25 June, 2012

Things Unseen: The Bear And The Bow and Brave

So once upon a time Brenda Chapman had a movie planned for Pixar. It might have been good. It might have been awful. I've been trying to find the original concept for Brave because I can't shake the feeling that this wasn't the intended Girl Power message. (And really, I will move on soon. It's the contrarian in me. As more and more reviews arrive jumping over the incredibly low bar of Not Completely Sexualized to herald Merida as a triumph, I find myself saying Yes, But...)

The largest piece of information I can find is the following text. If you wrote it, let me know. Most people have sourced it to a 2010 Entertainment Weekly article, before Reese Witherspoon dropped the project. So assume authorship as EW until I find differently or confirm the issue.

Brave is set in the mystical Scottish Highlands, where Merida is the princess of a kingdom ruled by King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). An unruly daughter and an accomplished archer, Merida one day defies a sacred custom of the land and inadvertently brings turmoil to the kingdom. In an attempt to set things right, Merida seeks out an eccentric old Wise Woman (Julie Walters) and is granted an ill-fated wish. Also figuring into Merida’s quest — and serving as comic relief — are the kingdom’s three lords: the enormous Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), the surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson), and the disagreeable Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane). - Entertainment Weekly

That sounds like a completely different movie. But it also sounds like the same movie. Since the three lords stayed to become her father's drinking buddies, I think there is a story untold. Until Brenda Chapman gives her post career interview or Brave comes out on the Deluxe Bonus From The Attic Edition DVD with the requisite rueful voiceovers, it remains unanswered. I still want to know why Merida has to apologize for everything but her father gets a pass. Sure, he was under the influence of bear but I still think (since she was tied down and all) that he could've taken a second to set aside his manly anger and listen to his kid. Just me on that one?

Along with the Scot-Face theming, I'm leaving the fantastic (natural black) hair alone. I've already spent more time on Brave than I intended or care to. If I say more it will be on the subject of our low expectations (all Merida had to do for Amazing Status was not be interested in marriage or overtly sexual) and our cultural blindness. Why didn't we salute Arrietty for it's strong family message? Why wasn't that capable and curious girl held up as a girl we'd like to see more of? Despite a wide release through Disney Arrietty (like the female lead of Spirited Away) was largely ignored by the same people overly excited about the extremely conventional Merida. If Merida had been a boy, the reaction to Brave would be quite different and far less enthusiastic. When we embrace Brave we set the bar for female narratives low indeed.

Just say no to sexuality and we will love you. Weird.

1 comment:

  1. That last paragraph, okay, you brought out that important message. But in the first paragraph, you don't know what your talking about because it wasn't the dad that turned into the bear. It was the mom.