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June 27, 2012 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Does It Matter If the Heroine of 'Brave' Is Gay? [Contains spoilers for Brave]
posted by Artw (214 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Mods - it might be a good idea to mark this as containing spoilers, since Brave won't be out in Europe until August and the article itself certainly doesn't warn for them.
posted by fight or flight at 2:46 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


If we don't know if she's gay or straight, does that mean there's no romance angle after all? Because I like the sound of that.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:52 PM on June 27, 2012 [37 favorites]


What the hell, the movie's about a girl -- around 12 or 13 to my eye -- and her mom and responsibility. Everything else is just window dressing.

Maybe Merida was a particle physicist being oppressed by the vassal system. It's just as valid a question.
posted by boo_radley at 2:52 PM on June 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


While Markovitz's appeal to lesbian stereotypes is outrageous

Ha, this was exactly my first thought as well.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:52 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


also Brave was pretty good and not what I expected! If you have any inkling of interest, maybe go see it.
posted by boo_radley at 2:54 PM on June 27, 2012


It matters if you want to give evangelicals a reason to keep their kids from seeing it, I suppose.
posted by emjaybee at 2:54 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


What boo_radley said. Merida is at most 16, it's not unreasonable that she would rather ride her horse and practice her shooting. Especially since (spoiler) her three potential suitors are all total schlubs.
posted by Flannery Culp at 2:55 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Quick, someone talk about Authorial Intent and explain how the interpretation of the work is a great thing to talk about but there's no point in quibbling about "is she or isn't she?"
posted by rebent at 2:55 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is Wall-E gay?

Does Mater have gender, and if so, which?

Is Edna gay?

Is the Iron Giant a pedophile?
posted by mwhybark at 2:57 PM on June 27, 2012 [33 favorites]


Anyone male/female presented with the those three suitors would probably come across as neutral at best.
posted by M Edward at 2:58 PM on June 27, 2012


Is the Iron Giant a pedophile?

Gun?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:58 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


All I want to know is if she's as awesome a heroine as Lilo from Lilo & Stitch.
posted by book 'em dano at 2:58 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


While Markovitz's appeal to lesbian stereotypes is outrageous, his underlying question isn't.

This is such a cop-out. This writer is provoked by those exact same stereotypes, but isn't willing to admit to it, and instead lays accountability at another writer's feet.
posted by brain_drain at 2:59 PM on June 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


The actual article discusses how it's not really about whether or not she really is, but that finally there is a Disney princess who isn't firmly established to be straight.

I didn't really like Brave very much, for a bunch of reasons, but it was really, really nice that it did not fade to black on a kiss or anything.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:59 PM on June 27, 2012


N-thing the spoiler alerts. boo!
posted by Neekee at 2:59 PM on June 27, 2012


What the hell, the movie's about a girl -- around 12 or 13 to my eye -- and her mom and responsibility. Everything else is just window dressing.

Maybe Merida was a particle physicist being oppressed by the vassal system. It's just as valid a question.


Well, except when it has been pretty much impossible to put a female character on the screen, large or small (or even in books) without defining her in relation to men. So the lack of a romance for this sort of film is fairly novel and, perhaps, even important. I think the article more or less makes this point -- the character could have any kind of sexuality, but the story, since it's not about her sexuality, doesn't make a point of it in any way. Which is, the article argues, a point in itself -- less about gay rights than heroines being able to be characters first rather than "female heroes."
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:59 PM on June 27, 2012 [22 favorites]


I predict that this issue won't matter for 287 comments.
posted by TimTypeZed at 3:00 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Which is, the article argues, a point in itself -- less about gay rights than heroines being able to be characters first rather than "female heroes."

This is also something I very much appreciated - and was very surprised to see - in Snow White and the Huntsman.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:00 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


She's actually a dragon otherkin, it just never comes up in the story.
posted by The Whelk at 3:00 PM on June 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Yes because anytime a single female character in a movie does not fall in love with a boy and get married art the end she is gay.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:00 PM on June 27, 2012 [31 favorites]


Neekee: "N-thing the spoiler alerts. boo!"

oh come on. I don't think I spoiled anything.
posted by boo_radley at 3:01 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


She is a female lead without a male love interest - therefore she must be gay -
because clearly a female character cannot sustain a movie by herself.
Right?
posted by Flood at 3:01 PM on June 27, 2012 [24 favorites]


Does the bear shit in the woods?
Is The Atlantic linkbait?
posted by Ardiril at 3:02 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes because anytime a single female character in a movie does not fall in love with a boy and get married art the end she is gay.

Technically the question isn't 'Is she gay' (or, more overtly, 'I think she's gay') but rather 'Would it make any difference if she were?'
posted by shakespeherian at 3:02 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


All I want to know is if she's as awesome a heroine as Lilo from Lilo & Stitch.
Lilo's sort of an idealized kid so no, Merida isn't as "awesome". Conversely, Merida is as awesome, if not moreso, in that her character's progression is more like Stitch.
posted by linux at 3:03 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes because anytime a single female character in a movie does not fall in love with a boy and get married art the end she is gay.

Seriously. Sometimes I wonder if the USA is actually the stupidest country in the history of human civilization.
posted by elizardbits at 3:03 PM on June 27, 2012 [25 favorites]


Technically the question isn't 'Is she gay' (or, more overtly, 'I think she's gay') but rather 'Would it make any difference if she were?'

Fair enough. So link bait and not chauvinism.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:04 PM on June 27, 2012


Technically the question isn't 'Is she gay' (or, more overtly, 'I think she's gay') but rather 'Would it make any difference if she were?'

Bullshit.
The question suggests the answer. It is a leading question.
The very act of asking the question posits the potential answer the asker is seeking.

If it were a nuetral question, it would be phrased:
Does the sexuality of the lead character matter?

But it is not phrased that way - the question is phrased to suggest that any female lead without a male love interest is inherently gay.
posted by Flood at 3:05 PM on June 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yes because anytime a single female character in a movie does not fall in love with a boy and get married art the end she is gay.

You missed the point. She also shoots arrows and does Man Stuff. Gay.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 3:05 PM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Is Wall-E gay?

Yes.

Does Mater have gender, and if so, which?

Yes, and yes.

Is Edna gay?

Yes.

Is the Iron Giant a pedophile?

I don't know. Why do you interpret her as such?

I'll unapolgetically read any character who's sexuality is not nailed down as potentially queer and straight in alternate interpretations, and bring a crowbar for the rest.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:06 PM on June 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


It would be awesome if she were gay and gets a girlfriend in the sequel. They could eat rainbow Oreos together.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:06 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen the movie yet, but .... perhaps she doesn't want to get married because she's supposed to be a little girl, and too young to be interested in sex or serious relationships?
posted by Afroblanco at 3:07 PM on June 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


It is a leading question.

Yeah, if you take this article as the progenitor of the question, but I think a better reading is that Chris Hiller read Adam Markovitz's explicit suggestion-- based, as Hiller speculates, on crude stereotypes-- and then, after rejecting the suggestion because of the stereotypes, openly wondered whether it would matter.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:08 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I haven't seen it yet, but I try to imagine being a young woman growing up exposed not only to fairy tales, myth and legend but even almost all of the literary canon, in which a woman's entire life story is completely centered on making the right marriage, when a man's can be about anything at all... and I can only applaud the film.

She doesn't have to be gay, that's not really the point. If anything, it defeats the point. If your only response to a young woman being uninterested in living out this stereotype is "she must be gay", then you're part of the problem.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:09 PM on June 27, 2012 [28 favorites]


Does the sexuality of the lead character matter?

Depends on the story. In this case, assuming that any of the characters are LGBT does nothing to change the story.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but .... perhaps she doesn't want to get married because she's supposed to be a little girl, and too young to be interested in sex or serious relationships?

False dichotomy.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:09 PM on June 27, 2012


The question of Merida's sexuality didn't occur to me. I was too busy basking in the awesomeness of her not having a love interest.
posted by brundlefly at 3:09 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


What the hell, the movie's about a girl -- around 12 or 13 to my eye -- and her mom and responsibility. Everything else is just window dressing.

the linked article made an interesting point about Merida's speech at the end having particular resonance (whether intentional or not) to today's lgbt stuggle since it's about being free to marry who you want.

is she gay? shruggo. but it's an interesting question. one I hope kids seeing the movie today ask themselves when they're adults confronted with the issues of lgbt treatment in society that I'm sadly confident will still be prevalent. To this day, I still carry with me impressions about the world I learned watching movies as a kid. I will bear an almost instinctual distrust of corporate motives in any endeavor not only because of a lifetime of seeing real corporations do really shitty things, but because once upon a time Paul Reiser was a real son of a bitch to Ripley and Newt.

Nobody knows if she's gay, but you can see why it might matter to a lonely kid who might think he or she is. And why it might matter to the other people they encounter in their life. Here's hoping this is a step in the right direction when those encounters happen.
posted by shmegegge at 3:09 PM on June 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


It matters if you want to give evangelicals a reason to keep their kids from seeing it, I suppose.

funny, the children of evangelical parents are precisely who I hope see the movie.
posted by shmegegge at 3:10 PM on June 27, 2012


"WHO CARES???"
posted by DJ 3000 at 3:11 PM on June 27, 2012


The real question is whether any of the three suitors are straight.
posted by Ardiril at 3:11 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


because once upon a time Paul Reiser was a real son of a bitch to Ripley and Newt

SPOILER ALERT
posted by shakespeherian at 3:11 PM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


shmegegge: "the linked article made an interesting point about Merida's speech at the end having particular resonance (whether intentional or not) to today's lgbt stuggle since it's about being free to marry who you want."

