Last week, I caught a Friday night showing of "Brave," the newest Pixar film, which takes the typical mother-daughter tale of alienation and misunderstanding, and ricochets the drama up, by having Princess Merida accidentally turn her mother, Queen Elinor into a bear.
(Just a quick aside, I am obsessed with Merida's head of fiery and wild red hair. So much so that I want to chop it off and put it on my own head, even if it's going to matte down and be completely disgusting in the freakishly-hot NYC summer.)
Before "Brave" was released, Adam Markovitz of Entertainment Weekly surmised that, because of her lack of romantic/traditionally feminine inclinations (aka, she likes to ride horses and shooting arrows), Merida could possibly be a lesbian. Ignoring the arcane notion in the article which posits that just because a woman chooses not to be "like a man", she could be a lesbian, Markovitz does make one point that I find interesting:
[Merida] brings a new free-thinking attitude to the slightly staid club of Disney princesses, one that’s sure to appeal not just to gays, but to anyone who ever challenged an identity that was pre-assigned to them. Her strength in the face of opposition and her urge to forge her own identity...both have the potential to ring true for moviegoers of all stripes, rainbow or otherwise.
After watching "Brave," I was walking home and it occurred to me that Merida probably does get married eventually. After all, the film operates in a world where a woman's source of power was her ability to bear children (hence why Elinor didn't settle for one ginger child but instead, had three ginger boys too). But what Merida was trying to get Elinor to understand, becoming the source of conflict in the "Brave," was that she wanted the ability to choose when and who she married. I like to think that eventually, Merida found someone she loved, who was her equal, and who let her take long horse rides in the woods. But the operative notion is that she was allowed to choose.
love interest, pretty decoration, operating outside of the boy's club. If brawn and strength define men in film, then sensitivity and a pathological need for love defines women. It's so difficult to believe that we are in the age of equal opportunity, especially when we continue to see men and women be reduced to strict and traditional gender lines.
And when we see a heroine like Merida who chooses not to pursue romance, we (still!) think she is like a boy, because only boys ride horses in the woods and climb rocks.
But this has been such a fruitful year for women in action films, where they are pursuing an objective that has nothing to do with romance. Just look at Katniss from "The Hunger Games," Black Widow from "The Avengers," Princess Merida from "Brave," or (so it seems at this point) Catwoman from "The Dark Knight Rises." Not to mention ladies on television ("Girls," "The New Girl," "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23").
The films I just mentioned, and I'll just throw in "Bridesmaids" too, have shown us that women aren't powerful because we are pretending to be men, smashing and destroying things as a way of showing off. And we're not powerful because we are no longer distracted by romance. We're powerful because we, like men, can look trouble in the face, fight with it and walk away intact. So perhaps it's not so much the year of the vagina, as it is the year of women asserting their rights as human beings, able to making a variety of choices, including making an active choice to be a badass.
Now if you excuse me, I'm going to go find me a wisp.