Recommends: Another Take On Brave

I didn't talk about the male perspective in Brave yesterday for a couple of reasons, most of which boil down to Simply Spoons, but which could be more adequately summed up as a lack of mental ability, a desire to inject some positivity into that particular post, a lack of space to cover everything as deeply as I'd like, and only having seen the movie once before posting. (As opposed to, say, The Little Mermaid, which I've seen about a billion times.)

And I do apologize for that. It's not that I don't care about male issues -- because I do, and I try to make a point of talking to them when I can because the patriarchy does hurt men too -- but it was just one of those "I can only advocate so much in a single post" things and I'd gone to the movie looking for how the female characters were treated, not the male ones. Once again, it would seem that no post is a Perfect Post.

But that's alright because Froborr has written a very wonderful post that tackles Sitcom Sexism in Brave and how using the patriarchy to hurt men in order to make a female-friendly movie is not good intersectionality, but just more misandry that ultimately props up the patriarchy even more firmly. And while I still like Problematic Art, I think the post is wonderful and makes some really great points that I wish Pixar (and others) would take on board. We're still waiting for a truly feminist-friendly movie that doesn't treat feminism like a zero-sum game where "better treatment for female characters" means we have to debase the male characters to make up for the loss in prejudice.

RECOMMENDS! What have you been reading / writing lately?


Brin Bellway said...

Well, this is a promotion thread, so:

Does anyone want to come hang out and watch DS9 with us? Well, I say "us". Last week there were two people at the Sunday afternoon gathering (1 PM EST), and only me at Sunday evening (8 PM) and Tuesday afternoon (4 PM). Usually we're a bit more populated than that, but we could definitely use some more people.

(Especially for Sunday evening. The other two being so deserted were more flukes, but that was the third week in a row of nobody else showing up for that one.)

All the fun of getting together and watching and discussing a TV show with your friends, without your brother complaining that he can't hear the show over you or that annoying thing where when you get excited your voice cracks and it's even harder to speak than usual! (Or are those just me?)

Loquat said...

Whoa, neat. I might have to come to that 1pm one today.

depizan said...

That would be the issue I had with the men, all right. (Though I had a different interpretation of the ending - I thought Merida and Elinor were sharing one another's interests, now, not in a one way sense. That they'd both been working on the tapestry and now they were both going for a ride. But I did only see the movie once...)

I have recently posted about the ridiculousness of Boba Fett's armor

And, on a more serious note, about the latest asshat to proclaim himself arbiter of which women are or are not geeks.

Mime_Paradox said...

While this appears as a reply to you, depizan, that's only because replying to people seems to be the only way I can ever respond on disqus using this horrible (horrible, horrible), computer. Sorry about that.

Since we're talking Brave, here are my own, not entirely positive, thoughts on the film.

And also, my thoughts on a particular missed opportunity in The Dark Knight Rises, and why it bugged me.

Also, stuff I wish I'd written include an essay about some modern comics' continuing promotion of the belief that torture is somehow heroic and how it pertains to a recent Batman story, by Colin Smith; and (although I'm pretty sure I've recommeded this before) some very awesome Narnia fanfiction by rthstewart, whose stories actually made me a Narnia fan until I discovered that Lewis' stories didn't hold a candle to hirs.


Makabit said...

See, I see Ferghus as a somewhat more complicated character than that. His drinkin', brawlin', singin' persona works to keep a somewhat fractious alliance between the clans in the area going, and their deep respect for Elinor serves to calm things down when the male cameraderie is getting out of hand. The two of them are an ideal Celtic tag-team of leadership.

Where I fault Ferghus is for failing to take responsibility for needing Merida to marry. Somehow this has all been laid on Elinor, which means that she has to play the parental heavy, and Ferghus never has to take responsibility for the situation in his daughter's eyes. Which is extremely convenient for him.

What the movie lacks, of course, is any example of an adult noblewoman besides Elinor, which makes it hard to tell how much of what's going on is culturally bound, and what is being produced by the individual personalities and quirks of this family unit. This could have been avoided if the other clan chiefs had brought their wives with them, or if one of the other clan chiefs had been a lady. You just can't tell who's actually pushing social bounds in the movie.

chris the cynic said...

So, this week. Not my best week ever.

This week I wrote, "It IS real," about interaction over the internet. I used a specific quote as a jumping off point for making a general point. Did not link back to the origin of the quote, double checked that said quote had millions of hits on google. Still ended up with the person who made the quote finding zir way into the comments. The point is that what you do to real people is real. Full stop. Regardless of how you do it.

