Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pixar, You Made My Little Girl Cry.

spoiler alert - if you're planning to see Brave, don't read this

Dear Pixar,

Yesterday my sister Sam and I took our five-year-old daughters to see Brave, your new hit animated movie. It was a big deal to us. Ivy's only been to the cinema once before, and her cousin Belle has never been. They wore their hair in fancy ponytails, they clutched their choc tops, and they settled into the darkness, fidgety with anticipation. 

Sam and I exchanged a look of delight as your film began. Ivy and Belle's eyes were wide with wonder, and it was so sweet. An hour later, the glance we shared was anguished. Belle was in Sams lap, and Ivy was curled as close as she could to my side, soaking the sleeve of my cardigan with tears. Belle was crying too. They were completely, utterly terrified.

What the hell, Pixar?

Why, in a movie for kids  would you write a protracted, terrifying, bloody fight scene, clearly made to be as scary as possible? In what demented writing-room did your hacks urge each other 'OK, if these bears are going to fight, let's make this the most spine-chilling, gory fight these kids have ever seen! Let's scare the LIVING SHIT out of these kids!'

This is my main problem with Brave, Pixar. I have others. For one, the fact that this is the first time you have featured a female heroine in your long history. Slow hand-clap to you, Pixar. You finally got there. After thirteen films.

You had some great stuff in this film.  The animation was gorgeous and I loved your heroine. I really did. Merida is feisty and funny and warm and smart. That scene early in the film where she escapes from the castle, urges her horse into a wild gallop through the countryside, leaps off, climbs a cliff and drinks from a waterfall at the top, hooting and shouting in abandoned, delighted glee, was transporting and thrilling.

But dammit, Pixar, why did you have to make her a  princess? Is there really no other forum in which to explore the life of a female character? Why must her femaleness  be at the heart of her struggle? Why must she rail against a system that places her gender as the central fact of her life? Just make her a girl and get on with the story, for craps sake. Her being a girl is not the whole story,  Pixar. Just quietly, there's a few of us around the place, and we have more to offer the vast and wonderful tapestry of fictional possibility than castles, tiaras and sparky unicorns. 

And then, the violence.

The central relationship of the film is between Merida and her mother, the Queen, and it is wonderfully acted. Their struggle to understand each other caught in my throat more than once. I imagine many mothers and daughters watching this film saw themselves, and so the climactic scene of the film, where the child tries to protect the mother from being horribly killed, and is nearly killed herself,  is made doubly terrifying by the psychological context.

Now the easy argument against this is that Ivy and Belle were just too young to handle this film, and I accept the truth in that. But then, how old is OK? Is a nine-year-old better equipped to sit in a dark room with a massive screen showing the giant, bloodied fangs of a scary beast snapping at the throat of a creature they have spent an hour engaging with as a mother figure? Is a twelve-year-old ready for that? Why do they have to be?

We wanted to take our little girls on a special treat to a fun film with a female lead. It should have been a great outing. Instead, they cried and we comforted.

Thanks heaps, Pixar. (Sarcasm font.)

Yours etc,



  1. From Jaclyn Friedman @ the Guardian:
    "Brave producer Katherine Sarafian made no bones about [the fact that it had to be a princess] in a recent interview on NPR, saying:

    "'We tried making her the blacksmith's daughter and the milkmaid in various things … There's no stakes in the story for us that way. We wanted to show real stakes in the story where, you know, the peace of the kingdom and the traditions are all at stake."

    "Let's take that in for a minute: the studio whose most iconic heroes include a toy cowboy, a rat, a fish, a boy scout, and a lonely trash compactor (all male-identified, of course), couldn't figure out how to tell a story about a human girl without making her a princess. That's the problem in a nutshell: if the sparkling minds at Pixar can't imagine their way out of the princess paradigm, how can we expect girls to?"

    At least it passes the Bechdel test - which is more than I can say for our first-ever-movie foray a couple of days ago (Ice Age 4).

    Love Sush xoxo

  2. Yep, well said. And the Bechdel test! That kills me. It makes my head hurt. xx

  3. Thank you! I am not alone. We took Busy, ( AKA 5 year old girl) to see it ( its about her 3rd movie so still very exciting plus we both took her) and we had tears and terror as well. The scary bear was too much and the story way beyond her years - she cried and sat on my lap for most of it. I didn't think it was very good at all. not funny just scary and why the F*ck indeed did she have to be a bloody princess?

  4. My Miss 6 was terrified too. In saying that, when I reviewed it and suggested it was for older kids, there were lots of people who thought I was overly protective and ignored the advice. I am overly protective I guess, but that bear was one scary character.

    1. I guess everybody has different aspects of parenting in which they are more permissive or more protective. I wouldn't have minded sex in Brave. But I hate the violence.

  5. PS If you get the chance, we took 5 kids aged 3 - 10 to Circus Oz, it was amazing, if they come to town, you really should take the family. Amazing talent and a great show.

  6. aah thanks for this, I was thinking of taking Amy but now I wont. In a film for my five year old grand daughter I want fluffy and cute. The fight scenes can come when she is older. MUCH much older.

  7. A couple of points:

    1. Almost all children are apprehensive/nervous/frightened the first time they go to the cinema. I know I was, and I know my daughter was.

    2. There is a long history of scary children's film's and I don't think this was at the top of the list at all. The Wizard of Oz was scarier. Besides, children actually enjoy scaring themselves and each other. It was rated PG, not G, and was titled "Brave". Yes, it was going to be a little scary at times.

    3. Gore? What gore? I didn't see a single drop of blood, let alone gore.

    4. What is actually wrong with the heroine being a princess? Does it not perhaps make her act of rebellion and self assertion even more powerful? And I didn't for one second think the heart of this struggle was anything to do with her femaleness but rather the desire to follow ones heart, not a path dictated by others. I see this as a human struggle, not a gender issue.


  8. Thanks Graz.

    1. Ivy is pretty adventurous actually. She loves new stuff, so that part wasn't a worry for her. She is pretty intense emotionally though, so she's ripe to go right along whatever journey a film takes her on.

    2. I take your point that kids can enjoy the thrill ride of scariness. The scene in Annie where the villain Rooster tries to throw her off a bridge? The child-catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? That's some scary stuff.

    Ivy, in fact, is not worried after seeing Brave. She hasn't had nightmares, or had to talk through her issues about it, or seemed damaged in any way. So maybe it's more my issue than hers.

    But I stand by my point that the intensity of the violence was taken too far. The fact that the chase-to-kill scene was really long, and really terrifying, and set within a particularly chilling psychological framework was unnecessarily scary.

    3. Maybe I was a little carried away with 'gore..' DRAMATIC? MOI?

    4. Brave does the princess story about as well as anybody, and I did love the character. I thought she was really cool, and I loved seeing my daughter watch this spunky and athletic character. My problem is that the princess paradigm has become almost the sole framework in which little girls are encouraged to see themselves in story form (and also, little boys encouraged to see girls.) It is essentially diminishing, in my opinion.


  9. Replies
    1. Hee hee Lolo... lots of man-energy in that house.xx


Thanks for talking to me. I don't got cooties. Oh, except for when I got cooties.