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Monday, November 26, 2012

A Therapist's Take on Brave: Not Disney's Typical Princess Movie

Over Thanksgiving, I was finally able to watch Brave, thanks to some major sales on DVDs at Target during Black Friday. My daughter and I watched it together, which is something I highly recommend mother-daughter pairs to do.

Merida was such a refreshing take on Disney princesses. She's got the unruliest red hair, and her brogue is thick, certainly unrefined by Cinderella and Snow White standards. She likes to ride horses and can shoot a mean arrow. She's independent and strong-willed, and actually has a mother in her life. To me, she's a great role model for young girls as far as image goes because she's more real.

Now her mother, Elinor, is quite the refined queen. She loves her daughter and husband very much, but she has the highest expectations for her daughter. At one point in the film, poor Merida is subjected to the ministrations of her mother as far as her schooling, ladylike hobbies, decorum, social graces, manners, walking style, and tone of voice.

Soon the heart of the film is unraveled...a true mother-daughter feud/disagreement over expectations due to tradition that clash with Merida's inner desires and goals. This is as age-old as it gets. Audiences from every culture and even gender can identify with Merida's struggle to meet parental hopes while not squashing her own.

Ironically, they both "practice" what they want to say to each other, but end up saying little of it because they end up fighting. Merida slashing a tapestry Elinor has been working on, which separates the mother figure from the rest of the family in the picture. In anger, Elinor throws Merida's bow into the fire.

So when Merida makes a rash decision that alters her and Elinor's destiny via a magical spell, she must seek to make things right. Half of the movie is spent with Merida trying her best to undue what she has done. Elinor and Merida must learn a new way of relating, and I found myself teary-eyed over the intimate, personal way Disney conveyed this message.

What mother and daughter don't need to learn this lesson, especially as daughters grow up and sprout wings of their own to fly? Learning to see the strengths of our children individually apart from what we had hoped their strengths would be, as well as children understanding that parents simply want the best for them, but might not always know what that is. This shift within the family system is so important, and yet no one knows how to navigate it correctly.

Merida and Elinor learn to appreciate aspects about each other they had previously been blind to, and they see facets of each others' lives that they realize aren't all bad. They take to heart the
cautionary rhyme given to them by the witch who cast the spell: "Fate be changed, look inside.  Mend the bond torn by pride."

Ah, pride. Perhaps nothing separates us from more relationships than this. What a universal lesson for everyone. I highly recommend this movie for families.

Let's Analyze

Have you seen Brave? How did you think Merida compared to other Disney princesses? What about the heart of the story being the age-old struggle between mother and daughter?