Under the Dome, what I would guess it was about - In a thread here people talked about what they would guess a story was about based on it being called, "Under the Dome." My primary guess and a couple of secondaries.

Edith's Mind reading - An Edith and Ben metapost covering my thoughts on her mind reading in response to discussion of Edward's mind reading.

It's not an SUV it's a Time Machine! - A silly explanation for what happens with Bella's Truck toward the end of the Twlight Saga.

The Devils Coat, overview - Story idea that's been in my head for a while, involves Hell is good, Heaven is less so, deals with the devil, ferrying souls to the afterlife, escaping trauma, and stuff. Came up in the Narnia thread at the Slacktiverse.

Three depression related posts:
-- Music - Sometimes (usually) I don't have the energy to get to a CD player, fortunately there is youtube.
-- My hoped for future doesn't exist - My hopes and dreams, if I stop to think about them rationally, are all set in a past that it is impossible to return to, not a future that might someday come to be. [Trigger warning for a description of what such stopping and thinking does to me both emotionally and physically, in other words, trigger warning for depression.]
-- Rejoice, Rejoice, we have no choice - I didn't want the above to be the most recent post on my blog, so once I was done with it, quick as I could, I typed this up. It's about walking, and depression, and I quote Frost, and it's how I keep going.

depizan said...

I completely understand about the vagaries of posting here - it gives my iPad fits for some reason, especially if I try to add links to anything. I'm sure a computer person could explain what weird quirks of code are lurking behind the scenes.

However! You've linked to a post on heroic torture, which is one of the things I really hate in action/adventure, so I'm glad your computer hates disqus. :)

Content Warning: Discussion of Torture in fiction.

Not only do I plan (and everyone has my permission to thwap me with a wet trout if I stray from this) to never, ever have heroes torture anyone in anything I write, but I want to work in as much "also it doesn't work" as I can figure out how to do any time it comes up. I know I can work it in in my fanfic, since SW:TOR is all over the map on torture.

I have to give the game a giant gold star for an early Sith Inquisitor quest in which you can, as a light side option, talk to the guy you're supposed to torture and get the information from him that way. Yay, whoever wrote that! However, I'd give them an even bigger gold star if they'd had the dark side go-through-with-the-torture option give different information, with some hints that it is not the right information.

I also was pleased that, at one point, my Imperial Agent was able to tell a Sith Lord that torture doesn't work. I was less pleased that the quest chain ignored that rather important piece of information and presented a whole series of instances of correct information being tortured out of people. Just not by me. Thanks game. Way to totally blow it.

end Content Warning

I'm not a Batman fan (too dark for me), but I agree with your The Dark Knight Rises post. More women is never a bad thing in a movie, and a movie shouldn't opt for an original character over using an established female character. Intentional or not, that's sexism rearing up in all it's nastiness.

chris the cynic said...

So, apparently something slipped through the cracks.

This is from more than a week ago:
World War III from New Hope - Left Behind posits a Church that sees the horrible things to come, one of them being the third world war. Left Behind says that this church will respond by closing its doors in the time of greatest need. This story is of that same Church that saw the horrors to come, but making a very different decision about what to do about them. Well, one scene from that story.

NecklaceOfShadow said...

Personal things came up for me while watching Brave and I got triggered badly, so I'd been avoiding trying to think critically about the movie. I'm actually both really glad (and kinda surprised) that these two articles didn't trigger me in the same way. I'd actually been putting off reading them for a few hours, but I just took the plunge now (in part because one of my girlfriends and I have to leave for her grandmum's house in about twenty minutes and I want to spend my time reading good, non-ragey things.)

Thanks <3

On the self-promotion deal, I posted this yesterday afternoon: These Scars Were Made By Whiteness: Being a Biracial Venezuelan Immigrant. It's my first attempt at writing a post that deals solely with race and my experiences with it.

I'll quote the trigger warnings, from the beginning of the post:

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Intense discussion of racism, depictions of biphobia, use of spanish-language racist euphemisms and a homophobic slur.

So... yeah. I'mma go eat a bit more bread and soda now.

Aidan Bird said...

Makabit, that was my thoughts on Ferghus as well. You summed it up.

I also agree with dezipan, that I didn't see either of Elinor or Merida giving up their interests in the end. They worked on the tapestry together and they rode off together. So they didn't give up their interests, they shared them with each other. That's a huge difference. I thought the movie covered how they came to understand each other amazingly well, and showed how they were now willing to share each other interests in order to further their mother-daughter bond. For in my eyes, that was the whole point of the movie - a discussion and examination of the mother-daughter relationship within a patriarchal society, and how they deal with this situation.

