source: Pete Ware
Okay, so I have come across a lot of criticism against Merida that she is childish, rude, reckless, selfish and what not. But since she's my 2nd favorite princess, i'd like to put up a case in her favor for people to consider and see her in better light. I have tried to dissect the movie scenes, probed into possible perspective on various minor details that may have been overlooked.
Why she isn't sophisticated as others:
She no doubt loves both her mother and father, but Merida takes off a part of feisty, loud and unapologetically honest side from her father. She loves to fight with him, laughing wild and free, learning to use weapons like boys. Though Elinor never approves of princess making use of weapons, her father always encouraged Merida and also calmly suggested that she should let Merida be. His jolly and easy nature is reflected in Merida as well, she’s wild and carefree and mostly doesn’t bother with lady-like mannerism, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have manners at all.
"Leave her be! Princess or not, learning to fight is essential"
Elinor, "Fergus, would you look at your daughter's plate"
Fergus, "So what?"
She adores her little brothers:
She never fails to make a sweet gesture towards them, giving them cookies, telling stories of her adventure. She spoils them out of love, just like her father did with her. She's easy on them and lets them be. She also trusts them to help her out in times of trouble, while taking out bear-turned-Elinor out of castle. She only bribed them coz she didn't have time to explain and they were actually quite younger to understand the gravity of the situation. They did help without question when getting the keys from Maurdie.
She's isn't that irresponsible
Sure, she's not super enthusiastic about theoretical lessons and the classes on her etiquettes as princess; it was shown that she would attend all classes dutifully, even if she didn't enjoy it. She also attended social assembly with her parents, with however much effort she could manage to put into her smile, walk and mannerism to take her seat. Even though her mother was constantly disappointed in her, she didn't just run away or forget or throw tantrums in attending the classes and assembly.
How Merida's genuine interests are rather ignored by Elinor:
While Elinor is constantly reminding what Merida should and shouldn't do as a princess, she's shown to overlook how Merida's spending the sunday by herself. It is also evident from the way Merida responds that she doesn't expect her mother to listen and has seen it become Elinor's habit when she responds with much expected tone "Nothing, mother" while she narrates her story of drinking water from the Fall of Fire to her dad, right in front of Elinor.
Elinor, while reading letters, "What did you do dear?"
Merida, "Nothing, mother"
This incident is crucial in understanding several layers of Merida's personality. If Merida was childish and was used to showing tantrums when things didn't go her own way, she wouldn't have been comfortable with her mother's neglect in her interests.
It also reflects how Merida has grown comfortable while being on her own over the years and that’s why she loves and cherishes her freedom above all.
Merida never wastes a single moment while she's out there in wild, she explores new places and she religiously practices archery. She doesn't indulge in overtly dangerous pursuits and make sure she returns on time.
She's an excellent learner with inquisitive mind:
From childhood, she picked on things fast. She learned archery and honed it to perfection. She has impressive skills in sword and horse riding. She knows her land and has wandered further and deeper with Angus than she could ever found out from geography lessons. She wants to learn and explore anything that challenges her, intrigues her like bow-arrow, the story of an ancient kingdom, the wisps. She knows a lot about handling herself in the wild; which berries to eat, which water to drink, how to catch a fish, how to make a shelter from rain, how to take care of her horse, how to tread difficult terrains.
She isn't reckless or rash at all, only that she expresses her emotions exasperatedly than being humble about it
Okay, Merida is being severely criticized for being rash and reckless with her choices. I don’t understand how people find meaning in 2 sec of an emotion clip shown with other princess, while they swipe clean the entire line of incidents in Merida's case and straight away jump to how she turns her mother into a bear. So let me take you step by step before she turns, ACCIDENTALLY and UNINTENTIONALLY, her mother into a bear.
• Prior to this point, she had shown a lack of interest in theory classes and social assemblies but beyond that she had never spoken rudely to anyone, or done any reckless thing.