More specifically, breaking tradition and being free to marry who you want.
posted by brundlefly at 3:13 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


The real question is whether any of the three suitors are straight.

I really expected a searing glance between at least two of them at one point. (Any two, doesn't matter.)
posted by restless_nomad at 3:15 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


She doesn't have to be gay, that's not really the point. If anything, it defeats the point.

Another false dichotomy. The point is exactly the same no matter how you interpret her sexual orientation.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:15 PM on June 27, 2012


I have exactly one problem with Brave

Why is she wearing a corset?
posted by The Whelk at 3:18 PM on June 27, 2012 [25 favorites]


In fact, the assumption that changing the sexual orientation of any character invalidates any other conflict posed by the movie is a more offensive stereotype for me than the ones raised by the linked articles.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:18 PM on June 27, 2012


When the gay is all you have, it matters a great deal.
posted by Phssthpok at 3:20 PM on June 27, 2012


The corset was totally her mother's idea.
posted by Ardiril at 3:21 PM on June 27, 2012


I have been suspicious of the EW article since I realized that they raised the question of Merida's sexuality at the same time as they are hawking their print edition's feature on coming out in Hollywood.

Disregarding that, its hypothesis was based on idiotic stereotypes.

In the greater picture, it doesn't matter.
posted by Atreides at 3:21 PM on June 27, 2012


This whole "unconventional character must be gay" trope, which I've seen applied to just about every female character with tomboyish attributes (e.g., George from Nancy Drew), is just gender essentialism in faux-progressive clothing. She has traits that don't fit into the standard masculine/feminine dichotomy, therefore there's some biological difference that explains it because we all know that (straight) men are like this and (straight) women are like that. See also: "female character who dresses feminine but isn't particularly nurturing is really a man" (Elaine from Seinfeld, the Sex and the City women.)
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:22 PM on June 27, 2012 [14 favorites]




CBrachyrhynchos, did you read the next sentence of my comment after the one you quoted? I'm not saying "if she IS gay then it invalidates her choice", I'm saying "if the only way you can understand her choice is by supposing she must be gay, then you haven't understood her choice".
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:23 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just watched this yesterday, and honestly it didn't cross my mind. Like most everyone else, i was just happy it wasn't a romance, went 'ooh and ahh' at the pretty scenery, and wondered how she kept that much hair so 'free-flowing' and didn't have big matted chunks.

Although come to think of it, she and the horse were pretty friendly, am I supposed to read something into that, crazy magazine writery people?
posted by pupdog at 3:25 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


... and what's up with Maudie and the boys diving into her cleavage?
posted by Ardiril at 3:28 PM on June 27, 2012


Why is she wearing a corset?

For the same reason Tony Stark does.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:28 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes because anytime a single female character in a movie does not fall in love with a boy and get married art the end she is gay.

Worked for me in real life through the bulk of the 90s!
posted by beaucoupkevin at 3:28 PM on June 27, 2012


Man all the straight men I know sing show tunes and dress in neon pink and all the gay guys I know drink beer from cans and dress like mechanics.

Society is werid.
posted by The Whelk at 3:31 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


In the Toy Story movies, Andy's dad isn't present. They've specifically said, though, that this doesn't mean anything narrativally, but helped to streamline the story in other ways not relevant to this fact.

"I'm often highly entertained by the deep analyses and psychological guesswork about this. The real answer is that we couldn't afford a dad. Human characters were just hideously expensive and difficult to do in those days and, as Lee mentioned, Andy's dad wasn't necessary for the story. Sid's dad was a solid arm and leg, meant to be seen from that one angle, and his mom was just an off-screen voice. Same reason."

The sexuality of the main character is not affected by animation constraints, of course. But the absence of something in a Pixar movie is not indicative of deeper meaning, either.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:31 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I meant, "But the absence of something in a Pixar movie is not necessarily indicative of deeper meaning, either." Because, of course, it could be. But, you know, not necessarily.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:32 PM on June 27, 2012


Like most everyone else, i was just happy it wasn't a romance, went 'ooh and ahh' at the pretty scenery, and wondered how she kept that much hair so 'free-flowing' and didn't have big matted chunks.

Maybe she's an ace! I totally related to her being all, "Whut, I am not getting married, Im'ma ride my horse and do cool shit, BYEEEEEEEEEEE."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:33 PM on June 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ralston McTodd: This whole "unconventional character must be gay" trope, which I've seen applied to just about every female character with tomboyish attributes (e.g., George from Nancy Drew), is just gender essentialism in faux-progressive clothing.

Oh, I read most of the conventional characters as gay as well. But, I've not seen a single argument that Merida must be gay. I've seen multiple arguments that it's reasonable to interpret her as gay. Personally, I think more highly of Pixar than I do of Alexandre Dumas and J. K. Rowling (along with dozens of others) who used ambiguity + stereotype + subtext to imply that characters were gay, but that's just me.

SpacemanStix: The sexuality of the main character is not affected by animation constraints, of course. But the absence of something in a Pixar movie is not indicative of deeper meaning, either.

How would the sexuality of a character be a "deeper meaning?" Sometimes, people just happen to be gay.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:40 PM on June 27, 2012


Why is she wearing a corset?

Yeah but read the actual thing that was linked, that helps. And it takes like 30 seconds.

I love calling out things for costume history. I mean, considering this is a little fantasy film it's not like I won't give it a pass for having inaccurate period dress, but it's one of my favorite things to do whenever I watch films.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 3:40 PM on June 27, 2012


Oh sorry. The quoted bit was supposed to be from Ardiril's comment: "The corset was totally her mother's idea."
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 3:41 PM on June 27, 2012


I'm a little surprised that everyone's preferred interpretation is a gender-blind one. Based on the speech the mother gives at the end, it sounds like an open question posed by the movie, and not a forced or imposed reading. (To say that the movie poses the question doesn't mean that the movie answers it.) It sounds like a lot of young gay girls struggling with their gender will see themselves in her, and it sounds like that was probably intentional. I haven't seen the movie though. What's the argument for thinking the movie doesn't want you to wonder about her gender?

See also: "female character who dresses feminine but isn't particularly nurturing is really a man" (Elaine from Seinfeld, the Sex and the City women.)

Did anyone ever say that about Elaine?
posted by painquale at 3:41 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ugh. As a gay-gay, I am getting really tired of these arguments. I understand that Pixar might be trying to speak to young adults about sexuality, but... dammit! Now I am ambivalent again.

Maybe I am still reeling from the inane bullshittery from a fairly well-known spec writer who decided Prometheus was 2 hrs of "coded homophobia." Blargh.
posted by New England Cultist at 3:42 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"read the actual thing that was linked" - I did read it, thus my comment.
posted by Ardiril at 3:44 PM on June 27, 2012


It's a sort of silly question, but would be perfectly reasonably framed as "can we read this as the story of a young queer woman?" Which, yes, we can. That does not preclude reading it as the story of a young straight woman or a young asexual woman or a young trans man or a young genderqueer person. Those are all different readings and you can have a spirited argument about which is the strongest or most satisfactory, but even if the filmmakers came out and said "yes, she is a lesbian!" that would not in fact "prove" anything - meaning doesn't work like that. All it would do is to show that the authors consciously intend one reading; that does not foreclose others. This is why stories are so interesting.

I do think it's extremely zeitgeisty. Although - and I say this as a very mannish queer person - I wish we could have a story where a girl was like, all soppy and interested in kittens and ruffles and petit point embroidery and still didn't have to get married. There is a whiff of "it is soppy to get married when you could be shooting arrows about this story.
posted by Frowner at 3:44 PM on June 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


I think that the clan great-kilts shown also came at least a few centuries after the viking era.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:44 PM on June 27, 2012


Yes. Move on.



....alternately, no. Move on.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:46 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mods - it might be a good idea to mark this as containing spoilers, since Brave won't be out in Europe until August and the article itself certainly doesn't warn for them.
posted by fight or flight at 2:46 PM on June 27


Do you really need a spoilers warning for a Pixar movie? I haven't read a thing about this, but I can tell you offhand it's about a little girl called into heroic action by a seemingly unstoppable force that threatens her very existence, who sets out on a quest with a plucky but hapless band of helpers and winds up in all kinds of predicaments in which each character takes a turn saving the others and needing to be saved, and which eventually results in the restoration of order, with a heap of laughs and a few lessons learned along the way.

Anyone who's seen it -- am I close?
posted by gonna get a dog at 3:47 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not at all.
posted by brundlefly at 3:47 PM on June 27, 2012 [21 favorites]


It's a sort of silly question, but would be perfectly reasonably framed as "can we read this as the story of a young queer woman?" Which, yes, we can. That does not preclude reading it as the story of a young straight woman or a young asexual woman or a young trans man or a young genderqueer person.

that's... exactly what the linked article says.

out of curiosity, how many people commenting read it?
posted by shmegegge at 3:47 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nope, way off. Not kidding at all - the plot was actually quite unexpected.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:48 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder if the USA is actually the stupidest country in the history of human civilization.

Stupidest? or stupidestest?

