Arts, Culture, Movies — July 5, 2012 7:30 am

Pixar’s Queer Little Debate

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If you haven’t yet seen Brave, here’s the gist of it: Princess Merida has her life planned out for her by her Queen mother.  Her biggest concern is her planned marriage at the age of fifteen to a suitor that will win her hand by winning the Highland Games.  Merida’s not too thrilled.  She’s headstrong and young, and doesn’t want to be married to a stranger just yet.  So clearly, she’s a lesbian.

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Wait, what?  Hold on.  A fifteen-year-old (who happens to be a bit of a tomboy) doesn’t want to be married to someone that she doesn’t know for the sake of tradition.  She would rather explore the land around her—the wonderfully animated Scotland—and oh, I don’t know, grow up some before she dives into this little, life-long commitment.  And this makes her a lesbian?  According to some people, yes.

This may not be Pixar’s greatest achievement, but it is an adorable movie, with a complex protagonist.  Merida is Pixar’s first female lead, and to be honest, she’s a little hard to root for sometimes.  I mean, think of yourself fighting with your parents at fifteen.  Embarrassed?  Me too.  And our consequences hopefully aren’t as drastic as Merida’s, but the story is centered on her relationship with her mom.  There are no sweeping, brooding love interests; she is not romantic.  She likes to be adventurous and mysterious.  She’s also emotional and a little rash on her decision-making.  What Brave does really well is to show both Merida and her mother’s conflicts.  You understand them both, but they don’t understand each other.  Sound familiar?  Sound like many a family dinner where you stormed out because your parents just don’t get you and never will?  Don’t deny it.

People who aren’t thrilled with the movie seem to have the same problem.  Merida is fighting a more internal battle—you know, emotions and parents and stuff—and she’s doing it on her own.  She doesn’t have a man sweeping her off her feet to teach her a lesson.  It’s not exactly what we’re used to when we think of Disney Princess’s.  But this is Pixar.  They seem to have a different idea of how young girls might actually think and behave.  I venture to say it’s a tad more realistic.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but Merida might be able to teach young girls lessons better than some of the classics we know.  Like being an independent person does not make you weak, it makes you strong.  But it comes with responsibilities, and adults may not understand you right away, but be patient and they’ll start to. What good comes out of questioning Merida’s sexuality simply for lack of young men in her life, and for her independent thinking process?  I think that’ll just confuse young viewers.  That’s like telling them, “sorry girls, but if you think for yourself, you’re probably gay.  Enjoy that confusion!”

If Merida’s a lesbian, more power to her.  But there is nothing in the movie that should suggest that.  The girl can’t control her crazy red curls; you think she’s ready for marriage?  And since she’s not ready for marriage, does that make her gay?  No.  It makes her fifteen.  Let her remain what she is: a tomboyish pre-teen who isn’t too fond of the idea of marriage.  Since so many young characters in culture today happen to be gay, it seems like we are looking for that in every avenue.  I simply don’t think this one applies.  Her ambiguity is what makes her universal, not homosexual.  Maybe people are having a problem because both boys and girls can find something in themselves that they see in Merida, which is just horrible!  Boys and girls understanding each other and relating to each other?  Unheard of!  And for the record, her curly red locks are so gorgeous, that aint no Maybelline.  She’s born with it.

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  • I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I have heard some friends say, in so many words, that the girl is ‘obviously a little lesbian.’ (“Little” as in small in stature, not as in, ‘slightly gay.’)

    Anyway, curious about that decision on the part of Pixar–mostly because I hadn’t heard about ‘the lesbian thing’ prior to the movie’s release and you’d think it’d be a big deal if it was that explicit–I asked how they knew. And, like you say here, their responses were along the lines of: “Well, she doesn’t want to get married even though it’s tradition.” And, “there are all these themes about being able to love whomever you want.”

    By that logic, I guess I’m a lesbian too. Who woulda thunk?

  • First off, “more power to her”? For being a lesbian? I don’t think you’ve read the Bible. Where it talks about marriage being a picture of Christ and the Church, and where it says the man is Christ and the woman is the Church…yeah, you can’t have that in gay relationships. Some food for thought.

    Also, you seem to have missed the point of accusing Merida of being lesbian. From the article you referenced: “Let’s be clear: Merida isn’t an overtly lesbian character. Nothing in the story implies that she’s attracted to other women”

    The article is concerned that the movie is endorsing homosexual ideas by shirking gender roles and by presenting a female character to embody the new concept of sexuality that today’s culture embraces. And it’s not like this would be a new thing — The Incredibles and Wall*E were both incredibly heavy with political messages and modern commentary.

    So you really failed to wrestle with what people are actually saying about this movie. Your complaint — that she isn’t overtly lesbian — was acknowledged at the beginning of the article you referenced. You failed to go further and to truly understand the ideas you are trying to critique.

    • Walter, I appreciate you reading TPQ but what we want to discourage is a spirit of snark and rudeness. You clearly have a distinct reading of the Bible that is legitimate but to use it in a bully type fashion detracts from any point that you may be trying to make.

      At TPQ we try and be a place where any and all opinions can be heard and discussed please help us n making this a fun and respectful site.

      Again, thanks for reading and keep commenting, but please do it with grace.

      • “snark and rudeness” seems to be present in the article as well. My only snark came in my first paragraph. Did you miss the snark in the article? Or do you just not care about that snark for some reason?

        “She’s headstrong and young, and doesn’t want to be married to a stranger just yet. So clearly, she’s a lesbian.”

        “She would rather explore the land around her…and oh, I don’t know, grow up some before she dives into this little, life-long commitment. And this makes her a lesbian?”

        “Maybe people are having a problem because both boys and girls can find something in themselves that they see in Merida, which is just horrible!”

        Editorial comments that are clearly biased are worse than snarky comments.

  • I bet she eats oreos.

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