Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hidden Mickeyisms 6: Disney’s “Brave” Old World and Mother-Daughter Separation

One thread that runs through many of Disney’s animated films, as I have pointed out throughout this series of “Hidden Mickeyisms” commentaries, consists of supplying entelechies (strategies or plots) that children use to deal with problems they face while growing up. Specifically, I see many of these entelechies dealing with parent child separation. With the release of Disney/Pixar’s movie “Brave,” however, we see Disney implicitly suggesting that some entelechies should be reacted to (rebelled against), rather than followed. The 10th Century Scottish princess Merida is more of a tomboy than her mother would like her to be. Her mother, Queen Elinor, expects Merida to follow the entelechy she (Elinor) has provided—that of a very feminine wife, mother, and queen. Merida rebels against this entelechy her mother wishes to pass on. She is not ready to give up her freedom and be married to some unknown royal son. She does not want some royal son to “win her hand” via his skills in archery. She wants to “win her own hand” and preserve her status as single. To an extent, Merida is a character similar to Disney’s 1998 animated film character Mulan. Merida, like Mulan, excels in athletic skills traditionally considered masculine, but Mulan uses her skills to save her aging father. Merida uses her skills for more selfish reasons. Both Merida and Mulan seem to lack traditional feminine characteristics, but while Mulan eventually develops a love interest in the opposite sex, Merida is bent on maintaining her single status. This objective will appeal to many present day feminists, but the notion of Disney/Pixar implicitly condemning the now outmoded tradition of arranged marriages seems trite. Except in some foreign cultures, the idea of arranged marriages has almost completely died out in present day society. To fight against this practice seems too easy. Why would Disney/Pixar create a story to discredit an already discredited practice? Is this the entelechy against which young women should rebel/react? I think, instead, the entelechy against which viewers are expected to react is the entelechy of attempting to force others to change to accommodate our own expectations. Elinor was forcing Merida to change and Merida used magic to force Elinor to change. The result was nearly disasterous. I discuss the relationship between coercion and persuasion in the Introduction of my book, Persuasion, Proposals, and Public Speaking. (See link to right.) Whether the “force” being used to “coerce” change in another is parental power or “witchcraft/magic,” coercion is implicitly unacceptable. Both Merida and Elinor needed to substitute “persuasion” for “coercion.” And, as with other Disney films, the motive that best teaches this lesson is “true love.”

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