Plot: little princess Merida doesn’t want to marry any of the suitors, she wants to ride horses, shoot arrows, be free. Mom sternly disapproves. “Sit up straight.” An evil bear tries to kill everyone.
Brave appeared to be the feminist Hunger Games– this would be a movie about a girl with a bow that was not a fairy tale. This archer would make choices, save herself and others– exhibit agency. And she did. Boys would not continuously save her.
However, there was a subtle trick with Brave. Typically in Campbell-esque “hero” stories, the hero must overcome something and change.
But in this movie, Merida doesn’t change at all. She’s the same beginning and end. The person who changes is her mother. It is the mother who learns the lesson, changes her perspective, grows. It is the mother who defeats the evil bear. It is the mother who goes through the steps of the mythic hero. It is the mother who learns that– get ready– girls should be allowed to make their own choices in life, including not get married.
But this is 2012. Are there little girls who need a movie for this message? Are there little girls ducking suitors? No. Which is why Merida mirrors this and doesn’t change.
Are there, however, mothers who still quietly think their daughters need to marry well, up, quickly? Are there mothers who still secretly think little girls’ main skills should be posture, dress, poise?
Oh, yes. And these mothers love The Hunger Games.