I have been struggling to know what to write about the film Brave. You would think that I could handle it. I have been writing on building bravehearts for a while. But, this film has perplexed me.
I watched Brave in Dillon, Colorado with two of my brave twenty-something daughters. Both of them have pursued dreams and "who they are" without making their mother turn into a bear!
Pursuing "who you are" by using any means possible, even evil ones to change a mother, is cowardice. If Princess Merida had been truly brave, what would she have done? She certainly showed strength in archery and conviction, but not wisdom which channels passion to become a brave person. Being brave is more than being strong, it is being strong for the right reason.
Perhaps it is the ambiguity of the film that perplexes me. Merida is not a clear picture of a brave young lady. I can point to dozens of real and fictional girls I know who are brave, for the right reasons and pursuing dreams the right way. The mix of feelings between mother and daughter make it hard to know who is right and who is wrong, who is brave and who is a coward. And, in the end, was it bravery that pushed Merida to mend the tapestry and the broken relationship? Or, was she driven by emotions of an ambiguous relationship with her mother and not brave but passionate?
Brave seems like a film to which I would have enjoyed taking my younger children, although I would sort out the concerns of a mother who exasperates and a daughter who disobeys, and explore a better way. I would talk about what it means to be brave. Overall, we enjoyed the film for different reasons. I just haven't figured out the bravery in Brave.
One thing seems clear to me. To build a braveheart is more than teaching someone to "embrace one's own identity" as one film critic said. To build a braveheart is to teach a child to do right, even when others don't. I wish for a clearer model for children than Merida.
While the ambiguity may be real, the lack of a clear example of bravery that we want children to follow leaves me empty. There is a place to explore the issues of family relationships, but lets not set them up as models to inspire. We need examples where children can say, "I want to be like her," and parents are pleased to applaud and say, "Yes, be like her."
P.S. Here are three examples to try. While flawed, they were brave the right way: Lucy in Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, and in real life, Corrie ten Boom. Who would you add?