Seriously.

The Increadibles is Ayn Rand commentary, Wall-E is Environmentalist propaganda and Brave is a subtle tale of gender studies.

man

oh

man

oh

man

I was wondering when the Brave thread was going to show up. and it is this stupid crap?
posted by edgeways at 3:48 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes but kilts have gotten retconned into Fantasy Svandoceltia settings cause it turns out people really totally made up nationalistic nonsense like that. I don't know why that doesn't annoy me but corsets do, it just ....does. Maybe cause those medevil period dressed had such distinct silhouettes that would be ruined with stays and such.
posted by The Whelk at 3:48 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


CBrachyrhynchos: "I think that the clan great-kilts shown also came at least a few centuries after the viking era."

The butt jokes justify the anachronism.
posted by brundlefly at 3:48 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nope, way off. Not kidding at all - the plot was actually quite unexpected.

Interesting, wonder why they went off formula with this one
posted by gonna get a dog at 3:50 PM on June 27, 2012


I don't think it was THE BEST Pixar movie, but I found it pretty darn good. Would actually watch it again.

Now, the title? meh.
posted by edgeways at 3:51 PM on June 27, 2012


But the absence of something in a Pixar movie is not indicative of deeper meaning, either.

...

How would the sexuality of a character be a "deeper meaning?" Sometimes, people just happen to be gay.

Sure. I just meant to say that the absence of saying something is not indicative of a indirect affirmation of something, whatever it is that happens to me. At least in terms of Pixar's history of not saying certain things.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:51 PM on June 27, 2012


I read it! But the debate didn't seem to be at the level of "how can we parse the meaning of this article?" so much as "how can we kick around the question that the article kicks around". I found the article kind of lightweight on the lit theory side.
posted by Frowner at 3:54 PM on June 27, 2012


"Too young" is highly questionable in the context. In cultures where people are commonly married shortly after puberty, this fate is not the unpleasant and undesirable surprise that it would be to someone not raised in such a culture, eg you and me. They are prepared for it since childhood, it goes on around them, and this preparation includes the political implications.

The theme of changing definitions of marriage (and same-sex marriage today) is important. Marriage, in the culture depicted, is between tribes, not even just between families. Each noble family are lieges over vassals, and a marriage between lieges, joining those families, is binding on their respective vassals.

This is actually important to the people involved. It has significant effects on their lives. It's not just some whimsy that is obviously stupid and those awful people should just leave poor Merida alone. Merida's sociopolitical position is contextually absurd, and has serious implications for her family, their vassals, and the other tribes. We didn't see any other princesses; if she doesn't marry one of the three scions, raising that scion's tribe's status, the default option for raising status goes back to intertribal war.

As well as poisoning her mother (she had no idea what that potion would do), Merida is risking the lives of her tribe, the status of her father and accordingly herself and the rest of her tribe, and provoking intertribal war. She's no hero - her actions are arguably at least as villainous as, for example, the Queen in Snow White, or Gordon Gekko. She is the same kind of villain of selfish privilege, pursuing her own wants and abandoning the social contract of her society, without regard to the consequences on the lives and livelihoods of others.

(It's a cartoon comedy, and to some extent this is rather like discussing the physical injuries of Wile E. Coyote. However, if we're going to take it seriously and talk about the sociopolitics of it, let's take it seriously.)

The overwhelming majority of viewers of this movie are looking at it through a thick cloud of individualistic cultural expectations. The whole reason we are even having the gay marriage debate in the present day, is due to holdovers in assumptions about what marriage is, that date from ancestral cultures, like the Scotland of Brave, in which those characteristics had actual cultural functions. "Bloodline" was of vital cultural importance; accordingly, a barren marriage was a disaster, and a love-match was dangerous. Gender roles were extremely divergent, and this was not the case because "ancient humans were stupid", it was the case because the diverse roles had cultural functionality.

In the present day, marriage between first-world men and women is largely individual and any wider familial and tribal involvement is optional and ornamental. We choose our tribes according to shared interests. We retain some vestiges of gender role divergence but for the most part gender is separate from cultural role. We marry a long time after puberty, and we often divorce and remarry sometimes several times. We don't greatly privilege natural-born over adopted children and even if we do, it's seen as a personal self-indulgence (eg IVF therapy) that you have the right, but in no way the obligation, to engage in. Accordingly, Merida's position seems entirely reasonable to us, we see it as hilarious that the other character's don't agree with her, and the same thinking informs our view on same-sex marriage.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:55 PM on June 27, 2012 [32 favorites]


"read the actual thing that was linked" - I did read it, thus my comment.

All you said was "The corset was totally her mother's idea."

Which I mean, okay but. That addresses literally nothing that the image that was linked talks about.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 3:56 PM on June 27, 2012


Not to torpedo the she-might-be-gay theory, but I thought I detected a certain level of heterosexual interest on her part during the split second when it looked like Suitor #3 was the hulking Conan-esque warrior dude, instead of the chinless yokel standing behind him.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:57 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: The butt jokes justify the anachronism.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:58 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


How do we know that the heroine of Brave isn't actual a boy? It's not like we are given a chance to see up his/her skirt...
posted by KokuRyu at 4:00 PM on June 27, 2012


brundlefly: The butt jokes justify the anachronism.

That, and giving the audience an easy way to identify the four clans. Kilts go back to the Roman era but formal standardization as a means of clan identification came much later.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:00 PM on June 27, 2012


Not to torpedo the she-might-be-gay theory, but I thought I detected a certain level of heterosexual interest on her part during the split second when it looked like Suitor #3 was the hulking Conan-esque warrior dude, instead of the chinless yokel standing behind him.

Aw, are all the suitors clearly terrible? That's a little disappointing. It would be a little more interesting if she rejected a Prince Charming type.
posted by painquale at 4:02 PM on June 27, 2012


It was amusing to see who Conan of Dingwall himself found attractive. By the pseudoculturally appropriate standards of beauty, fair enough.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:04 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aeschenkarnos, I would kind if love if there was a Snow White Evil Queen like villain who caused terrible things to because she was TOO head strong and individualistic and refused to compromise. I think Atia in HBO's TOME comes close, but it's coupled with her being way less smart then she thinks she is.
posted by The Whelk at 4:05 PM on June 27, 2012


It's not just some whimsy that is obviously stupid and those awful people should just leave poor Merida alone. Merida's sociopolitical position is contextually absurd, and has serious implications for her family, their vassals, and the other tribes. We didn't see any other princesses; if she doesn't marry one of the three scions, raising that scion's tribe's status, the default option for raising status goes back to intertribal war.

So what you're saying is that you're willing to stipulate that in the totally historically accurate Scotland this Pixar movie is showing us, there's magic that turns people into immortal werebears, but not that marriage might play a different sociopolitical role than it does in the real world? The whole witches thing, that's just a metaphor or whatever, but the marriage stuff has to hew exactly to medieval history?

Okey-dokey then.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:05 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Entertainment Weekly: Could The Heroine Of Pixar's 'Brave' Be Gay? - article written by a man.

Salon: Is Pixar’s “Brave” Princess A Lesbian? - article written by a man.

The Atlantic: Does It Matter If the Heroine of 'Brave' Is Gay? No, but it matters that she could be. - article written by a man.

Business Insider: Is Disney/Pixar's Newest Lead Character Gay - article written by a man.

******

Crushable.com: Dear Entertainment Weekly: Not Wanting To Get Married Doesn’t Make Merida From Brave A Lesbian - article written by a woman.

ThinkProgress: ‘Brave’s Merida, and Why We Need to Stop Equating Gender Performance and Sexual Orientation. - article written by a woman.

******

And my current favorite review pull-quote, from Richard Lawson’s review in The Atlantic Wire:
But still, why is the Pixar movie with the female lead a movie solely about female relationships?
Yeah! How come it doesn't have a nice balance of male/male and male/female relationships along with female/female relationships like all none of the other Pixar movies did!

All the sociopolitical gender/sexuality brouhaha over Brave can be pretty easily reduced to BUT WHERE IZ TEH MENZ!

Nuthin' new under the sun.
posted by tzikeh at 4:08 PM on June 27, 2012 [49 favorites]


Wee MacIntosh (the scion of the woad-wearer tribe) is presented as extremely handsome, however he clearly has a terrible narcissistic personality.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:10 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I wonder if the USA is actually the stupidest country in the history of human civilization

Only a stupid American would wonder that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:12 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read the article and upon finishing it, my opinion was the same as it was when I read the link text in this post.

That unchanged opinion was "Does it matter if anyone is gay?" No. So let's move on and enjoy the show.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:12 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Entertainment Weekly: Could The Heroine Of Pixar's 'Brave' Be Gay? - article written by a man.
Salon: Is Pixar’s “Brave” Princess A Lesbian? - article written by a man.
The Atlantic: Does It Matter If the Heroine of 'Brave' Is Gay? No, but it matters that she could be. - article written by a man.
Business Insider: Is Disney/Pixar's Newest Lead Character Gay - article written by a man.
Crushable.com: Dear Entertainment Weekly: Not Wanting To Get Married Doesn’t Make Merida From Brave A Lesbian - article written by a woman.
ThinkProgress: ‘Brave’s Merida, and Why We Need to Stop Equating Gender Performance and Sexual Orientation. - article written by a woman.


