Being Brave-A look into the symbolism of Brave
Apologies,for the silence it seems I need to get my film analysis mojo back. So I would be analyzing Pixar’s latest addition “Brave” I know there are others who never get to watch the film as certain countries released Brave. For that reason that this film may contain spoilers from the film.
For those who never get a chance to watch Brave (you should),here is the story of this film. It’s about Merida who accidentally released an ancient spell in desiring to ‘change her own fate” have to quickly reversed it before it was too late. It was quite a departure from the usual princess films as Merida is one feisty princess who refused to conform the norms of her society. She does not sit her and be a damsel in distress,she wanted to change her own fate.In reality Pixar wasn’t the only one who did that model. When I was a kid,Mulan (1998) was a breakthrough for the Disney films in changing how we perceive female characters (yes it is debatable if Mulan was really a princess in the franchise-go figure). I still admire Mulan for her willingness to be a solider in the army despite many obstacles. However she wasn’t that popular at my time despite positive feedback from the critics because we could click with that idea of the strong independent woman. I was until I was older that I admire her spirit.
Recently I have been observing recently that Disney are trying to make strong female role models for us girls. There is Tiana (The Princess and The Frog-2009) who works hard to achieve her goals (but she realise later via Naveen that she need to slow down in life)
Rapunzel (Tangled-2010),who was a free-spirted girl who wished to know “when will my life begin” and also help Flynn Rider to discover his purpose in life.
To be frank,it was a nice change for me as a girl to see more pro-active female role models in our movie-screens and talking about mother/daughter relationships in a positive light. I think what makes it work is the symbolism of Brave. O.K I may sound a little on the analytical side..but trust me…there are symbols in that story of that ‘brave’ girl.
Now here is a video about stories that my lovely film studies lecturer Mardhiah showed it for class (Thanks and please bear it for a while,it was really good)
Now I shall proceed for my analysis of Brave,first let’s look at Merida our heroine.
Well,by the look of her hair and very skilled approach to archery…basically she is not your typical princess…However when she heard that she have to get married. She rather shoot arrows than doing elegant pursuits. The arrows could symbolize her strength and of course her identity as an individual who wanted to break away from tradition. She wanted to accomplish something ‘with her own hand’ and damn well she did with that archery contest where she is at her element.
However Merida have an external conflict,her mother Elinor who was pretty much the opposite of her. She is pretty stiff and wanted her daughter to be an elegant lady who ‘pursue elegant things’. If you observe the character design of Elinor,you would notice that her braids were tightly wound and her ‘Ellen Terry’ dress symbolize her burden for the kingdom. As the movie follows,Elinor (who became a bear by the spell) was thrown out of her comfort zone,there she grew as a character by learning to be more humble and perhaps more open to her daughter’s ways. To me the most symbolic moment that show the change of Elinor was when bear!Elinor left her crown at the pond. To her the crown symbolise her need for the world to be perfect and the burden of caring for the kingdom. It shows a breakthrough that Elinor is trying to be open to his daughter. In the end,she was wearing the dress which looks similar to Merida and her hair was loose. We seen the new Elinor who is more open to her daughter and perhaps more relaxed.
Now I shall move on to Mor’Du,yes the villian bear that cause Fergus to lose his leg (and a really catchy song of slaying that thing) even though I wished that there is some ‘fleshing’ of Mor’Du (he is a potential villain but Pixar seem to minimize it). I actually seen Mor’Du as a shadow self of Merida,in the beginning when Elinor told Merida off about that story. She ended with that somber note “Legends are lessons. They ring with truths.” Mor’Du like Merida,is the eldest of the clan and asked the witch for a spell to “change his/her fate” because of the need of power (or freedom for Merida’s case). It shows Merida’s consequences if she did not break the spell in time. It could be seen as a symbol of Merida’s pride and selfishness and in the climatic ending when the rock dropped on Mor’du,and eventually killed him it symbolized the death of her pride and a broken relationship with her mother.
For the men,we could see their role played down slightly. I found this ironic (and somewhat hilarous for me) while the guys were singing along “The Song or Mor’Du”
And all will toast brave highland men at every royal feast.
The legend spreads from fire tae fire, of the devil that we slew.
Now the time has come for all the clans tae slaughter you!
They claim they will slay Mor’Du,but it did not happen as..the girls (Merida and Elinor) actually killed Mor’Du. However it does not mean that they are a bunch of fools,they do have their good points realized. Fergus was deeply devoted to Elinor and supported his daughter in regards to her actions. The three clan heads learnt that working together is the most important thing for the clans to be united,thanks to Merida’s speech. Perhaps I think Brenda Chapman wanted their roles to be played down slightly as we are more focused on the mother/daughter relationship between Elinor and Merida and we wanted to see them grow in the process.
Now for the devil’s advocate on the ending (no pun intended ),after I raved on how awesome Brave was on my Facebook . One of those classmates I know gave me an interesting opinion about the ending of Braveand here is that quote “ I felt the ending could have been better with a counter-cultural ending. Where the mom remains a bear, with that the message about being careful for what you wish for will be stronger, it’ll also tell you that some errors are irreversible. But that’s just me.” While I agree that it would have been a stronger ending to enforce the moral “of wishful thinking” by leaving Elinor as a bear it would work. Keep in mind that the audience was young children As I rebutted the reason why Pixar chose that ending ” We (i.e. the audience)need Merida to realise that she is selfish and Elinor need to see that she need to let her ego down. So a happy ending is the goal Merida need,to fix the relationship.” We wanted Merida to succeed in breaking the spell and she did,literary and symbolically. Literary,in that Elinor became a human again and symbolically Merida respect her mother’s newfound strength and while Elinor learnt to adapt to unplanned circumstances and learnt not to be stiff.
So I am done with my thoughts of Brave and its symbolism. I would love to hear from you guys about the thoughts of that film or so (It’s never too late!). Do you think that the symbolism in Brave worked or not?
I will leave you tonight with this article that was an interesting read on seeing Brave in a feminist perspective (Forbes article). Enjoy