Brave New World

by Ama Debrah

All a girl needs is a bow to look badass.

Several weeks ago, the banners went up over Lehman Lawn, announcing the return of Barnard College’s highly anticipated Athena Film Festival. Though many of the films initially caught my attention, I wasn’t planning on seeing any, since I got the false idea that I would devote the weekend to “studying.” However, after receiving nine free tickets to the Saturday showing of Pixar’s latest film, Brave, I realized that it would be against my civic duty as a diehard Pixar fan to miss this opportunity.

Even though I had already seen Brave when it was in theaters, I enjoyed it enough that I was very excited to see it again. Although Brave is not Pixar’s highest-rated film, it was considered a triumph, not only because it was much more critically acclaimed than the lackluster Cars 2, but because it also represented a milestone for women in filmmaking. Not only does Brave feature the first female protagonist in a Pixar film, the feisty and headstrong Princess Merida, but it’s also directed by Brenda Chapman, the first woman to ever direct a Pixar film.

Due to its strong female characters, Brave tries to be a feminist fairytale. When her domineering mother forces her to become betrothed, Merida takes to the woods and obtains a spell to change the nature of her mother, so she won’t have to get married. However, when the spell actually ends up turning her mother into a bear, Merida and her mother are forced to put aside their differences in order to figure out how to break the spell.

Hair: the crux of every mother-daughter relationship.

Though the movie is engrossing and I definitely shed some tears both times I saw it, the plot struck me as surprisingly predictable for a Pixar film. Although the twist of her mother turning into a bear was quite unexpected, the progression of the film seemed to follow the pattern of a typical Disney cartoon; not the innovative and thought-provoking films we’ve come to expect from Pixar.

That being said, Brave is still beautifully animated and a good film overall. Though Merida might not be a particularly original character, she is still a strong female role model for young girls, who until this point, may have only had princesses motivated by love interests. The Athena Film Festival’s showing of Brave was partnered with the Girl Scouts of America, and the numerous troops present at the showing served as the best possible audience members. Whenever my seasoned cynical critic would try to destroy my viewing experience, all it took was the high-pitched laughter of some of the Girl Scouts to bring my ego down a view notches.

While The Incredibles might still reign as number one in my mind, Brave definitely paves the way for many empowered, independent heroines to come.

Ama is a junior at Barnard and the New York and On Campus Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of IMDb and Punk Rock Parents.

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