I do agree with the assessment that the men were not well rounded and were used to satirical effect, which is definitely problematic.

Aidan Bird said...

As for what I've been writing:

My latest posts include a review of a writing program, a discussion about race, illness in stories, and lots of discussion about science in world-building.

MaryKaye said...

I haven't seen _Brave_ because when I saw the previews my immediate strong reaction was "I cannot POSSIBLY sit through this plotline again. I don't care how well they do it. I just can't."

From others' comments, though, I think one of the problems is something that always upsets me, but is only sometimes about misogyny: the idea that it's okay to have characters in comedies who are not treated as people, and not expected to be. Not just "this is a person too far in the background to see his/her personhood", but foreground individuals who are treated as non-persons because they are funny. Comic relief characters, I guess. Jar-Jar,Shrek's Donkey, Mulan's dragon. Lots of human examples whom I can't quite name right now.

I have seen _A Midsummer Night's Dream_ around ten times in different theaters. Nine times, Bottom was just funny and silly and mildly contemptible. The tenth time--it was an Oregon Shakespeare Festival production--the actor playing Bottom had a scarf of Titania's, and he was running it through his hands during the "The eye of man hath not heard" speech. And I wanted to cry, it was so intense and poignant and I so totally understood what Bottom was feeling. It didn't make the play less funny--though it can, you can totally ruin a comedy if someone turns Real at the wrong moment. But I guess Shakespeare is pretty robust.

The other place I think this is done well is the original _Men in Black_. J is the butt of a lot of jokes but the movie cares about him. His awkward affection for the doctor and, eventually, for K is treated as a real thing.

Eeh, I'm overheated and rambling, I'd better go to bed....

depizan said...

I much prefer the humor in a story to come from the main characters because it avoids that problem. (Well, except in certain kinds of comedies, but I don't like those anyway.) You may laugh at some of the problems the main characters face or funny things they say or situations or whatever, but you never stop (and the narrative never stops) caring about them.

And the problem of non-personing for humor is that it can make it hard to view those characters as any kind of threat. For me, that happened with the ready to go to war clans of Brave. The men are mostly such buffoons that it's really hard for me to take the threat of war seriously. I feel like even the movie can't decide if it's a serious threat. That kind of undercuts, well, everything.

Nenya said...

Brin, I'm techinically *in* the DS9 Rewatch community, but I never show up! I'm not sure how much of that is scheduling issues, and how much is a residual feeling of "videos + Internet = does not work for Nenya" left over from when I had dial-up on top of being deaf. (I watch movies with my sweetie while chatting, I don't know what the problem is.) Anyway... *waves to y'all*

MaryKaye, I loved "Brave" for the mother-daughter interaction, and was able to mostly control my winces over the cardboard-cutout people, but you describe the phenomenon of 'not really real' characters very well. It's one of my definite Do Not Wants about movies and TV, and I'd never put my finger on what exactly it was that bothered me about it.

Ana Mardoll said...

If I wanted to be especially charitable to Brave (and I'm not at all sure that I do, because as much as I liked it, Pixar has had issues with Buffoonish Men long before this movie, and heck the SHORT we saw before the movie had those issues, plus some cultural stereotyping), I think an argument could be made that the men in the movie and the threat of war was deliberately de-fanged to make the patriarchy less scary.

TW: Rape, Murder

I don't know when Brave is supposed to be set, but I've been re-reading about Eleanor of Aquitaine recently, and it's terrifying how she was one of the most powerful land-owning people of her day but because she was a woman, she was under constant threat of abduction and rape unless she married. She simply could not have stayed single; someone would have raped her and claimed her as "wife" under the religious and cultural rules of the time period.

So it's slimly possible that the men in Brave were easily handled and their violent tendencies were cartoonish in order to not soil the "it's easy to stand up to the Patriarchy if you just believe in yourself!" message. Because in reality -- historical and modern -- THAT IS NOT TRUE. Standing up to the patriarchy can get you raped, or killed, or all kinds of rally dreadful things. That threat isn't possible in Merida's world because Merida's world doesn't contain Real Rape any more than it contains Real War; the men don't have the inclination to either.

Similarly, when Elinor accidentally confesses that she wasn't sure about marrying Ferghus, he looks a little shocked and hurt, but there's no inclination towards physical violence; and all the men of the tribes respect Elinor and treat her as a true queen. Yes, it ultimately means that we're left with the unfortunate implication that Elinor is the only one invested in the patriarchy (whooops!) but I'm not sure how to fix it without things getting very real, nasty, and triggery indeed. Showing Dangerously Sexist Men would be a huge departure from the usual animated films milieu, and might also be seen as a slur against the peoples involved (since we don't usually present White Americanized Peoples that way).

