IMO: 'Brave's' Merida Is Not Gay, Just Represents Something Different



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 fiancĂ©e. 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.

6 comments:

  1. If yes, what then? People are gay sometimes. It's normal.

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    1. Right now, I guess it's still being accepted into society that people can be gay. I think the resistance comes from catholic groups which in Australia (I don't know about America) still have a strong hold in politics which is why the Constitution hasn't been changed to allow gay marriage.

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  2. First, if she was gay, I couldn't care less. I really don't care if a girl falls in love with a girl of a boy (and the same with boys). If you are happy that way, than you have my blessing.
    Second, if they choose to make her gay, I think that is wonderful! I haven't seen an animation movie about that before, so I think it would be great! :p It's the same thing when J.K Rowling told us that Dumbledore is gay, it rocks!
    Third, I WANT TO SEE THE MOVIE. It sounds and looks great.

    And since when does 'unprincess-like' things make you gay? When I was younger, I used to play with cars and I didn't like dolls. I'm still very happy in my relationship with my boyfriend. Since when does certain hobbies make you gay? Are we going back to the days where girls are forbidden to do things, because they are meant for boys? :s I surely hope not. And you are right. In almost every book you come across, the characters do something they shouldn't do. Dangerous = attractive.

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    1. I think it would have been great if she were gay! I think the only problem there would that it would be a contradiction to my arguement of your sexuality not being defined by your activities if that was the only thing to change.

      I have more pairs of jeans that I do dresses, which I surprisingly have a bit of! The temptation of forbidden is a strong element, something that is constantly used in literature. I think the article made rather weak arguments, but it still makes me kind of angry!

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  3. Thank you! I agree with you whole-heartily! It's so frustrating when people focus so much on 'finding love' or meeting the 'true one' and having those 'special moments'. That person does not define who you are! Life is about you! Your individuality, your adventures, your acceptance of yourself, discovery, independence! It's so much more than meeting the 'right guy/girl'. People come and go, and you should just take life as if comes. No need to go out on a man-hunt. I'm proud of Pixar for stating the message: you don't have to be in love. I think it's almost a new revolution in a way, seeing how focused the media is on being 'pretty' and attracting people. I hope to see more films like this in the future. ^.^

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