Brave Isn’t

Going to the movies has become a rare occasion for me. It’s not a treat any more; I’m no longer capable of the unquestioning acceptance most films require for enjoyment.

This is in no small part due to my heightened sensitivity to the institutionalized sexism I touched on here. I spent the entirety of the advertising before last night’s film gritting my teeth or failing to withhold snark. While I resent the unsubtle implication that you have to be male to appreciate a car or go toe-to-toe with invaders from outer space, only one ad prompted the eruption of a post-movie rant.

It was the trailer for Brave. Pixar’s attempt to say, “Look, everyone, we’re not sexist – girls can carry a movie too!”

Basic recap for the blissfully ignorant: Brave is the story of a spunky Scottish girl who demands the right to chart her own course in life. So far, so good. Though I question whether that right is ever truly in doubt for a male protagonist, it’s a step in the right direction.

A step that promptly falls back on its ass into a steaming cowpie.

It comes down to this: Melora is a privileged princess from a cookie-cutter nuclear family, and the whole drive of the movie is…her marriage.

Same shit, different skin.

One might object that it’s different. She isn’t conventionally pretty or feminine, actively dislikes being forced into being a proper, married lady, can shoot a mean arrow and embarks on a quest.

Why, though, does her entire character concept have to revolve around her reacting to the prescribed female narrative? Why is it not okay for a movie aimed at kids to be about a girl doing something, anything, she’s passionate about without the threat of archaic gender roles or the denial thereof providing the initial incident? Why does she have to be a princess, why does she have to define herself by preferring ‘male’ activities, why the ceaseless message that Girls Must Get Married?

This tomboy protagonist reinforces the idea that it’s okay to define one’s femininity in ‘unconventional’ (read: reactive) ways, as long as one still internalizes and accepts the heteronormative romance-marriage-babies script. Girls, get your rebellion out of the way early – you’ll be changing diapers while your husband brings home the bacon soon enough!

I cannot sufficiently express my disappointment. It isn’t enough that Melora can shoot an arrow better than any man. It isn’t enough that she’s out there hunting the monster herself. There’s a point where ‘subverting’ the script becomes reinforcing it.

We don’t need another princess, wild-haired or otherwise. What we need is a character who is an engaging, capable protagonist first, and their identified gender second.