Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Brave (Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman, 2012) -- B

For anyone familiar with this blog, you have surely noticed my general dislike for Pixar - they often promote social activism and friendship within a 200 million dollar plus enterprise, not to mention all of the toys, stuffed, animals, and board games on the side. It is disingenuous, since promoting humanism and Marxism just doesn't work when the company with the megaphone is part of the problem, not the solution. Thankfully, with Brave, Pixar has decided to drop the socio-political rhetoric and primarily sticks to constructing an impressively rendered animated world inhabited by characters that children/adolescents can identify with, while engaging moral constructivism that, if simplistic, at least works on a more emotional level.

Red-headed Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is one of Pixar's best creations - determined, scrappy, but young, she sees her place within her Scottish kingdom as inadequate: she deserves more. Her skill is archery (after The Hunger Games and Snow White and the Huntsman, no more please) and can out-sling any lad she's faced with. The problem is, her hubris as an archer conflates an understanding of her role within the society. She disobeys her parents, flees, makes a deal with a witch and, from there on, Brave engages its moral trial and error. Merida eventually learns the value in her parents words and that being a contrarian has its place - but when self-determination forcefully overrides communal output, you become an asshole.

Brave is likely Pixar's most conservative film. It views rebellion not as a virtue, in-and-of-itself, but in a given context, that rebellion must be tempered by an understanding of those outside the self. While it reaffirms hegemony and patriarchy, it is not ignorant of these affirmations - it addresses them rather thoroughly (and entertainingly) through character development and slapstick humor. And yet, many critics were displeased with Brave, seemingly because it affirmed a method, a value set even, not their own. Condemning the film for its ultimate conclusion, even though the duration convincingly arrives at these points, is amateur critical conduct.

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