I'm waiting for the definitive judgment from FoxNews, preferably from the obviously-closeted Sean Hannity.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:13 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


And my current favorite review pull-quote, from Richard Lawson’s review in The Atlantic Wire:

What in the fuck.
posted by rtha at 4:13 PM on June 27, 2012


aeschenkarnos: (It's a cartoon comedy, and to some extent this is rather like discussing the physical injuries of Wile E. Coyote. However, if we're going to take it seriously and talk about the sociopolitics of it, let's take it seriously.)

Literature and art set in the past almost always has more to say about the present than the actual sociopolitics of its setting. This is true of almost all of Shakespeare, Homer, The Bible, Arthurian Romance, LotRs, the western, and most biopics.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:13 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stupidest? or stupidestest?

THE MOSTEST STUPIDEST
posted by elizardbits at 4:14 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would be a little more interesting if she rejected a Prince Charming type.

I agree with Strange Interlude: there was a bit of "How you doin'?!" in her gaze when she first spots the Conan dude.

And I agree with you as well. I like that we're moving past "marriage + family = success" for female main characters, and I'd love to see us start moving past the idea that the strong female main character must be propped up as strong by making all the males in the story bumbling, if well-meaning, oafs.

It's no surprise that Princess Merida rejected those 3 suitors. But what if one if them had been amazing and was instead presented as just a basically likeable guy? Then her decision to spurn the tradition of arranged marriages would have been that much more awesome.

As it was, girl_cub_wolf loved it, and I greatly enjoyed the experience of watching it with her. Those of you who haven't seen it yet, make sure you stay through the credits to check out an additional scene.
posted by lord_wolf at 4:15 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Other Pixar characters who did not have romances: (I haven't watched any of them more than once, so forgive me if there's romance I'm not remembering)

Mike and Sully in Monsters, Inc.
Nemo
Anybody in Toy Story (? - Mr. and Mrs. Potato-Head, obviously, but anybody else?)
Remy
Russell and Dash are probably too young. Maybe Nemo too. I like that Pixar makes children's movies with actual children in them, and not teenagers. And I like that Pixar makes movies where romance is not generally the central concern.

In fact, the only Pixar movie that puts the romance at the center of the plot is Wall-E, and robots don't even have gender!

So, I think it's pretty interesting that it passes without comment when male characters get plotlines without romantic involvements, it passes without comments, but when female characters get the same, suddenly people are wondering WHY.

I'm glad that we have a children's movie where the heroine MIGHT be gay, or asexual, or just a straight girl holding out for better options, or just too young to be interested; but it just highlights how rarely a woman gets a plotline that isn't a romance.
posted by Jeanne at 4:16 PM on June 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


Those of you who haven't seen it yet, make sure you stay through the credits to check out an additional scene.

Princess Merida eating shawarma was worth the price of the ticket.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:18 PM on June 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


So, I think it's pretty interesting that it passes without comment when male characters get plotlines without romantic involvements, it passes without comments, but when female characters get the same, suddenly people are wondering WHY.

Yeah, that's exactly the point. I don't love the "maybe she's gay!" framing, but on at least one of those articles I read, that's the linkbait headline to an article that really just draws attention to the fact that she doesn't end up in a romance.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:19 PM on June 27, 2012


"robots don't even have gender" - Technophobe!
posted by Ardiril at 4:21 PM on June 27, 2012


Anybody in Toy Story (? - Mr. and Mrs. Potato-Head, obviously, but anybody else?)

Woody and Bo Peep, flirtingly, Ken and Barbie in 3.

Granteded none of them are the standard Wuv romance narratives in other Disney narratives, although they have gotten rpmuch better at at least addressing that.
posted by The Whelk at 4:21 PM on June 27, 2012


Mike and Sully in Monsters, Inc.

Mike had a relationship, not the thrust of the movie (hey was Sully gay?), but Mike was stepping out with the receptionist lady with the snake hair.
posted by edgeways at 4:22 PM on June 27, 2012


That this discussion was brought up make my hair stand on end.

It so reminds me of being 18-25... getting hit on by random dudes at the deli or on the street. When you let them kindly let them know you aren't interested more than 40 times in my life I got a response worded exactly or very close to "what are you a fucking lesbo?"

Jesus Christ, I'm just trying to walk down the goddamn street.



I really like the movie and think it is a GREAT mother and daughter movie.
posted by beccaj at 4:23 PM on June 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Snarl Furillo So what you're saying is that you're willing to stipulate that in the totally historically accurate Scotland this Pixar movie is showing us, there's magic that turns people into immortal werebears, but not that marriage might play a different sociopolitical role than it does in the real world? The whole witches thing, that's just a metaphor or whatever, but the marriage stuff has to hew exactly to medieval history?

This brings us back to the physical injuries of Wile E. Coyote. In any discussion of this nature we have to decide what we will take seriously for purposes of the discussion, and what we won't; and what is presented as "true" in story, and what we have to speculate about.

In story, the characters pretty clearly practice tribal marriage. That's explicitly stated several times. We can compare the story to real-world historical tribal marriage cultures and examine what Merida's actions might mean in those contexts.

Brave is a "fantasy world" in the sense that it isn't medieval, it's medievalish fantasy, like D&D or RuneQuest campaigns. There are probably dragons, the Arab culture 5000 miles away probably looks like the movie Aladdin, etc. It's a circumscribed world, independent of past and future except inasmuch as these serve the story.

Working magic ought to have sociopolitical implications too, at least it does if the writer is clever, and no doubt it does in Brave's world. We're shown one witch, who seems to be somewhere between malicious and well-meaning in a potentially dangerous way. Chaotic Neutral? Possibly magic is a woman-only thing, possibly not. We don't know.

Traditionally equal access to magic is the handwaving justification for gender equality in fantasy worlds - if magic is the most important and powerful force in a society, and women can use it as well as men, then it is reasonable that women should be politically and socially equal to men. (And this raises the interesting question of whether equal access to and use of money, in our world, drives gender equality for us as well.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:24 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]




It doesn't matter if anyone is gay.
posted by Catblack at 4:29 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, it matters in the sense that an openly gay hero(ine) of a popular film would be a Good Thing To Have. But in the sense that people might be worried that someone was gay because they are gross repulsive homophobes, then fuck them and everything they stand for, obviously.
posted by elizardbits at 4:38 PM on June 27, 2012


Sure. I just meant to say that the absence of saying something is not indicative of a indirect affirmation of something, whatever it is that happens to me. At least in terms of Pixar's history of not saying certain things.

My apologies. I'm used to the argument that writing/interpreting gay characters into a work necessarily politicizes it or transforms it into a "gay issues" piece.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:38 PM on June 27, 2012


The Whelk: "Anybody in Toy Story (? - Mr. and Mrs. Potato-Head, obviously, but anybody else?)

Woody and Bo Peep, flirtingly, Ken and Barbie in 3.
"

Wasn't there some flirting between Buzz and Jessie?
posted by brundlefly at 4:40 PM on June 27, 2012


It doesn't matter if anyone is gay.

But it does. It really, really does.

Look, these articles are kind of dumb, and the gender essentialism side of them makes them pretty unsympathetic, but having different kinds of people in media is pretty fucking critical. I don't really care whether or not Merida - or Snow White, or any other character that doesn't explicitly have a romance - is gay, but it's really nice for once not to be told that they are definitely, unequivocally not like me.

I've talked before about Willow and Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how formative that relationship was to me. I was, finally, able to identify with a character without having to process a dissonance regarding sexuality. That dissonance is everywhere for me - very nearly every movie, book, tv show, interview with a politician/rock star/actor/whatever. I'm used to it, sure, but that doesn't mean it's not a huge fucking relief when I come across something where that dissonance isn't there. So I'm really just as happy to see women portrayed with an unstated orientation as anything, because at least they don't grate.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:40 PM on June 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


I took my 9 year-old niece to see this movie yesterday so, in the interest of getting the opinion of someone in the core demographic that this movie is targeting, I just asked her if she thought Merida was gay, this is her (verbatim ) response:

"That's a really dumb question, Uncle Isosceles."

"Why is that?"

"Because that's not what the movie was about!"

So, there you have it. At least as far as one nine year-old is concerned.
posted by Isosceles at 4:42 PM on June 27, 2012 [33 favorites]


Maybe she is asexual. It is a sign of the sexual oppression we live in that she must be categorized into an orientation even though she says specifically in the film that she isn't interested.
posted by humanfont at 4:47 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Maybe she is asexual. It is a sign of the sexual oppression we live in that she must be categorized into an orientation even though she says specifically in the film that she isn't interested.

Sure, and if that interpretation works for someone, they should run with it.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:48 PM on June 27, 2012


It sounds like the real story here isn't sexual orientation per se, but the sudden gender-based expectations girls encounter as they come of age.

So the writer of this piece missed the point of the movie.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:54 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pixar makes a movie subverting the Disney Princes Movie expectations.

49% of the audience: GRAR NEEDS MOAR BOYZ
Another 49%: GRAR NOT SUBVERTED ENOUGH
2%: GRAR I CAN'T BELIEVE ANYONE WATCHES THOSE SILLY CARTOONS EXCUSE ME WHILE I WIND UP MY WAX CYLINDER PLAYER.

This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:56 PM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


I haven't seen the movie, and don't know anything about it, but I've read the first two lines of the article, and I've made my assessment.

