, patience, caution, cleanliness, a yearning for perfection.” All she wants is “freedom from the corset of patriarchal gender norms”. She wants to do the things she likes.
She rebels against the perfect model of a princess, she rebels against tradition, and against her own mother which tries to explain her the role of a princess has in the society and what is she expected to do or how is expected to be.Now, first of all, an interesting clue which shows us that Merida is not like an ordinary princess is her look. This thing leads us actually to “écriture feminine”, but in a different way. As Helene Cixous pointed out, women can speak also with their body, not only by means of language. So, Merida, tries to say something by the way she dresses. Her appearance, her hair, her outfit, all of these suggest that she is different from the others and from what her mother thinks she is, and that she “will not leave without a fight”.
She is determined to achieve her goal. Actually, there is a scene that contains a clue about her intentions. When her mother tries to arrange a loop that come out from her arranged hair, Merida puts it back exactly as it was, although it didn’t fit. This is her way of saying that she will not embrace her mother’s intentions at all and that she feels very well when she is just Merida, and not princess Merida.
Also, we can see that she doesn’t have a proper look for a princess: she is not combed, her dresses are not exactly like those of a princess, she is clumsy and her curls, which are red like fire, seem to be rebel too. Also, her manners at the table and what she eat, seem to be totally inadequate for a princess and the most important, she always puts her weapon on the table, which is why her mother always says to her “Merida, a princess does not put her weapons on the table”. This is actually ironic because a princess should not have a weapon at all, as her mother says. However, I think I pointed out what I meant to express: she is the opposite of a princess in terms of manner, behavior and will. All she wants is to be herself, and not hiding behind a princess.
Now, as to her mother’s character, Elinor, she represents society, from my point of view. She is the one who correct Merida every step of the way, who tries to learn her the duties of a princess and how she should behave, who does not let her to be who she wants, and who tries to put her in a frame suitable for a princess. For me, this sounds pretty much like feminists problems: women are not able to be who they want, but only what the society decide for them, they were not able to create, and intellectually speaking, they were not under no circumstance equals to men. This is the same here, except Merida doesn’t fight for the right to create something, intellectually speaking, but for the right to be seen as strong and as skilled as a man from her kingdom, or this, is not possible.
For example the scene when the challengers, who are supposed to pass the power tests for her hand, don’t really succeed in this, she challenges herself for her own hand, and she shows them that she is better at archery than any other male contestant from there, thing which is actually true. So, what her mother do, is to argue with her, and to tell her that she embarrassed her family, but she also embarrassed them (the male contestants), and they will start a war. She embarrassed them? How? Well, by simply showing that for a princess, she is better than anyone at a sport which is supposed to be played only by men, and this of course creates conflicts. However, in her universe, because her “universe appears to be far more fascinating than the outer world” she is happier than ever by simply doing things like climbing a rock, riding or drinking water from the waterfall. She is called brave not only because she does things that men do, but because she stands for her rights, she reject the marriage (a tradition in her family to marry with the winner of the competition) and she wants to be herself, to have an identity of her own.
Her bravery means something for her family too. Her bravery is the one which changes her mother’s view on the world and who manages to reconcile the clans. In terms of gender roles, her role in society is already well-formed. Her mother has established already how is she going to be, and she teaches her almost every day how to behave like a princess and as a woman too, and how to be a model for others, because, as Simone de Beauvoir said “One is not born a woman, one becomes one”. Her mother, how I’ve already said, dictate her how to dress, what to say, how to speak, walk and even what to eat. Why? Well, because she is a woman, and mostly because she is a princess. This is the behavior she is supposed to have, but she doesn’t want this, because she loses her identity in this way. We can see that she struggles to accomplish her mother’s ideas almost every day, she only keeps a few hours for herself, but when it comes for reality, when she sees that this is what her mother wants for her in this live, and that this thing can become permanent, she steps back and this time she struggles to open her mom’s eyes, to fight for the freedom to be whoever she wants to be.
