Time To Be Brave
So, Brave, then.
Pixar’s first full length movie with a female protagonist is less than four months away from release. And, as io9 reported last week, the first scene is now previewable:
I’m really excited. ENGAGE INITIAL BURBLE-O-METER:
- I remain so, so pleased to see a Pixar movie from the point of view of a girl character. Without exception, the entire Pixar canon – which I’m a huge, boxset-toting, scene-quoting fan of, for the record – features male protagonists, and while Jessie, Dory, and Ellie (who determines much of Up‘s story even though it’s via her absence) are all fun and compelling sidekick or partner characters, I’ve been waiting for Pixar to place a female character centre-stage. And now, after over 20 years, we’ve got one in the shape of Princess Merida, headstrong Scottish medieval archery whizz.
- Placing a female character centre-stage, of course, is not the be-all and end-all. Disney’s been doing it for years with their fairytale movies and resultant “princess” brand. They’ve finally brought the curtain down on their run of “princess” films with 2010′s Tangled, which I thought was charmingly smart, sassy and very happy, to a point, to send up its own canon. But it still operated very much within the constraints of that canon – it was, in places, a bit like Legally Blonde in Fairytale Land – and I’m hoping this will bust the box open juuuust a bit more.
- I think it’s interesting that Pixar have chosen, as far as I can tell, to make their first girl-POV movie begin from a starting problem of an arranged marriage tradition, and the synopsis as it stands (it’s on the io9 page) hints that they’re going with Little Mermaid-style tropes of “headstrong young woman consults wise woman for advice to avoid patriarchal problem; things go wrong”, and so on. Being critical for just a moment, I do think it would be good in the end to get to a Disney/Pixar film where female characters are not lone figures in a world of predominantly male characters, or on quests where the aim is to fight the male status quo. Or as one commenter on io9 put it, “I’m still waiting for the movie about the girl who doesn’t have to prove she’s awesome or that she’s as good as boys”. It makes me want to cheer and bounce off my chair when Merida fires that final arrow in front of all those shocked dudes, but I’d also quite like to just see her … go on a quest that isn’t about Defying Sexism. Lone Female Crusaders are all over our screens with relative frequency, from True Grit‘s Mattie Ross – who has a lump-throat-making scene where she packs her bags for adventure and stuffs rolls of newspaper in a man’s cowboy hat to make it fit her head – to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo‘s Lisbeth Salander (arguably the ultimate Lone Woman On A Vengeful Spree for our time), and I’d like to see more scope for women in Hollywood stories to get to interact a bit more with other women – beyond, for example, “but mother, WHY can’t I do X” and “yes, sorceress, I will make this dodgy deal with you!” at the very least.
- Buuuut the fact remains that this scene still makes me go misty eyed and wibbly at the slightest provocation. I love how it looks and feels, and it’s got Billy Connolly (playing Princess Merida’s warlord dad, with whom she seems to have a pleasingly co-conspirator relationship rather than what I call the King Triton Model, though this does mean relations with mum aren’t looking cosy), Emma Thompson, Julie Walters (the wise woman conflict catalyst!) and more on board. It’s been co-authored by two women (for anyone casually interested in the gender balance of the creative team) and I’m honestly so excited (IT HAS A BEAR IN IT I LOVE BEARS I HOPE SHE DOES NOT SHOOT THE BEAR) that I’m really glad it won’t be long now.
- ENTIRELY SPECULATION, BUT ANYWAY: On the fairy tale riffing front, I’m pleased to see such an obvious Robin Hood folklore moment referenced in the scene above – he, of course, splits an arrow just like this in his own quest to win Maid Marion, and in this version the princess is out to win…her own hand. Neat. Since it was originally titled The Bear and the Bow, so presumably has a bear of some importance in the story, it’s also got me wondering whether it’ll draw on beast stories like East of the Sun, West of the Moon or Brown Bear of Norway. The idea is that the woman goes on a journey and finds a man/foils a curse along the way. That might not happen in Brave at all, but since the opening problem is marriage-related I’d be surprised if no options around the topic came up, and if it doesn’t happen like that, that’ll be an attempt at subversion in itself. Either way, I think with the final title being Brave I’m optimistic about how it’ll turn out for Merida.
- THERE IS A HORSE IN IT AND HIS NAME IS ANGUS. I love Disney’s horses. They’ve carved out a noble niche as providers of bathos and irony over the years from Samson through to Maximus. ANGUS, I HAVE HIGH HOPES FOR YOU. (Although I kind of wish you were an Elspeth, maybe? I mean, Maximus would’ve been fine as… Agrippina, you know?) Oh God, now everyone’s going to think I’m really weird. Uh. Moving on.
- Conclusion: Any road, I think my DVD shelf can take one more Lone Female Crusader in this instance. See you in the cinema.