She's just, you know, a person. Independent. She's not defined by who she wants to marry--a huge departure for Disney, whose female characters for the past 80 years have all been singing variations on "Some Day My Prince Will Come."

If she were male, though, nobody would've noticed.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:58 PM on June 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think it's more of a case of people going GRAR over how other people loved the movie. As opposed to the Prometheus post which was filled with GRAR over the right way to hate the movie.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:00 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


A more important question is how did Hawkeye and Black Widow's lovechild somehow end up in medieval Scotland?

I can't have been the only one who thought that look at that hair and those skillz
posted by zennish at 5:03 PM on June 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


MetaFilter: This brings us back to the physical injuries of Wile E. Coyote.
posted by mwhybark at 5:04 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, it does not matter.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:05 PM on June 27, 2012


I think the bigger issue is (and I know Pixar and Disney are totally different entities and Disney is just Pixar's distribution but people conflate the two but whatever) but while I know people really seemed to want a Big Epic Fantasy LOTR thing, I just really really liked the fact that it is a mother-daughter movie completely cause hey list off the number of Moms in Disney fantasy movies who are not evil or dead.

I'll wait.
posted by The Whelk at 5:17 PM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Jesus it looks like the title itself offers spoilers, and is pretty dickishly worded if it doesn't.
posted by kernel_sander at 5:19 PM on June 27, 2012


Pixar makes a movie subverting the Disney Princes Movie expectations.

Is that why Disney set up a huge temporary "Scotland" area in the World Showcase at EPCOT?
I am a contractor in the Orlando area, and I work in the Disney parks alot.
Disney has a massive marketing blitz to promote Merida right now, including the "Scotland" area at EPCOT.
Never under-estimate Disney's ability to market things to little girls.
posted by Flood at 5:20 PM on June 27, 2012


Okay, MOST of the expectations. Not the "make us a shitload of money on tie-ins" expectation.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:23 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bias disclosure: Chris Heller was an intern for the team that I'm on at work, and he's written for my blog. So I am not at all objective; I like Chris a lot. Ignore me thusly, or because I haven't seen the movie and am certainly not commenting on the rightness or wrongness of any particular interpretation of it; I won't be offended.

"That's a really dumb question, Uncle Isosceles."

"Why is that?"

"Because that's not what the movie was about!"


But this could be totally consistent with what Chris is saying, I think. Princess movies are typically about fulfillment through heterosexual romance. This nine-year-old girl has just seen a princess movie that, as I understand it, is partly about getting to marry who (and when) you want, but she doesn't see the idea that it would be necessarily be a man (or a woman) (or nobody) as part of that. All the comments that nobody would notice if it were a guy are a little unfair, I think; if a prince in a Disney story refused to marry any of three princesses chosen for him and said he was going to marry whatever person he wanted to marry when he felt like it and never expressed any interest in any woman or referred to that person as a woman, I suspect people would notice, and in fact, I feel certain the same question would be asked. Nobody notices with the guys in Monsters, Inc. or Finding Nemo not only because they're males, but because those movies aren't about marriage; romance doesn't come up in those characters' stories, as I recall. It's apples and ... arranged marriages.

And in fairness, you didn't ask the nine-year-old the question Chris is asking; you asked her the question the EW piece was asking, which was completely different (IS SHE GAY OR NOT?). The question Chris is asking is not whether she's gay (or whether it makes it a better or worse story if she is) but, from a cultural perspective, whether it's a significant development if Pixar left this question open on purpose. I think a good angle comes from the comment that ends, "I'm really just as happy to see women portrayed with an unstated orientation as anything, because at least they don't grate." All Chris is asking, I think, is whether that unstated orientation is (1) unstated on purpose as opposed to by happenstance; and (2) noteworthy if so. I certainly don't have strong feelings about the answers to those questions absent seeing it for myself, but I'm not particularly bothered that they were asked the way I'm kind of bugged by the "IS SHE GAY BECAUSE OF HER PERSONALITY AND HOBBIES; LET US EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE" framing I've seen in some other places.

But like I said, I really like and respect Chris, so.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:27 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I almost feel like anything Disney TINGED is under this unworldly expectations WRT The Princess Thing cause it has to represent THE DISNEY TRADITION which is all GRAND and CULTURE and a stand in for American Culture as a whole. Dreamworks pictures don't have this burden on them and get to do fun things without getting a boatload of news and critical essays.

Brave has a good teenage girl character who deals with her mom and her issues and has a ...really actually terrifying villain and it looks amazing but it's not a TOTALLY REVOLUTIONARY DREAM PROJECT so everyone grumps and, gah.
posted by The Whelk at 5:30 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Disney Princes Movie

Oh holy cats. Most embarrassing misspelling I've posted in a history of misspellings. I am now picturing Merida singing Purple Rain.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:31 PM on June 27, 2012


and yes go watch Lilo And Sitch. And The Emperor's New Groove. And Iron Giant. And even, actually the Princess and the frog which is way better than it got credit for cause it had all this unrealistic Disney Expectation and it only made its money back three times which is a total loss apparently.
posted by The Whelk at 5:32 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I almost feel like anything Disney TINGED is under this unworldly expectations WRT The Princess Thing cause it has to represent THE DISNEY TRADITION which is all GRAND and CULTURE and a stand in for American Culture as a whole.

I actually think it's totally the opposite. People were expecting a Pixar movie with an interesting story and a ton of emotional resonance and got a whiny heroine in something that very closely resembles a traditional Disney Princess Movie about a girl and who she may or may not marry.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:33 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Brave is being marketed under "Disney Pixar" branding, FWIW, and when we were at Disneyland last week we JUST MISSED a photo op with Merida, who has a photo op area directly across from It's a Small World.

N.B.: get there before 3:30p.
posted by mwhybark at 5:34 PM on June 27, 2012


Joey Michaels, 78 positions in a one night archery competition.
posted by The Whelk at 5:34 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Merida = inbetween, yes? or something like meridian, centerline, middle?
posted by mwhybark at 5:35 PM on June 27, 2012


restless_Nomad, I can get how familiar the story seems, and it goes into the well people thought it would be very different then what it was, but what Pixar movie is not a story about a Family? I also really bought her interactions with her mom as 12-year olds being whiny and annoying more then the 90s era Disney Princessess and stuff. I liked her characterization and the interactions with the family as a whole.
posted by The Whelk at 5:38 PM on June 27, 2012


I never meant to cause you any sorrow.
I never meant to cause you any guilt.
I only wanted to one time see your bare ass.
I only wanted to see your bare ass in the purple kilt.

Purple kilt, purple kilt.
Purple kilt, purple kilt.
Purple kilt, purple kilt.

only wanted to see your bare ass in the purple kilt.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:41 PM on June 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


Eh, reasonable people can certainly disagree. It was a huge disappointment to me and I found Merida a mostly unsympathetic character - the mother had possibility but was badly one-note and underdeveloped. I have a strong suspicion that the directorial switch midstream left it sort of adrift, and it would have been much more interesting had it been finished by Brenda Chapman, whose idea, based on her own experiences as a mother, it was.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:45 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't have been the only one who thought that look at that hair and those skillz

definitely not the only one

posted by elizardbits at 5:45 PM on June 27, 2012


Merida = inbetween, yes? or something like meridian, centerline, middle?

I think you've confused a meridian with a median.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:49 PM on June 27, 2012


As a gay person, it's very unusual and very welcome to have a main character in a major motion picture -- especially of the Disney fairy-tale variety -- that the not-straight part of me can relate to. So, to me, while it doesn't matter whether or not she's actually gay, it does matter a great deal that she *could be*.
posted by treepour at 5:50 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


definitely not the only one

Yes. I was going to say Welcome to Tumblr.

there's much, much more, but tumblr's tag searching system is, in a word, stupid
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:54 PM on June 27, 2012


In fairness, to Linda_Holmes, she is quite correct in stating that I asked my niece the wrong question, so I just went back to her and asked her if it mattered if Merida was gay or straight, and this is her (slightly exasperated) response:

"No! It doesn't make any difference!"

"Why not?"

At this point there was more than a little bit of eye-rolling.

"Because if she's gay her story is the same and if she's not gay her story is the same. Her story isn't about marrying the boys, it's about her not wanting to be told to marry the boys. She wants to be the one to decide. Then she decides a dumb thing, and then she decides to do brave things. [ there was a lot more specifics here, but in the interest in keeping this spoiler free, I've exercised some judicious editing ] The story is about Merida learning that making decsions is difficult because sometimes you hurt the people you love, but it's still important to make your own decisions because , you know, Yolo."

"Yolo? Really?"

"You're old, Uncle Isosceles."