• Nobody even bothered to inform her that she's to be betrothed and while Elinor, on her own accord, had send the invitation to various clans to present suitors for Merida's hand, it is only after they received the confirmation, thought of informing her. I don't see if her parents haven't spoken a word until then to Merida about her own marriage, how Merida's shocked reaction is rude? Its marriage we are talking about, it's not some classes she's refusing to take or mannerism issues she's not obliging to or was denied to go some place where she had wished to go. It's a forever thing. And she’s hearing it for the first time, which clearly shows where her emotions are coming from.
Elinor, "Fergus, they have all accepted"
Merida, "who's accepted what, mother?"
• She clearly expresses the shock to her dad that how could he haven't told her about any of this. She also expresses why she wasn’t asked. To which Elinor's response is "You have been preparing for this your whole life?" She also clearly says to her mother that “You have been preparing me for this your whole life. I’m not ready for this” This shows that she hadn't even given a single thought about it ever. How do you expect to someone, out of the blue, to get ready for marriage, which is not out of love but out of duty? She's mostly furious coz, as usual; she was again just expected to accept everything a princess is supposed to do.
Elinor "The lords are presenting their sons as suitors for betrothel"
Merida "What" "Dad!"
Elinor "Honestly Merida, i don't know why are you reacting this way."
Merida, "I suppose a princess just does what she's told"
Elinor "This is what you've been preparing for your whole life"
Merida "No! This is what you've been preparing me for my whole life. I won't go through it. You can't make me."
• Moments later in her room, she's already over her momentary anger and she's just plain terrified of the idea of marriage. To which Elinor never shows one single ounce of understanding, not to say the least, "that i understand how you feel". She again points out that "it's not fair” on her to just make peace with the idea of marriage and suitors which Elinor readily ignores
Merdia "Mother...suitors? marriage?"
Elinor "Once there was an ancient kingdom.... I would advise you to make peace with it. The clans are coming tomorrow"
Merida "It's not fair!"
• Despite her apprehensions and reservations and her being totally against it, i so admired the fact that she didn't just run away to intentionally not attend the ceremony. She stuck around, got dressed, attended the ceremony and didn't out her parents in front of others.
Elinor announces the ceremony ritual; Merida saw the logical way to make her mother understand her perspective:
When Elinor claims that "Only the first born of each clan can compete for the hand of princess but must prove their worth by feats of strength or arm which the princess herself would decide."
, Merida instantly thought of a logical solution to ask the suitors to show their skills in archery and her being the first born, she can compete and show that she herself is the best suitor among all.
A logical demonstration of her talent
Let's be honest, if archery was the chosen game to prove their worth, why should Merida shy away from claiming she has better skills than her suitors, when in fact she's to decide whether they are worthy or not. It is so obvious that none of the suitors were worthy enough to claim Merida's hand in marriage, based on archery. Instead of seeing the plain truth, Merida's parents let them compete. Instead of these brave, honorable men humbly accepting the defeat and asking their sons to better prepare if they have to win a better talented woman, they rounded up on Merida for embarrassing them. Merida simply showed the truth, which no one had the spine to accept fairly.
This is so unfair of men, when they can’t compete against a woman of superior talent, they simply outcast her. If that is not mean and unfair and crude of these chivalrous leaders and her parents trying to pass these laughable suitors as best match for Merida, then I don’t know what is.
Elinor STILL doesn’t want to listen to the truth:
Despite Merida’s efforts, first emotionally, then tried to communicate her reservations and doubts, then by logic where she clearly mentions “I followed the rules” and let her emotions out. She again expresses that it’s unfair for her mother to force her wants and expectations on Merida when she simply isn’t ready for marriage.
Even then, Elinor threatens Merida that she’ll have to listen to her as she’s the Queen. Only after so many attempts that Merida finally broke into true anger and let it take the better of her, when she swung her sword on the tapestry.
Elinor "You embarrassed them"
Merida "I followed the rules"
Elinor "You don't what you've done"
Merida "Just listen!"
Elinor "I'm the Queen, you listen to me"
Merida "This is so unfair!"
Elinor "huh, unfair?"
