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