Did I mention that I love my niece?
posted by Isosceles at 5:59 PM on June 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


Oof, from the review Tzikeh linked.
But still, why is the Pixar movie with the female lead a movie solely about female relationships? That seems like it could be a nice subplot, a teen and her mom coming to appreciate each other's point of view, but the scope feels awfully small compared to, say, the softly profound rumination on time that is Toy Story 3, or Ratatouille's deep and rich meditation on artistic conviction.
Yes, the relationship between a daughter and her mother certainly couldn't be fodder for a movie as serious and artistic as a movie about a rat who wants to cook? Or father-daughter relationships? Or even father-son relationships? Ugh. I call bs.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:05 PM on June 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


@Isosceles: Still not at all Chris's question, but I think we're probably destined to disagree.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:11 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why is it that Pixar seems so particularly subject to the kind of criticism that goes "Why did they make the movie about THIS when I think they should have made it about that?"
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:13 PM on June 27, 2012


I sort of doubt a 9-year-old is going to be thinking about the larger societal implications of crypto-gay characters in children's movies anyway.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:13 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Linda, I think my niece, in her way , was trying to tell me that Merida's sexuality (or lack thereof) wasn't even a consideration in how she absorbed the film. It wasn't an element that was going to inform her on how the story spoke her. In that light, Merida's sexuality wasn't noteworthy in the least and whether Pixar intentionally obfuscated that sexuality or not, was a moot point to her since it wasn't something she felt the story needed to tell her.
posted by Isosceles at 6:20 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nine-year-old gay me would have been thrilled to see any kind of vaguely tomboyish character who didn't care about boys represented on the big screen. Or in books. Or TV.
posted by rtha at 6:22 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree about what your niece was trying to tell you.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:24 PM on June 27, 2012


I thought the movie was great, and so did my 11 year old daughter. I had read a bunch of bad reviews ahead of time, and I wasn't expecting much, and when I left the theater, I actually started to feel a little peeved. Because the reviews I had read (all by men), had so obviously missed the point. Teenage daughters turn their mothers into monsters. This is just sometimes true. I remember being a teenage daughter myself, and how unhinged my mom seemed sometimes. And I distinctly remember a friend's mom down the street, and how during high school she just got more and more shrill and angry, and we could not figure out why. One reviewer was offended by Merida sewing to break the spell. Well, gee, HER MOM TAUGHT HER TO SEW. It was something they did together, like women have since, oh, forever. My mom the lesbian professor quilts. So does my stepmom, the trilingual physicist. This movie is not broken!
posted by Malla at 6:44 PM on June 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Oh, and right, totally agree Merida's sexual orientation completely unimportant.
posted by Malla at 6:46 PM on June 27, 2012


Just came from Brave and have 3 comments:

1) The early scene establishing her as an archery bad-ass made me cry for my own tomboy child-self and feel such joy that I can show my own daughter images of wild girls that I never got to see myself.

2) There seemed to me an explicit, pro-gay rights message in the scene where Merida's mom (through Merida) says that everyone should choose who they want to marry.

3) Merida was not supposed to be gay. I say this on authority as a gay person. This was a straight up feminist message that girls' stories shouldn't have to be about falling in love.

4) Why are kids movies all so fucking TERRIFYING now? My 9 year old daughter was sobbing in fear and we had to leave the theater about 15 minutes before the end (came back in for the last 5 minutes). I know most kids are inured from years of TV or whatever but jesus christ can Pixar make a movie without constant quick cuts of our heroes in peril?

OK, that was 4.
posted by latkes at 6:47 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I agree about what your niece was trying to tell you.

You do? Then... huh?
So, you agree with the niece that the original question, 'is she gay?' is "just dumb". The original article is just dumb - but the second article, 'does it matter if she is gay?', that is valid and is not "just dumb." ?

So, if I wrote an article, "Nuke Antarctica Before the Penguins Do" - my article is idiotic. But if you wrote an article, "Examining the Pre-Emptive War In Antarctica" - your article would be a valid article of critique, or something?

No, I am sorry - I think the proper response to an article that is "just dumb" is to say: that was just dumb - and not to validate it with some faux critical analysis of the dumb question.

Both articles are "just dumb".
posted by Flood at 6:47 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Never, O unhappy mothers,
posted by ovvl at 6:59 PM on June 27, 2012


There is something great about a princess film that makes it ok for little girls to play with pretend weapons. The impact on the elementary school play ground has been profound.
posted by humanfont at 6:59 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, loved Clan MacGuffin.
posted by latkes at 7:00 PM on June 27, 2012


The kilts were all very well, what I object to is the way they revealed Pixar's curious decision to render the men as circumsized.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:08 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just saw Brave with ze BF earlier today (yay matinee showings), we enjoyed it a lot. Her orientation didn't occur to us, and we were a gay couple watching a kid's movie as a date. So.

I liked it a lot, especially the fact that it revolved around her relationship with her mom. "Son's relationship with dad" movies are extremely common, while mother/daughter movies are really not. I loved that, at the end, the climactic battle hinged around her and her mom instead of getting rescued.

I'm surprised to see Merida described as "whiny" and otherwise unsympathetic. Is her complaint not legitimate? If I were to be married to some boy/man I'd never met, I'd be terrified. Especially since everything about her identity as a Married Woman has been presented to her as things that she is not interested in. She has no evidence of life for a married woman allowing her time to ride Angus, for example.

I honestly don't think that the proffered sons were entirely unappealing. The sort of lunky, unintelligible kid was cute. The lanky kid was (judging from the screaming of the audience at the contest) at least pretty. The third kid was admittedly not much of a catch.

Both BF and myself were surprised by the central plot, they did a good job of keeping that concealed from the trailers.

It was as visually and aurally gorgeous as I basically expect Pixar movies to be.

Anyway, yay Brave!
posted by kavasa at 7:08 PM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, for feminism nerds out there, does Brave pass the Bechdel test? The entire central plot of the movie seems to violate rule 3.
posted by latkes at 7:15 PM on June 27, 2012


So, for feminism nerds out there, does Brave pass the Bechdel test?

Yeah. For all that the plot driver is ostensibly arranged marriage, Merida and her mother spend almost zero time actually talking about boys. The men are definitely not central to the story at all.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:17 PM on June 27, 2012


Seconding nomad, gets a Bechdel A+ I think.
posted by kavasa at 7:19 PM on June 27, 2012


Brave page on the Bechdel Test Movie List. (Thanks, didn't know the name for this!)
posted by glhaynes at 7:19 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, in that sense the marriage plot is a MacGuffin. But at the same time, to me the first feminist Pixar film will be the one where a female character's assertion of herself as a human is not the central plot point. The next step is where humanity is assumed and we go from there.
posted by latkes at 7:20 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't help contrasting Brave with Korra, the television series that went out of its way to put all the major characters in at least one love triangle so they're all accounted for.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:57 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I agree with you as well. I like that we're moving past "marriage + family = success" for female main characters, and I'd love to see us start moving past the idea that the strong female main character must be propped up as strong by making all the males in the story bumbling, if well-meaning, oafs.

It's no surprise that Princess Merida rejected those 3 suitors. But what if one if them had been amazing and was instead presented as just a basically likeable guy? Then her decision to spurn the tradition of arranged marriages would have been that much more awesome


Marlo Thomas got you covered: Atalanta from Free to Be You and Me.
posted by emjaybee at 7:58 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think Salon (is Merida a lesbian) is incorrect in bringing in the Orion and Artemis legend into a Celtic framework. Throughout the Celtic history, women have been strong, independent, and forces to be reckoned with in both Irish and Scottish folktales. Cú Chulainn, the Irish hero went to train under the famed Scottish warrior Scáthach "...she is a legendary Scottish warrior woman and martial arts teacher(...)"), and to complete his training he has to defeat her daughter in combat, and the only way he can do that is to cheat by distracting her - "(...)by calling out that Aífe's horses and chariot (...) had fallen off a cliff..." - because they're evenly matched.
Celtic women "...could own property(...), choose their own husbands; could divorce, were entitled to substantial damages if deserted or molested,"1 and be a part of politics and war. I believe that I've also read that a there was Queen of all of the kingdoms of Ireland, but I can't find the reference.

In short, why can't Merdia be a great person, a great warrior because she kicks ass and because she wants to be an individual, regardless of sex? Women have been strong in Celtic stories and culture, perhaps picking up on that and running with it would have a greater positive impact. "Look at her go, she's brilliant and going to do big, wonderful things" versus "Look at her go, she's as good as our best male warrior; she'll make a good wife when she blows off a little attitude."

1Ward Rutherford. "The Druids". pg.34. Sterling Publishing, 1990
posted by Zack_Replica at 8:27 PM on June 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


She's just, you know, a person.

I haven't seen this film. Is it an animated documentary and not fiction that have characters, metaphors, symbols, etc, and not real people?
posted by juiceCake at 9:03 PM on June 27, 2012


Honestly not sure what point you're trying to make there, Cake.
posted by kavasa at 9:06 PM on June 27, 2012


It's really frustrating. On the one hand, that movie journalism (I won't call it "criticism") is dumb because it just reinforces stereotypes.

But that's bringing out, the "how dare you apply gay-friendly interpretation to my favorite movie" outrage in droves.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:20 PM on June 27, 2012


Russell and Dash are probably too young. Maybe Nemo too. I like that Pixar makes children's movies with actual children in them, and not teenagers. And I like that Pixar makes movies where romance is not generally the central concern.

This probably has at least something to do with how much Treasure Planet tanked because of (at least in Rossio and Elliot's view) the late decision to make the lead into a teenager instead of a child.

Anyway...

The GF and I saw Brave on opening night and adored it. And now I'm going to bug you with a hell of a lot of my thoughts about it. But first I want to clear something up from my perspective.

The question, "Could Merida be gay?" is problematic because it can be taken in two wildly different ways. The first is the way my girlfriend (who is bi) took it, which reads like, "so she didn't get with a man at the end. Is she a dyke or what?" The second is the way I took it, which is, "could GBLT youth read her as gay in a meaningful way to them, without having to ignore a bunch of contextual stuff?"

