I can’t think of one good male role model in Disney/Pixar’s “Brave.” Nor does it treat its female characters very well, either, although the full explanation requires a spoiler alert. Not that we don’t expect there to be a happy ending, but I was slightly surprised by *how* we get through the middle of the film. So I’ll leave that to later.
All the male characters–including and especially the King, who is our titular heroine Merida’s father–are ineffectual braggarts and buffoons. The King relies on the Queen to handle virtually every difficult situation. All he and the other clan leaders (and their sons and followers) do is fight, and they don’t even do that very well. None of these “warriors” would last a day in the world of Game of Thrones. Princess Merida’s little triplet brothers do assist her a couple times, but only after they’re bribed to do so, or see a chance for mischief-making.
**spoiler alert **
Directors (and authors) Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (along with another “co-director”/author and a fourth author, whose names we’ll omit out of charity) do not treat their women very well. For a story that is supposed to be about female empowerment, the film’s ending completely undercuts its message. Yes, we see Merida become a skilled archer; and she appears to know something about living in the forest. A tomboy, she chafes under her mother’s tutelage about all the things that Princesses do or do not do. And (no, this isn’t the spoiler) she and her mother do eventually come to terms, with each giving a little toward the other’s position.
What really floored me, in a scene that isn’t even necessary to the plot, in the very last couple minutes, the Queen, who is wrapped in a large tapestry, reveals to her husband that she is naked under those yards and yards of fabric. King Fergus panics, and tells all the men around him to avert their eyes out of “respect.”
Earlier in the film, we saw at least four adult male bare butts, unabashedly marching through the castle courtyard. That’s eight cheeks, minimum; probably more. We know several other companions must also be nude from the waste down.
But the merest possibility that we might see any nude female flesh is a cause for concern and distress. Unlike the male nudity, we don’t actually see *any* female skin–possibly one shoulder, that’s all. But female nakedness is so powerful that the slightest hint of it sends everyone into a tizzy.
The message is clear: female bodies, and feminine sexuality, is dangerous. It is to be hidden or controlled at all costs. It is not really a surprise that a movie from our culture would fear women (look at almost any legislature these days), but to find it in a movie that bills itself as a *feminist* fable is appalling.
The movie does offer an excellent opportunity to talk about our society’s fear of female sexuality, but if you don’t want to have that conversation, to undo the unconscious damage of the film, then I recommend skipping it entirely.
P.S. Like “Hunger Games,” “Brave” is another film that does *not* know how archers actually shoot arrows from bows.