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Why I Think Pixar’s Brave Won’t Scare and Scar Your Kids

On Friday, June 22, the world will meet Merida, and princess movies may never be the same (my boys already met her). Take that how you will.

Brave, Pixar’s latest movie, an all but guaranteed blockbuster, doesn’t open until this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that the internet isn’t already full of theories, reviews, and opinions. You know how the internet do.

Let me start by stating that the film, which I viewed with my family this past weekend at a media screening, is simply amazing. The art, imagery, and wonder of Merida’s hair are, alone, worth the price of admission. There is no doubt that you and your family should see it.

But, you may ask, what about the scaring and the scarring?

I’m getting to that.

Shawn Burns, author of the popular parenting blog Backpacking Dad, has written a post in which he asserts that “Brave is not for boys,” and then backs it up with a number of reasons. I agree with a lot of his argument. In fact, his case is fairly accurate (although, aside from red hair I have trouble finding any similarities between Brave and The Little Mermaid as he suggests).

Burns, who states that he did enjoy the film, writes:

“It is less good for your sons. The male characters in the film are one-dimensional. They are either spritely, voiceless, little boys, menacing figures, buffoons, or obstacles. In Brave, although it is the mother-daughter relationship that is tested by the system of arranged marriages that is in place, it is still a male construct: Men are the problem in Brave.”

He is right, but with all due respect, I am not sure that it matters.

The most obvious argument is that our children shouldn’t be looking to films for role models. That’s what Charles Barkley is for. Yet, kids are impressionable, I get it. I am a parent and I agree that it is nice to see positive characters in movies that target children. Nice, but not necessary.

Another popular reaction to Burns’ post is that girls have known nothing but weak characters, and that it is only fair that boys experience the same. This argument is flawed for a very obvious reason. Just because one group of society has been misrepresented does not mean another has it coming, unless the latter is the one offering said misrepresentation, which is a) biblical justice, and b) not the case here. Boys, don’t deserve to be lampooned just because girls have, rather boys should stand by girls and say, “Enough.”

But we are talking about kids, and most of them are not reading into it like an adult would. They see people acting menacing, buffoonish, or brave, and they respond to that character accordingly.

I suggest that we consider the source. Pixar no more set out to tell a “girl story” than they did to belittle boys. The story was created by Brenda Chapman as a result of her own clashes of will with her young daughter, and it grew from there. Hence the strong storyline between mother and daughter that drives the majority of Brave.

Over the past few months I have interviewed the producer, director, and many of the key players involved in the making of Brave (which took seven years!) and they all said the same thing, nobody decided that it was time to make a film for girls, it was just time to tell a story — something Pixar may do better than anyone.

I would argue that the men in Brave are products of their era (although there is no set time for the film, it is safe to say that it was a long time ago), in which they were either thirsting for blood or thirsting for wine and talking about blood. Society was such that women were, at least in public, not given equal status to men and had many constructs placed upon them, by men, that were unjust, and in many cases unthinkable. The men in Brave, with the possible exception of Merida’s father and brothers, are peacocking caricatures of a different time that were created to reflect the period properly and propel the story forward, not statements to be studied for inklings of merit and virtue.

My boys, and I suspect many others, did not leave the theater depressed, berated, or dejected over the lack of a male figure that they could connect with, rather they held my hand and talked loudly through laughter about bears, butts (there is some kilt-related nudity), and wanting a bow and arrows.

The scares in the film are a little more obvious: BEARS. Due to dark magic and misunderstandings there is a lot of bear-related fear, tension, and violence. Many parents that have seen the film with their children have told me that their kids were too scared, some having to leave the theater. Some of the scenes are pretty intense.

This, again, goes back to Pixar’s storytelling. They, like Walt Disney before them, understand the importance of a good scare. Furthermore, fear is an emotion like anything else and allowing children to experience it in a controlled, safe environment is, in my opinion, a healthy thing.

My own boys, ages six and nine, shuffled in their seats a bit and reached out for some paternal reassurance in the dark, but they got through it just fine. That said, parents may want to prepare their kids as needed.

Will Brave scare or scar your kids? I can’t answer that. Is Brave a film worth seeing? Absolutely.

 

Brave opens Friday, June 22. It is rated PG due to the scares and, I assume, nudity, mentioned above.

Whit Honea can be found writing about whatever he feels like at his personal site Honea Express (Honea sounds like pony) and DadCentric. If you’re really bored you can follow him on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).

Also from Whit:

Babes in Cars Land

Oh, the Places They Will Go!

Taking a Lemonade Stand Against Childhood Cancer

An Award by Any Other Name

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