On the cusp of Neil Gaiman releasing a new fairy tale, The Sleeper and the Spindle, and his fascinating exploration behind these stories in The Telegraph, I finally watched the Disney movie Brave. While not a classic, it has the promise of one: it was good for some laughs, some edge-of-your seat moments, some bonding with my daughter beside me. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Except…
But first, here are some of the things I feel Brave did right: (Warning: mild spoilers ahead.)
1) It’s all about the relationships. In this case, not boy/girl (I kept waiting for a love interest that never arrived), but mother/daughter. The clashes, the betrayals, the reconciliations.
2) It’s about being misunderstood—and then understood.
3) It’s about the race against the clock, about the stakes being upped until disaster is imminent and the characters are pushed to their limits.
It also reminded me that stories don’t have to be complicated. At the same time as I’m rereading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl—which thrives on complications—I was able to remind myself that the basics can create a great story too.
What Brave got wrong, though was this: the main character, a princess named Merida, didn’t change over the course of the movie. Sure, she regretted her rash actions. But in the end she got everything she wanted. She wanted to be free to be herself: she got it. She wanted not to get married: she got it. She wanted not to have to train to be a proper princess: she got it. No compromise involved.
The only character who changed was the mother. As if she had been an evil queen instead of a loving, tradition-bound parent, she saw the error of her ways. She came over to her daughter’s side, 100 per cent.
So while it was a fun 90 minutes, it wasn’t the lesson I’d have my daughter learn, or a lesson, as a writer, that I’d take to the bank. Merida needed to grow. She needed to at least glimpse the reasoning behind her mother’s point of view and come away stronger—or humbled—because of it. Like any character in any story, she shouldn’t have had an unqualified win (and I’m not just saying this because I sympathize with mothers).
Next on my to-see list: Frozen.