Your movie's advertising LIED to us!
First of all, this is an essay I had to do for my Advanced Composition class during the Spring semester, so this is a little bit more formal than how my articles usually are.
Disney and Pixar’s movie Brave is about a Scottish Princess named Merida that wants to be free of her arranged marriage and live her life without the responsibilities that come with being a princess. She and her mother, Queen Elinor, don’t see eye to eye because of Merida’s rebellious nature and Elinor preference of the traditional ways. When Merida fails to get her way she ends up buying a spell from a witch (Using a family heirloom her mother gave her as payment) that was meant to “change her mother” but the lack of specificity of what Merida wanted the spell to do beyond that vague description ends up changing her mother into a bear. So the two must figure out a way to change the queen back before she becomes a bear permanently while also mending their strained relationship.
When the trailers and commercials for this movie came out they were promoting a very different story than what the actual movie presented. It showed a story about a young princess that wanted her freedom but also caused suffering for everyone by enacting a dark curse upon the land. Everyone thought it was going to be a grand and epic adventure about this young woman finding herself while trying to defeat an ancient evil to fix her mistakes. This, unfortunately, let a lot of people down when they finally saw the movie due to the false advertising used for the movie, which was completely different from what the trailers and advertising promoted. It wasn’t until the movie had already been out for a few weeks that a commercial appeared where they said that Queen Elinor had been turned into a bear, much like how a used car salesman doesn’t tell you about the problems that a car you bought has until it breaks down and you call to complain.
Like with any movie, the company wanted to promote the movie in a positive and interesting light in order to get people to want to pay money to go and see it. However, the advertising they used to do that for this movie was very deceiving because of how the actual movie wasn’t the big and grand story they had promised but instead showed a movie that had the characters they saw in the trailers but in a movie that had a completely different tone than the audience expected. Had they promoted the actual story that the movie was about, perhaps the audience wouldn’t have been as disappointed as they were and tried to just judge it on its own.
One of the things the movie was trying to promote was a strong sense of feminism with a heroine that was supposed to be different from the Disney Princess mold. She certainly looked different from the conventionally beautiful look that the Disney Princesses were known for, while still being pleasant enough to look at, being meant to look more like a realistic young woman. She also was the first Disney Princess not to have a love interest and to stay single. However, other than those things, she really didn’t show that she was different from past Disney Princesses. She didn’t want to be a princess (Just like Jasmine from Aladdin), was rebellious and adventurous with a strict parent (Just like Ariel from The Little Mermaid), was being forced to get married when she didn’t want to (Just like Jasmine again and like Pocahontas), didn’t fit into the mold that her society wanted her to fit into (Just like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan), doesn’t think she needs romance in her life (Just like Tiana from The Princess and the Frog), goes to a witch for help (Just like Ariel), and makes mistakes but wants to fix them (Like pretty much all the past Disney Princesses). She was promoted to be different from the past Disney Princesses, but despite her lack of a love interest and having a not so conventionally good-looking appearance, there wasn’t anything new about her. She was pretty much a combination of the past Disney Princesses and wasn’t unique like she was promoted to be.
Merida also lacks the charm that a lot of the princesses had that made them realistic, admirable, and good role models for children. Snow White and Cinderella conform more to the roles expected of women when their movies came out that and are bashed as being “weak” and needing to be saved a lot in order for the advertising to promote Merida as a strong feminist character. However, despite being limited to the roles expected of women at the time, they still had plenty of things to admire. Snow White acts as a motherly figure to the dwarfs and anyone who says being a mother doesn’t make a strong and responsible woman clearly has never been one. It’s harder than any job someone could ever have and unlike other jobs you don’t get paid for it. She teaches the Dwarfs what they should already know such as manners, cleaning, and washing their hands, since they couldn’t even remember the last time they washed their hands. Plus considering her psycho stepmother wanted to kill her because she was more beautiful than her, the fact that she can stay so positive in a bad situation is admirable. Cinderella constantly is showing self-control from the abuse she received from her step-family, since they could kick her out if she disobeyed and women had very few opportunities to make a living during her time period. She still managed to remain a good and kind person despite that this would likely make any other person turn out the opposite. In the end, she’s rewarded for her hard work, patience, and kindness.
Cinderella and Snow may not be action girls but still show more qualities of a strong woman than Merida did just by not having a love interest and supposedly taking action. Once The Little Mermaid came out, the princesses would become more proactive but still have admirable qualities. Unlike Merida trying to force her mother to conform to her own believes by attempting to take away her free will, Ariel seems to do the opposite. She says before her iconic song, “Part of Your World” that she just wanted to make her father understand her point of view of humans and that they couldn’t all be bad. She wanted to explain her point of view to her father but he wouldn’t listen because he believed humans were dangerous and just wanted to keep her safe. Ariel also went to a witch for a spell but knew the specifics and thought only she would be affected if she failed, not anyone else. Merida intentionally wanted to change who her mother was instead of trying to get her to understand. All Merida seems to say is that the marriage wasn’t fair, that her mother was never there for her (never explaining why), and threw insults at her mother without explaining her point of view. Merida’s actions could be compared to that of a villainess.
