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.