The idea didn't occur to me when watching the movie, but now, I believe that Pixar probably at least discussed that second reading and decided to go with it. In that way, the question of her sexuality seriously doesn't matter, because it's intentional that it doesn't matter. As for the first, no no no and hell no.

But the movie is about, in a slugline way, how Merida reacts to a forced marriage ritual, and ends with her not only not choosing any suitor, but with her getting the clan to change their sociopolitical views on what marriage should be and mean. I absolutely believe that Pixar considered the political metaphor involved there and decided to allow that reading, because it is a good and valuable one, especially with the lesson about being brave enough to fight for the cultural change. It is, in that way, a call to action. To some. To others it won't register that way at all, and that's fine.

But in reality, the nieces of the world are right, because the movie is about the relationship between a mother and her teenaged daughter, and is fantastic in that regard. Brenda Chapman wrote the story because of her relationship with her own daughter, and that touch of personal inspiration comes through.

I don't know how universal it is for teenage girls to have such strained relationships with their mothers, but I've seen it enough to recognize how well Brave handles the material. Some touches that worked particularly well for me:

1. Merida has a very cozy daddy-daughter relationship with her father, who is seen for the most part through that lens, of the goofy, doting mountain of a man who lets his little girl get away with everything because of their special bond. The way that shifts in the third act, with her real act of "bravery" being having to bring arms against him, made the whole story strike home properly, I thought, especially because he wasn't being villainous, but rather just not paying her enough respect to listen to her when she actually needed him to do so. She was giving up the comfort of her father just seeing her as "his little girl" in order for him to see her as an independent woman worthy of attention, and all the time spent showing how lovely their previous bond was made that moment worthwhile.

2. That scene where she calms down the tribes just works on so many levels, the more you look back on it. At first, it's just her bluffing to help her mother get to safety, while her mother then in turn lets her give the ruling on not having to marry any of the schlubs. But it's so much more than that. Merida was pissed that her mother was trying to make her into a version of herself, a particular image of femininity that Merida didn't feel comfortable in. After their time in the woods, when the Queen has had to rely on Merida's strengths in order to learn to survive, the Queen has come to respect Merida's skills.

But here's the thing - Merida is still going to be Queen one day, and Elinor is still teaching her how to be a queen, but now with an understanding of Merida and a respect for her differences. And Merida is still different from her mother, but is now looking to her for guidance on proper political diplomacy. That scene is truly a thing of wonder, to me.

3. Same scene, but different issue. It is hugely important to me that when Merida makes her proclamation, the three suitors are relieved as well. This is, without a doubt, a feminist story, but one which understands that men need to understand feminism to be a movement which doesn't just break women out of their prescribed roles, but men as well. In the end, all four of them were being forced into this situation, and none of them were happy about it; Merida was just the one brave enough to change it.

In the end, my GF left the theater with me saying that she wanted to call her mom. That's the point of the movie, really. But as for the sexuality question, well, let me put it this way:

Is Merida gay? Who cares?

Could Merida be read as gay? Yes, and that is awesome.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:48 PM on June 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


From the comments in the article: "(even if they don't necessarily understand what sexuality means or how that effects their lives)"

Best typo ever.
posted by jaduncan at 9:54 PM on June 27, 2012


definitely not the only one

Yes. I was going to say Welcome to Tumblr.


dammit I thought I was being all clever or something too. DAMN YOU TUMBLRITES
posted by zennish at 10:09 PM on June 27, 2012


I can't believe that nobody has pointed this out yet...

So this Merida chick was a Scottish youth who could split an arrow in two, William Wallace, the defender of Scotland, was Robin Hood, Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor, ergo he was a Socialist, Socialism is clearly evil and will destroy civilization as we know it. Gay marriage is clearly also going to destroy civilization as we know it, ipsum ergo sum Merida is gay.

Shit, that was easy. I should run for office, or something.
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:57 PM on June 27, 2012


boo_radley: "Neekee: "N-thing the spoiler alerts. boo!"

oh come on. I don't think I spoiled anything.
"

This is a thread about a movie character. If anyone knows that (and the FPP is pretty damned clear), but doesn't expect spoilers, they are a special, special snowflake indeed.

(Also, the current thread about Game of Thrones mentions things that happen in Game of Thrones. Spoiler alert!)
posted by IAmBroom at 12:31 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I can still wonder which of the other ponies is going to wind up with Rainbow Dash, though, right? Leave me SOME degree of projection here, people.)
posted by kyrademon at 1:04 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


1) The early scene establishing her as an archery bad-ass made me cry for my own tomboy child-self and feel such joy that I can show my own daughter images of wild girls that I never got to see myself.

Glad I'm not alone. I haven't watched the movie yet, but when I watched this clip, tears started flowing. I'm 36. Grew up playing baseball (BASEball, not SOFTball), jumping off rock precipices into Oregon rivers (they're not known for being warm), taunting bulls with my hot pink coat (kinda sorta caused a fence between our playground and a neighboring cattle field to, uh, be broken and, uh, an angry bull making it too dangerous for the next recess one day, oops), and carving my own bow and arrows (so, naturally they didn't shoot straight, but dangit, I had my own handmade bow). I still have scars from carving incidents. Damn proud of them. "That split down my thumb? Yeah, I was whittling a bow, the knife slipped. I was cutting away from myself, but held the bow too close to the knife." I learned how to shoot guns too, but didn't like it as much. Was a dead-eye, though. Boys would hand guns to me just to watch me shoot holes through small faraway objects, and ask me how I managed it. Won a plush white tiger in Reno just from acing shooting games during a university band trip to the city.

I didn't even realize what I had been missing until seeing that clip. The tears, they just came of their own accord, seeing a feisty girl givin' em what for, being herself without guilt or shame.

It is great that they left her orientation open. I got loads of "what, r u a lezbo hurf durf" comments growing up too. Still do, but as an adult they're more the sneaky behind-your-back rumors about the strange tall woman who likes mountain biking, which is clearly not a normal woman thing (people say that one to me directly), and who has been single for "too long to be believable". Whatever. Figured they were people informing me they weren't types I should bother to spend my time with. I ended up being Prince Charming to myself, rescuin' me from an abusive family and whisking me away to a princessly home on the French Riviera where I snorfle my kitties and grow purty flowers, living happily ever after (so far anyhow, things are going well enough that it seems it should last that way for a while yet).

Nice to see movies finally start reflecting young women like that. Didn't realize how lonely it felt on a wider societal, symbolic level until no longer feeling so lonely thanks to Merida's bow and arrow.
posted by fraula at 2:01 AM on June 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Stephen Colbert on the topic.
posted by ts;dr at 3:40 AM on June 28, 2012


"I can't help contrasting Brave with Korra, the television series that went out of its way to put all the major characters in at least one love triangle so they're all accounted for."

Yes, that was always what annoyed me most about Avatar, and got worse with Korra. I dropped the series as soon as it came apparent that the focus was on the love relationships - It is just not interesting for me as a non-straight person.
I would be happy if they just had one major character with a "case of the not-gays"
posted by ts;dr at 3:49 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


... and what's up with Maudie and the boys diving into her cleavage?


I presumed she was the wet nurse for the triplets.

I really enjoyed Brave and so did my two young sons and their friend, Henry, who came with us to the cinema to see it. It never occurred to me that Merida's sexuality would even be an issue with the film. I was a tomboy (still am) with unruly red hair (hers is much nicer and I too was envious of her lack of hair-matting which happens to mine mere minutes after de-knotting) so it's hard to be objective. Marriage and weddings, the rituals and expectations associated with them, were never on my radar. Other people, including my mother, always assumed that this would be an inevitability but it was never my dream. I'm not alone! Straight, gay or bi doesn't seem to me to be important when it comes to wanting to be loved for oneself. Surely that's something that everyone wants, regardless of gender or sexuality? Merida's determination to make her own choices whilst also coming to an understanding of where her mother's expectations came from was more important than who she might eventually end up with.

The boys enjoyed the movie because it was exciting and it looked great and it was funny and creepy in equal measures (and, undoubtedly, for other reasons that are personal to them) and I enjoyed it for those reasons too, but also because it was a story about a girl and her mother and expectations and individuality and pride in one's strengths and recognising one's weaknesses and apologising without reservation when a really bad mistake has been made.

Her sexuality is not even a small part of the story as written, to my mind. She just wants to make up her own mind about who she will be. I expected people to be snarking about the anachronisms and the fart jokes and yes, the boobies, but it just didn't occur to me that her sexuality would come into question. I'm so naiive.
posted by h00py at 3:50 AM on June 28, 2012


(*without* a case of the not-gays)
posted by ts;dr at 3:54 AM on June 28, 2012


So we can't have a strong, independent teenage girl without her being gay?

News to me.
posted by stormpooper at 5:35 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would be awesome if she were gay and gets a girlfriend in the sequel. They could eat rainbow Oreos together.

Best. Euphemism. Ever.
posted by The Bellman at 6:17 AM on June 28, 2012


I haven't seen Brave yet (Saturday!), but all of this reminds me very much of Catherine Called Birdy, my favorite book when I was 11. Has anyone read it? Catherine spends the whole book resisting ugly suitors and eventually runs away but in the end is excited when the ultimate ugly suitor who she is betrothed to dies and she ends up with his hot, kind young son. It always pissed me off, but then, I don't know what other conclusion would work for a girl in 12th century England.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:49 AM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


She wore a chamber pot on her head!
posted by The Whelk at 7:51 AM on June 28, 2012


She wore a chamber pot on her head!

