I had two other posts that I drafted over the weekend to publish until I came across an article that questioned whether Merida from Brave was gay. After the reading the article, I really feel the need to discuss (or argue) against the journalist's reasons and why his assumptions are in my opinion wrong.
Here's a quote directly from the article outlining his evidence for his assumption:
"She bristles at the traditional gender roles that she’s expected to play: the demure daughter, the obedient fiancée. Her love of unprincess-like hobbies, including archery and rock-climbing, is sure to strike a chord with gay viewers who felt similarly “not like the other kids” growing up. And she hates the prospect of marriage — at least, to any of the three oafish clansmen that compete for her hand — enough to run away from home and put her own mother’s life at risk."To make this post easier to read, I'm dividing it into three sections and will then proceed to debate. (Because re-reading that is making me angry.)
1- Merida is against traditional gender roles.
In the social context of 'Brave', yes Merida's reaction to the traditional gender roles would raise some questions. 'Brave' is set in the highlands of 10th century Scotland. Marrying young to whom your parents picked was a custom that exceed well past the 10th century. This marriage, and her current position as a daughter, means she has to act in certain ways, as the article says. That's the way it was then and Merida's behaviour of rebelling would be considered unattractive to suitors.
However, in the social context of twenty first century audience, we bristle at those expectation. No woman wants to be told who to marry and to be silent (seen and not spoken to). Women are gaining more respect in the business, breaking through the glass ceiling roof and depending on who earns the biggest income, men can be stay-at-home fathers. We are in a new century and still getting accustomed to new gender roles as each gender battles to grow their role or to keep their role.
In my eyes, I think Pixar understood their audience. Yes, it's primarily children, but who takes those children to the movies? Parents, grandparents, older siblings. It's those people who have the extensive knowledge (compare to children) on the evolving gender roles. And by understanding their audience, Pixar had delivered a movie which presents the audience a fantasy where people rebelled earlier for these changes, a change that we've not only wanted and fought for, but probably wished we did so sooner and ended up with an adventurous movie.
This fantasy idea of rebelling for change is not new to movies or books. Rebelling is something that happens every day, no matter what it is. The idea of fighting for change is so commonly used it should be considered a cliche if you think about it.
2- Her love of "unprincess-like" hobbies.Merida has a love for archery and rock climbing. The journalist goes on to say that these activities strike a chord with "viewers who felt similarly “not like the other kids” growing up". This comment strikes its own chord in me because I disagree. This is like saying your activities define your sexuality, which I strongly disagree with.
Every gay person I've met or watched/read an interview about said that it was just how they were. Basically, they didn't choose to be gay. Merida chooses to do archery and to do rock climbing and why wouldn't you? In the social context, I'm sure these activities are just an exciting forbidden adventure to Merida. And that's my main argument against this point. The temptation of doing something forbidden. As a kid's movie, it should present something dangerous and exciting. Apparently doing what you shouldn't do is exactly that.
Question: how many books have you read or movies have you watched where the main character did something simply because it was forbidden? Whether that be fall in love or do something?
(I feel like I should say 'point made' here, haha).
3- Does not want to marry.This is the point where things start to feel like stretched arguments to me. This is the point where I want to scream and shout "it's a kid's movie! No one wants to watch her get married with no adventure!" at the entire world. Shrek, the Little Mermaid, Pocahontas all had some sort of action adventure where they slowly fell in love. 'Brave' isn't about love. I think Alex Cranz summed it up for me: "The crux of the story isn’t “will Elinor let Merida choose her own suitor” or “will Merida give up her bow.” It is “will this parent and child learn how to communicate?”".
'Brave' is a reverse situation to the forbidden love cliche. It's about a girl fighting to stay single (which is totally forbidden), rather than fighting to be with the forbidden guy. I think this sends such a good signal to younger people, even boys. I think it says that you don't have to be in love to have this adventure in your life. I think it says that you can be happy and single if that's what you want. And I think that's important. I think it's important to remind younger people of their options. Yes, being in love is incredible, but being single can be just as incredible. Not to mention that in the film Merida does look young. The younger audience can relate to her age and put the pieces together: I'm young, I don't have to be in love.
I think, all in all, Pixar went out to make a movie that would be different. I think 'Brave' fits that criteria perfectly for a number of reasons: Merida is their first female lead, doesn't have a love interest to save her in her damsel-in-distress moments, and goes against the traditional gender roles in an exciting way that creates a precedent for younger audiences that your activities/adventures are not restricted to your gender.
As a side note, I think that the only reason people are questioning Merida's sexuality is because of those three reasons I just mentioned. In an adjusting world, things are bound to be questioned. I do however think that this article sets a bad precedent for people and eventually make them question the reasons why they do certain things.
Whoa. Long post! But I am really interested to see what you guys think. Do you agree, disagree? Have any arguments to support or perhaps you think I am an alien from out of space and am completely wrong? Either way, I would love to hear what you think!
I feel like I should mention that the article does go on to say "it doesn’t matter if Merida could be interpreted as gay", but you can read that for yourself here.