But as said before, I'm not terribly motivated to give Pixar a pass, since Buffoonish Men is not something unheard of in their movies.

depizan said...

They'd departed sufficiently far from reality that they could also have shown that there was a lack of actual investment in the marriage tradition. Except then we've still got Elinor as the pusher of convention/patriarchy. *sigh*

There may be an inherent problem with historical stand up to the patriarchy stories (though I felt like Mulan did a better job in many ways, though it's got issues of its own). Of course, I've always longed for stories about women that weren't rebel against the patriarchy stories. Stories about men can be about fighting their culture, but a lot of them aren't. Stories about women tend to be about being women in a way that stories about men aren't about being men. And while it's valuable to see fictional women stand up to society and win, I've always thought it would be awfully nice to also have stories in which the battle has been won. But maybe I'm off base there, I don't know.

Makabit said...

Ana, my impression was Vaguely Scotland, Vaguely The High Middle Ages, but the fantasy-Celtic version of both, rather than, say the world in which William Wallace lived. (And the time-frame is simply based on what Elinor and Merida wear, which could cover almost anything from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries.) They do talk at one point about fighting Romans, which is obviously anachronistic to that--it's a bit of a jumble.

Powerful women are certainly a part of the hazy idea of Celtic culture that most people (including Pixar) have, and for good reason, although it tends to get rather dramatically over-done, and people and customs from widely different times and places tend to get jumbled together (rather like a cartoon) in the process.

What I would not have been surprised to see at all is a situation in which Merida's riding and shooting and not wanting to embroider stuff might be seen as acceptable, but refusing to marry and settle issues of land and inheritance would have been seen as unacceptable. And mind, that would apply to any of the boys as well. No medieval culture encourages people to do their own thing, and set their personal feelings above family and social order. It just didn't the heck work like that.

(Although, as a Celto-enthusiast, I have to admit to always loving the passage in the Tain where it is explained that Queen Maedbh decided she needed a husband with no fear, no lack of generosity and no jealousy--the first two to match her own virtues, and the last because she, as she explains, has never had a man without another waiting in his shadow, so her husband had better be prepared to cope. But Maedbh is a mythical figure, and substantially larger than life.)

I feel as though, with just a touch of tweaking in this direction or that, the plot could have worked much better.

Finally, am I the only one who was slightly annoyed by the will-o-the-wisps? Those things are traditionally supposed to lead travelers into swamps, not give them their heart's desire.

@depizan--That's interesting stuff, and I feel the need to think and write about it some more, but I am fading fast here...

Timothy (TRiG) said...

There's a scary, very large, naked statue of Maedbh in Dublin. I was introduced to her the other week.


Silver Adept said...


Nope, you're not the only person annoyed at the misuse of the wisps. I expected them to lead her to disasters and getting very lost, not to an innocuous-looking witch, erm, woodcarver.

redsixwing said...

OK, slight will-o-wisp derail.

So we have these cute little ghostly wisps, with high-pitched cute voices, leading people off into random places. I'm OK with that (though I grumbled at them leading people to their hearts' desire, too, rather than Certain Doom).

And at the very end, we see the spirit of Mor-Du become a wisp.

Does that mean that all over this movie, people are being led around by their noses by the remnants of dozens, if not hundreds, of witched souls? :D

Nenya said...

Oh, suitably creepy, redsixwing! :D

Makabit said...


Silver Adept said...

@redsixwing - Yep! Isn't that the cheeriest thing in the world? Dead souls leading others around, possibly to places where they, too, can become dead souls!

Which, incidentally, is the right purpose for the wisps, cheery woodcarvers be fragged.

depizan said...

To be fair, the WOODCARVER was a bit of a disaster, even if she didn't seem to want to be. We can hardly fault her for only being able to do bears.

But that's about as close to right as the wisps got. *sigh*

Makabit said...

Reminds me of Magrat's fairy godmother wand, which tends to reset to pumpkins.

Silver Adept said...

Put that way, both the fairy godmother and the WOODCARVER seem to fit the Lethal Joke Character trope. Seems to be by design that a lot of characters in Brave fit that bill in one way or another.

Anyway, for being a faux-Scotland, I'm surprised Merida it's as clueless as she is about wisps, henges, and all of the other stuff that it's supposedly sacred or otherworldly. Of course, the horse knows, because animal instincts are always like that (to the point that you can exploit that to find out if stuff you have is cursed in Nethack by making your pet walk over it), but, I would have thought Merida would soak up stories like that, since they generally involve things that she wants to do, like adventure.

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