On Tuesday we went to see Brave. Most years my husband and I trade off who gets to take the kids to the newest Pixar (most other kids' movies feel like punishments to sit through, but we get super excited for Pixar and Miyazaki), but this year we made it a family night.
We loved it.
Unabashedly. All of us. My son next to me giggled. He grabbed onto my arm, terrified in the best way. He left the movie bouncing and already asking to buy it when it comes out on DVD. My daughter asked for it thirty seconds after he did. My husband and I both agreed it was great.
Then, lo and behold, I start hearing about reviews which seem to think it wasn't a fabulous movie.
DEAR REVIEWS: YOU ARE WRONG. XOXO, KIERSTEN
Just kidding! I'm totally not letting you off that easy. I'm going to tell you why you are wrong.
It seems to me negative reviews fall under two categories.
1) It wasn't what I was expecting!
2) It had no plot!
Oh, sweethearts. Here we go.
1) Really? You're complaining because the trailer didn't give away crucial parts of the story? I love that Pixar managed to keep the core of the story and what it is really about a secret. GOOD FOR THEM. I hate it when I sit through a three minute trailer and feel like I've seen the entire movie. If you can tell the whole story in three minutes, WHY MAKE A FEATURE-LENGTH FILM?
Now, I get where this complaint comes from. Sometimes I pick up a book expecting X, and it turns out to be Y, and even though Y is really good and probably just as good as X, I really had my heart set on X! (X being a variable, not a rating, because come on this is me, guys. PG-13 is as far as I go.)
But instead of complaining and deciding that since I wanted X, Y is therefore worthless, I usually just go ahead and write X myself so that I can have the story I wanted and still appreciate Y.
Basically I am advocating making your own dang movie if Brave wasn't what you thought it would be.
Or actually I am saying: don't let your expectations poison a perfectly good reality.
(You can embroider that on a pillow. I won't even copyright it!)
And now we get to 2) It had no plot!
1 I can understand. But 2 just makes me mad. My husband and I discovered the animation of Hayao Miyazaki via Pixar, and as a storyteller I am so, so grateful. American films, particularly animation, tend to have the same type of storytelling. They are very A to B plots. This is the setup, this is the conflict, this is the resolution. Everything is tightly tied to the plot--so tightly there is no room for wonder, no room for breathing or playing.
If you've watched any Miyazaki films, you know that he does not fall into the plot trap. He soars over the plot trap, in the middle of a rainstorm, on a cat bus. He is all about characters and exploration and telling a story in a way that is not necessarily efficient but always magical.
There is more than one way to tell a story, and just because it is not the plot progression you have been fed in nearly every movie you've ever seen, doesn't mean it's not a plot. Dare I suggest it means it's...a better plot?
Of course I dare suggest it. I totally just did.
Again, I think this one is a direct result of/reaction to the first problem people had with it. The plot was unexpected, and so it was declared no plot at all.
But these two problems I can gracefully accept (other than, you know, writing really long blog posts about why they are not problems at all). It's the other problem I take major, major issue with.
People are annoyed because this is a movie about a girl that is not about a girl and a boy.
THE HORRORS. THE HORRORS. YOU MEAN WOMEN AND GIRLS CAN HAVE STORIES THAT DON'T REVOLVE AROUND A HAPPILY EVER AFTER SEALED WITH A KISS AND A RING?
WHAT IS THIS STRANGE ALTERNATE DIMENSION WE HAVE BEEN SUCKED INTO?
I saw some complaints that men were nothing but plot devices in the movie. Well, umm, they are characters. In a movie. So, yeah. But they are also side characters who, by virtue of being SIDE characters, are not actually main characters. WHOA. CRAZY HOW THAT WORKS.
Look, I know that reverse sexism is just as bad as sexism (okay, actually I don't know this because I don't think it happens enough to impact our culture with the same degree of pervasive and insidious influence as reverse-reverse-sexism [or just plain old sexism if you want to keep things simple, which, why would we want to do that?]) but this is not sexism. This is telling a story with two female main characters.
What's sad is that it is even remarkable. It shouldn't be remarkable. It shouldn't be a talking point. But it is, so let's focus on the positive of Pixar creating a story with a girl MC that is universally accessible and non-alienating based on gender.
(We will leave artificial gender constraints for another rambling blog post.)
If you are still reading, bravo! Reading long, ranty blog posts burns more calories than walking up a steep incline. Bet you didn't know that! Have some extra dessert.
If you still haven't seen Brave, what are you waiting for?
If you disagree with my assessment, feel free to comment!...on someone else's blog. (Just kidding! Well, kind of. Not really.) In the end, all of this dialog about Brave is a good thing. People are watching it. People are thinking about it. And hopefully people are thinking about it in the ways that will lead to more thinking, more thoughtful viewing and consuming of entertainment, more questioning of what we watch and why we respond to it the way we do.
Until then, red haired girls with stories of their own ftw.