Merida "You are never there for me! This whole marriage thing is what you want. Do you bother to ask me what i want? No! Trying to make me be like you. well, I'm not going to be like you."
Merida never wanted to hurt her mother; she was only trying to find yet another solution:
It was Elinor who taught Merida in childhood that following the wisps may lead you to your fate. So when she stumbles upon witch’s cottage when she follows the trail of wisps, she questions "why would the wisps lead me here". To which she immediately connected with changing her fate, by changing her mother’s views on marriage. She never could have imagined that a spell would change her into a bear, her true intentions were only to make her mother see marriage from different perspective. Her intentions were never to hurt her mother.
"you are a witch! That's why the wisps lead me here. You'll change my fate."
"I want a spell that'll change my mum, that'll change my fate"
"Are you sure, if i give this to my mum, it will change my fate"
She has a side that's caring yet determined and strong-willed:
After her mother turned into a bear, even though Merida would have to be terrified, she kept her cool and understood that the safety of her mother was to get her out of the castle first rather than argue who’s to blame for the spell. After Merida failed to find a solution at witch’s cottage, she build a shelter for her mother to keep dry and was determined to find a solution next day. She helped Elinor at every step, and even when once Elinor turned into a real bear and tried to attack Merida, she didn’t run away.
She called to her mother inside the bear. She stood right next to her and tried to soothe her instead, even though she must have been terrified.
“I know you’re scared, you are tired, you don’t understand, but we’ve got to keep our heads.”
She CAN sacrifice her happiness when the need arrives, for her family:
When she couldn’t get Elinor back into castle to sew the torn tapestry, she walked in the chaos with each clan claiming to go on war against her kingdom and demanded answers of her. She had decided to agree to choose a suitor at that time just for the sake of her mother, that she wouldn’t let anything happen to her mother no matter the cost. With this, she was ready to sacrifice her much cherished freedom and marry out of duty. She was also able to bring peace by remembering the lesson her mother had taught her “Legends ring with truth”. In the middle of personal and political chaos, she was able to keep her head, acted maturely and was ready to do whatever it takes to bring back her mother.
“I have been selfish; I tore a great rift in our kingdom. There’s no one to blame but me. And i know now, i need to amend my mistake and mend our bonds."
"And so, there's a matter of my betrothel, and I've decided to do what's right" [/]i]
This shows that she can be selfless when the times call for it, and yet fight for her heart’s desire but she won’t turn back on her family, whichever way.
She'll stand for what's right, no matter how she's judged to be crazy:
She would have fought against the whole kingdom, not only her father, for her mother. Her voice rung with determination and strong-will and fierce care and affection for her mother, “Get back. That's my mother. I will not let you kill my mother.”
She owns up to her mistake:
She’s not afraid to accept her mistakes and learn from them. She not only confessed her immaturity in front every leader, but also confessed that to her mother personally.
[i] "This is all my fault. I did this to you, to us. You've always been there for me. You've never given up on me."
12. Would the spell have, if Elinor also wouldn't have realized her own mistake in forcing Merida?
The spell clearly says that “Mend the bond, torn by pride” It wasn’t only Merida’s pride but Elinor’s as well. If she wouldn’t have understood her daughter’s heart when she faced the angry crowd of other clans all alone, the spell would never have been broken. And that’s why Elinor confesses herself “We both have” changed.
All in all, she's a strong, passionate and independent woman who wants to explore, even though she may not have a soft demure. She has sharp mind and can keep her head in most situations. She will fight for her heart's desire, if no one will listen but learns to be more mature and selfless, when time calls for it. The best is, she learns from her own mistakes and that makes her relatable as no one is perfect. Almost everyone gets angry and sorrowful. But she doesn't give up - neither on her dreams nor would she abandon her parents for her wish.
"There are those who says fate is something beyond our command, that destiny is not our own. But i know better, our fate lives within us. You only have to be brave enough to see it."
Phew! it got long, didn't it? Anyways, thanks for indulging me! Hope you enjoyed it. Would love to hear from all, as always.