The advertising also promoted Merida as a strong female character that didn’t need to be saved, could take care of herself, was the one that would save the day, and was far from a damsel in distress. However, when watching the actual movie, that was far from what she actually was. Aside from when she shot one of her arrows through another arrow, she did very little of anything that was physically impressive or showed that she could take care of herself. Most of the time she had to be saved by her mother and even had to be saved by her little brothers that were no more than five-years-old. That’s not to say that a female has to always be able to fight and never need help in order to be likable or interesting, but when she’s promoted as being able to fight for herself but doesn’t do very much, it’s very much a rip-off. The promotional posters always showed her about to shoot an arrow and doing something badass, which she didn’t do very much of in this movie. Merida is what is referred to as a faux action girl, meaning a fictional female character that was meant to be able to take care of herself and kick ass but did very little of that and usually had to be saved a lot. No one can do everything, even Mulan needed some help but still showed that she was the action girl she was promoted as with depth to her, unlike Merida.
The narrative of the movie also seemed to be forcing the audience to want to side with Merida, despite her questionably immoral actions. An example of this would be how she joked about war saying, “Call off the gathering! Would it kill them? You’re the queen! Just tell the lords that the princess isn’t ready for this! In fact, she might not ever be ready! So that’s it! Good day to you! We’ll expect your declarations of war in the morning!” This showed her lack of caring about the fact that war could possibly break out all because of her not wanting to get married and being alright with millions of people suffering and dying to make her happy. They don’t seem to address that moment as anything more than a joke when it made her look rather despicably selfish. That on top of basically poisoning her mother with a cursed cake that would turn her into a bear, Merida going out of her way to take away mother’s free will in order to conform to her ways, when her mother wasn’t feeling well didn’t show any concern except on whether or not her mind was changed about the marriage, saying she would rather die than be like mother, ruining her mother’s personal property (A tapestry she made of the family), and claiming none of conflict was her fault until close to the end of the movie. It’s very difficult to side with a character that did so many terrible things when the audience is meant to feel sorry for her.
It was said that Merida wasn’t meant to be considered in the right in the movie, but that is contradicted when you look at her suitors that are meant to compete to win her hand in marriage. She was said to not be ready for marriage yet and that would be understandable if her suitors weren’t made out to be three complete losers. One was a large and fat guy with such a thick Scottish accent that no one could understand a word he was saying (Literally, even his own father couldn’t understand what he was saying), one that was supposed to be the “good looking” one of the three but was an arrogant wimp that threw a tantrum when he didn’t win, and the third one was the most pathetic looking creature ever created that always had a facial expression that made him look like he was brain-dead. The message of Merida not wanting to get married would’ve been much better and understanding if they were all just as good looking, skilled, and competent as Merida was instead of these three losers. It would just be that they were great guys but she was just not ready for marriage. However, with having her choices of suitors not being very appealing, just made it seem like the creators were trying to force the audience to feel sorry for her. In fact, all the men in the movie are shown as complete idiots in general. They seem to think that in order for the movie to show “feminism” the women have to be more competent than the men, even though feminism is about equality for everyone, not just women. The movie really alienates the male audience if they’re being personally attacked and thought of as idiots when the women are shown being the smart ones. Cinderella and Snow White may not have been much of fighters but were still admirable and had strength beyond just trying to fight with their fists.
The narrative also was supposed to show us Merida having gone through a change along with her mother when really Merida doesn’t do much changing. They show one bonding moment between the two, Elinor constantly had to protect Merida for not being able to handle herself, Elinor had to tell Merida what to say to the Lords through sign language, and Elinor was the one who conformed to Merida’s beliefs. Merida didn’t have to really sacrifice anything in the end or change. Just when Merida was about to say something about the marriage to the lords, her mother just tells her to forget about it and let Merida have her way by breaking tradition. Her mother even had to spoon-feed to her what to say, so she really did nothing. All she really did was finally admit everything was her fault and tell her mother she loved her. She didn’t have to take on more responsibility or conform to any of her mother’s beliefs in the end; her mother would conform to Merida’s beliefs, while Merida herself didn’t do the same. The movie was well-meaning with what it wanted to do but failed in its execution and argument. It false advertised both what the movie and the protagonist really were in the actual product. If failed to show the protagonist as the unique, strong, relatable, and developed character they were both promoting her as and tried to show through the narrative.
I don't care about the safety and well being of others! I only care about my own happiness!
Now to be inconsiderate of my hardworking servants and make their jobs more difficult