Saw this last week and while it’s an innocuous enough film to take the kids to I’m having troubles with it from a story stand point. I can’t decide if it broke rules I hold too dearly and does work in spite of it or, if in breaking those rules, it muddles the message of the story in such a way as to make me say it doesn’t work.
So what is the story really about? What is at the root of this story and what is the audience supposed to take away from it?
The most obvious answer is it’s about a person making their own choices in life rather than simply conforming to what their parent or their society believes they ought to do.
Fine. A noble message, but why frame it from the point of view of a noble? Since when did the ruling class ever have to do what the rest of society expected them to do?
So the princess gets married. Would that really have stopped her from doing virtually anything she wanted to do, including continuing to ride her horse and play at archery? The stakes here are incredibly low.
And I think that’s my number one issue. Why a princess?
Honestly, I don’t want to be a cynical bastard here, but is it just to fit in with the Disney Princess theme?
Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel
Before the merge with Disney, no Pixar princesses, after? Well, here’s the first. Hmmm. Again, I don’t want to be a cynical bastard, but Disney sort of makes me one.
Wouldn’t this have been a bigger issue and better conflict if she was a peasant and had to make a serious choice between being selfish and somehow saving her sympathetic family from starving? Yeah, yeah, the choice being presented in the film is as if it is to bring four tribes together, but it seems to me they were more than happy apart before the possibility of a marriage was even put out there and it escalates from there.
OK, so maybe that’s just the issue in Act 1. Maybe? Maybe. To me it’s a big one, but somebody else might not feel the same way. I dunno. To me the problems of rich princesses seem pretty petty.
“So, that’s just the inciting incident,” you say. “What the story is really about is her (SPOILER ALERT) mom turns into a bear.”
Yeah? So? See, that’s NOT the point of the story. The point is making a choice between parental wishes and societal norms, or being a selfish princess. I swear that really IS the point of the story and you can tell because the solution to the problem at the end of Act 3, the thing that allows the story to be resolved is Merida saying, “I’m sorry” to her mother. In other words, Merida was wrong all along, from frame one up to that moment where she finally realizes it.
But, for 99% of the story, you’re supposed to believe Merida is somehow noble and good and doing the right thing by deciding to ignore her mother’s guidance and ride around the countryside shooting arrows at trees. Even very, very close to the end, Merida still thinks all her troubles are over if she just hits the undo button and fixes one physical object, the tapestry.
The story is muddled.
So many other minor quibbling points, but in short, Merida is kind of a jerk and we’re rooting for her to be selfish.
That can’t be right, can it?