Well, it was fashionable at the time.
posted by Atreides at 7:59 AM on June 28, 2012


The gay/not gay thing didn't stand out for me during the movie. But what did stand out was the stark sexual dimorphism of the king and queen.
posted by euphorb at 8:00 AM on June 28, 2012


Huh, that's an interesting piece about Tangled. In Brave, I sort of assumed that it was because both parents were being portrayed through Merida's eyes - so her mom was the prettiest, most graceful and perfect lady ever, and her dad was as big and strong as a bear. It did make for some pretty striking visuals.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:26 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The King and Queen were designed to reflect their qualities. For someone known as the Bear King and a frequent slayer of bears, it makes sense for him to be big and burly. In contrast to his burliness, her mother reflects refinement, grace, and everything you expect a proper "lady" to have. In a not so subtle reflection of how her character changed in the movie, she went from having bound hair to free flowing hair at the end (when riding with Merida). She literally was not as bound by the protocols and expectations of her station that she had sought to instill in her daughter.
posted by Atreides at 9:36 AM on June 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thanks Navelgazer that was a good interpretation, I may well steal parts of it in the future.
posted by edgeways at 5:10 PM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not married and I don't have kids, therefore I get called faggot bitch on a regular basis. Whether or not I am a fan of penis doesn't really matter when I won't fuck everyone so inclined. I'm queer by default because I don't want to have missionary for procreative purposes for the rest of my life. In three years, I cease to be human as my chance of having children goes into significant decline.
If I'm pregnant, I have far more rights than I do now in the US. That is an idiotic reason to have a baby.
posted by provoliminal at 10:53 PM on June 28, 2012


So very tired of people insisting I need a man to survive on a basic level. If it weren't for ex-boyfriends and wannabe suitors, I'd still have 20 years of work and a decade of resources.
posted by provoliminal at 10:55 PM on June 28, 2012


Yuck. I feel like all the ZOMG is Merida GAY is some sort of weird sour grapes discrediting of the idea that it's actually not vital to impose sexuality on little girls and boys who aren't ready for it.
posted by desuetude at 11:52 PM on June 28, 2012 [2 favorites]






A friend of mine just totally nailed why Brave didn't really work for me: "Not sure what I think of a coming of age movie in which only the mom grows up."
posted by restless_nomad at 11:57 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd say Merida shows some growth, too. Framed when she stopped the fighting by acting like an adult/princess.
posted by Atreides at 5:05 PM on June 30, 2012


I liked this movie better than most of their recent movies, though it's nowhere near their best (which isn't, ugh, about a rat who wants to cook).

But still, why is the Pixar movie with the female lead a movie solely about female relationships?

It's a good thing that, like all the other Pixar shorts that I can think of offhand, this Pixar short was about men doing man stuff without girls.
posted by jeather at 9:20 PM on June 30, 2012


Yuck. I feel like all the ZOMG is Merida GAY is some sort of weird sour grapes discrediting of the idea that it's actually not vital to impose sexuality on little girls and boys who aren't ready for it.

Oh noes, how dare we interpret teen characters as beautiful, muti-faceted, complex, and perhaps a little bit like we were at that age!
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:10 PM on June 30, 2012


I finally saw it last night, and the consensus among the group of friends that I saw it with was that:

1. It was a total tearjerker for all the women who watched it.

2. We loved Merida's hair and her arrows and shiz.

3. While the way Merida's relationship with her mother was resolved was stirring and strong, the resolution to her primary conflict about arranged marriage felt rushed and a little odd considering the fact that Merida doesn't seem especially in favor of "love marriages" and, in fact, the one arranged marriage that we see essentially a perfect pairing of loving individuals. I, for one, couldn't get aeschenkarnos's critique out of my head, and it seemed odd to me that love marriages were presented as the ideal by default, as if there aren't people today, in America, whose marriages are arranged. I also think there was a hearty wiff of girl cooties, in that Merida's mother is training her to be a strong leader, and while some of that comes to fruition, it's mostly dismissed in favor of her mother needing to change. I think the fact that the spell was counteracted by doing women's work (stitching a tapestry) was significant, but even that didn't feel quite cooked enough. Sewing is something that her mother would have taught her from the earliest age, and Merida's stitches were sad, sad stuff--done hastily on horseback, sure, but some acknowledgement that the solution was something that came from her mother's lessons would have been nice, maybe? I also struggle to see fitting a queer narrative in--it felt clear to me that Merida was interested in the Conan guy and the tribal leaders just take the love marriage stuff as an opportunity to get the boys to woo her--but if viewers find comfort in reading it that way, good for them. I guess I just wish they didn't have to and that it was something more contextually present.

Overall, we all agreed that How to Train Your Dragon presented the same themes (accepting your children for who they are) better. As my friend put it, "All of the characters in How to Train Your Dragon have to change in order to accept the changes in their society. We don't know what the whole arranged vs. love marriage thing means for all of the characters here because we haven't seen how it's shaped anyone but Merida's life from the beginning."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:03 AM on July 1, 2012


Oh noes, how dare we interpret teen characters as beautiful, muti-faceted, complex, and perhaps a little bit like we were at that age!

I have no idea at what you're oh noes-ing. You had a fully-formed sexual identity at 12, 13, 14 that was highly relevant to everything you achieved?
posted by desuetude at 9:31 PM on July 1, 2012


You had a fully-formed sexual identity at 12, 13, 14 that was highly relevant to everything you achieved?

Fully-formed. Nah. But distinctly and obviously outside the norm? Oh my yes. And it was highly relevant to very nearly every relationship in my life.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:39 PM on July 1, 2012


restless_nomad, I'm all for ordinary gay characters and I'm kinda exhausted by heteronormativity.

But I think that the heteronormativity stems from this weird relentless need to insert sexuality as a motivation where it's not necessary (and naturally, the default is the default.) But I feel like the compulsion to define characters as gay or straight makes it still (in this example) about her-as-a-marriage-prospect. I thought the point was that it's about her autonomy to make personal decisions about her life, period.
posted by desuetude at 10:40 PM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


But I think that the heteronormativity stems from this weird relentless need to insert sexuality as a motivation where it's not necessary (and naturally, the default is the default.)

Red Letter Media aptly call this phenomenon "a case of the Not Gays."
posted by Sys Rq at 11:21 PM on July 1, 2012


You had a fully-formed sexual identity at 12, 13, 14 that was highly relevant to everything you achieved?

Relevant to everything I've achieved? Not really. Relevant to my emerging sense of what kinds of relationships I'd want as an adult? Certainly.

But I think that the heteronormativity stems from this weird relentless need to insert sexuality as a motivation where it's not necessary (and naturally, the default is the default.)

Good characters often have complex and multiple motivations. My favorite lgbt characters are not especially more motivated by sexuality than my favorite straight characters. They're running universities in orbit, commanding spacecraft, designing buildings, rescuing princes, leading communities, negotiating politics, and managing banks. Their sexual orientation usually is nothing more than an additional element of character detail.

I thought the point was that it's about ...., period.

Mediocre literary works have a point. Good literary works are open to multiple interpretations and perspectives that serve the needs of multiple audiences. Essentially, this is the same "no homo" bullshit I see every time a character is interpreted/reinterpreted as non-straight.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:10 AM on July 2, 2012




Evolution of a Feisty Pixar Princess
Pixar’s ‘Brave’: How the Character Merida Was Developed
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:46 AM on July 2, 2012


> Mediocre literary works have a point. Good literary works are open to multiple interpretations and perspectives that serve the needs of multiple audiences. Essentially, this is the same "no homo" bullshit I see every time a character is interpreted/reinterpreted as non-straight.

Is this "no homo" bullshit in response to my comment? Um, I'm queer and would like more ordinary queer characters.

I also appreciate it when films marketed to children dial back the insistence that the only real happy ending is marriage to your one true love who you have already identified at 14 or whatever.
posted by desuetude at 7:08 AM on July 2, 2012


Is this "no homo" bullshit in response to my comment? Um, I'm queer and would like more ordinary queer characters.

Then why are you insisting on only one possible interpretation of Brave at the expense of other queer readings?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:14 AM on July 2, 2012




Then why are you insisting on only one possible interpretation of Brave at the expense of other queer readings?

I didn't see any insistence. Not every difference of opinion indicates contempt or even an opposing point of view.
posted by h00py at 7:28 AM on July 2, 2012


I also appreciate it when films marketed to children dial back the insistence that the only real happy ending is marriage to your one true love who you have already identified at 14 or whatever.

Then we're... totally in agreement? I'm a little confused.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:41 AM on July 2, 2012


Not every difference of opinion indicates contempt or even an opposing point of view.

"Yuck," "weird sour grapes," and "impose" reads a lot like contempt to me.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:49 AM on July 2, 2012


Then why are you insisting on only one possible interpretation of Brave at the expense of other queer readings?

I'm not insisting on any interpretation over another at all. I don't know where you're getting that.

I was objecting to the idea (from several other articles linked within this thread) that "is she gay or not" is something that we should all take sides on, as if romance/sexual identity is the only possible motivation within any story about a human.
posted by desuetude at 8:12 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


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