She is conscious that she will no longer do the same thinks she love and she will not have the freedom to do archery anymore or to act like, well, like she does, and she cannot perform this act her whole life. Yes, she still wants to be a princess, but another type of princess. However, this movie portrays the unexpected: the men’s world is somehow underestimated in relation with the women’s world. There are lots of factors which support this statement.
First of all, let’s take a look at the contestants. Besides her father, which represents the archetype of a true king (physically, he is more developed than any other man character), the others (the contestants of the clan) seem to be a joke in comparison with him. Her father Two of the contestants As we can see, they don’t (physically speaking) seem to have much to offer, and not only this, but from the movie, it can be seen that they seem to have nothing to do with the virtues of a man. For example, in the scene when the clans begin to fight, they do not use the techniques that are supposed to be used by men. They actually take the place of the girls: they pull on their hair, bite their feet, they fight with their hands, and even pull their nipples, and all of these can be seen in the fight scene. Secondly, although they are not how men are supposed to be, strong and skilled, they are however proud enough to fight, after their possibilities of course. This is the irony: they are proud to show their “power” (which is missing when it comes to them).
Now, as a woman and a princess, Elinor, Merida’s mother, is the representation of a perfect princess: she is beautiful, she eats healthy, she has good manners and suitable gestures for a Queen, she is the perfect representation of a true Queen. As a mother and as a Queen, she tries to make her daughter just like her, but in this process, she breaks the bond with her. Merida, as a strong and stubborn person, goes to a witch to change her mother. We can see that after her mother becomes a bear, and she is unable to talk and to express herself, their relationship begins to improve. Elinor is somehow bound to listen to her daughter, because she cannot talk, and she is also bound to forget about her manners: as she is a bear, she cannot eat or drink like a human. So this fact, no matter how awkward may sound, is actually a good thing for Merida learns to look outside of herself and listen to the heart, the good intentions inside, of her mother”. So this adventure, in which Elinor has to struggle with the life from the point of view of a bear, actually represents a return to nature, a return to her own identity and actually leads to progress: she has the change to listen to her daughters and to see her inner struggle and her true character. In this way, she changes her opinion in terms of marriage and in terms of her model of a princess; in this way she sees her daughter as a better person than she thought she could be.
So, gender convention is a major cause of familial discord, a problem which exists nowadays too. When you don’t share the same opinions like others, or don’t embrace the tradition, you are different in a bad way. You are an “outsider”. So, what this movie does, is to “challenge the dualistic notion that in order to fit into a society you have to be one or the other, either/or, female or male, woman or man, feminine or masculine.” Or this, is not true, as we can observe. Merida, although is a woman, she is strong and brave like a man. She is a good person, a suitable princess and a great daughter, despite her different opinions and activities. In terms of heteronormativity, Merida rejects the marriage her mother prepares for her.
The movie doesn’t actually portray the reason, but it does want to bring another subject in discussion. The only think we know from the movie is that it doesn’t end with some love scenes or a suitable marriage between the main character and her soul-mate. Merida remains single, as she was and she seems to be very happy actually, more than ever I would say. This is not a surprise, if we think at her behavior throughout the movie. She doesn’t want to have a husband, to have a perfect marriage, like the other princesses from Disney’s movie do. She just want to follow her path, let’s say.
Despite she has different opinions from the others, in terms of marriage, and that she doesn’t want the same thing as the other girls do, and despite the fact that she doesn’t seem to fit in her family frame, she is still very happy and pleased. This is like a moral lesson for all of those who think that conventionality will make you happier or that being different means being “broken”. She is the example of a different person, with totally different points of view, but who manages to achieve her goal, to achieve the freedom of being herself. She is totally different from the other princesses, she is not the “”princess narrative”, she does not follow that consistent trajectory in terms of representation of gender roles but yet, in the end, she is as happy as they are, maybe happier, I would say.