Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Brave: Two Bears & the Lessons of the Soviet Union

I was nervous about this film but, to my very pleasant surprise, it chose to illustrate the path of America's destiny right now and the challenges facing us and to discipline a certain group of Americans who risk turning the motherland into the old enemy (much like the princess herself choosing the right path in the film). Disney- Pixar's Brave demonstrates the importance of knowing our history and bonding the past with the present for the safety and happiness of all.
Please note first, if you will, the color scheme, the palette of the peacock, which has always been associated with royalty. The most striking feature of Merida is her hair; hair symbolizes the thoughts and her "wild" hair suggests that she has a "wild hair" in her thoughts (in going against tradition). Where else have we seen hair like this? The Help, Skeeter (Emma Stone) had wild red hair her mother was also trying to "tame."
Queen Elinor, the mother of princess Merida, has been preparing Merida all her life to be betrothed in their ancient custom to one of the first-born of the clans with whom they have treaties; Merida's refusal to do so makes a war between the clans possible and the breaking of the treaty, which prompts queen Elinor to tell her daughter their country's legend: there had been a king who brought all the land under his rule; when he died, he parceled the land among his four sons to rule, but one of them wanted to rule it all and so killed the others. Elinor tells Merida that legends teach truths that we must learn or we will bring chaos and darkness through our own selfishness; what is really happening is that movie is telling us that it is a lesson and if we fail to heed the lesson the film is teaching us, then we will bring chaos and darkness upon ourselves and all we love.
Merida thinks that her marriage is all her mother's idea, so by changing her mother's mind, Merida will be able to escape marriage. After running away from her mother, Merida encounters a witch who sells her a magic cake that will "change" her mother; the trick is, it doesn't change her mother, but reveals what her mother really is, a "beast," which is what Merida had called Elinor just before slashing a family tapestry with her sword. In this shot above, Merida has fallen through the roof of an old castle (the hole is where you see her leaping up to) and that abandoned ruin of a throne room is symbolic of a fallen kingdom. The vicious bear that took her father's leg can be seen on the left-side of the screen reaching out to grab her as her mother's right paw can be seen in the upper-right reaching to save her. This is a brilliant shot, one of those images worth a thousand words because it illustrates the position of American voters today, torn between the past and the present, what they thought was the enemy and discover is really their dear, loving parent.
The bear which took off the leg of the King is symbolic of the Soviet Union which wanted to take over the world after the end of World War II and spread the Iron Curtain over itself and Eastern Europe. The "taken leg" of the King symbolizes the King's standing in world order and society, the loss sustained in protecting what had to be defended from the Soviet Union during the Cold War (such as the CIA battles with the KGB and nuclear arms). Most importantly, however, Merida thinks this ravenous bear is what her mother is because her mother wants her to stick to tradition.
Merida's independence is easily translated to "independent voters" today wanting to change the fate of the country. Merida thinks her mother is trying to kill her by not letting her do whatever she wants. The Queen symbolizes for independent voters the the old-fashioned ways of thinking and just as Merida confuses her mother with a "beast" so voters who are leaning towards the open path of socialism are confusing America with the Soviet Union, that America is the one who did all the bad and unproductive, imperialistic things in the past, not communism. We have seen a number of films support this thesis, such as The Chernobyl Diaries, Men In Black III and The Avengers. Where else have we seen a female archer? The Hunger Games. It's interesting to compare Merida with Katniss and what the socialist Katniss learns and the newly converted-to-capitalism Merida learns.
Queen Elinor symbolizes America, a land that seems harsh and controlling to socialists, but a land that genuinely wants the best for its children, like Elinor for Merida. The lurking bear in the background is the old form of the Soviet Union (the Soviet symbol was the bear just as the American symbol is the eagle). Voters willing to "change their fate" from capitalist to socialist and offering the cake (probably a reference to the line, "Let them eat cake," erroneously attributed to Marie Antoinette and the start of the French Revolution) are like Merida not understanding the past and why it's important for the future.
In the beginning of the film, it makes a point to say, "No one knows how we came to this land," specifically contrasting with America, we do know how we came to this land: seeking religious freedom and freedom from the oppressive economic models that prohibited class mobility. This is a land of magic, because we can take something and turn it into a multi-million dollar idea; contrast this with Magic Mike where there is no magic anywhere in the film because of the bad capitalists who would not adhere to basic ethical principles and so ruined it for everyone just as Merida is about to ruin the comfort of the peace treaties for everyone by her refusal to adhere to her mother.
There is an important post-credits scene (if you haven't seen the film, make sure to catch it). In the film there is a witch who sells the potion to Merida. The witch has a "day job" in that she's a wood carver of bears. The business she runs clearly references capitalism and the carvings Merida buys is an analogy for a history lesson Merida desperately needs, because the bear carvings all symbolize the picture of the Soviet Union, just as it did in The Chernobyl Diaries. As Elinor slowly starts acting like a bear, we can see the changes in America during the last three years, becoming more and more like the Soviet Union, the "crown" being put aside when America lost its super-power status.
Merida and a willow-of -the-wisp. In Dracula, they show where buried treasure is and the Count regularly goes out in search of them and that's how he amasses his fortune.
When the very last scene comes up, we see the guard who earlier had been sleeping and gotten his moustache cut off waking up by the talking crow and a wagon overfilled with the witch's wood carvings purchased by Merida, and the crow wants the guard to sign acknowledging that the delivery was received. The guard is actually the viewer, because we have been lulled to sleep and just as half the moustache is cut off (a symbol of the appetites because of its proximity to the mouth) so our appetites have been cut in half by the little boys: the little kid in us just wants to see a good film (our appetites) but the film wants to "deliver" a history lesson to us about the Queen vs the Voracious Bear and we have to sign saying that we received the delivered goods in acknowledgement that we hear and heed the message the film wants to pass on to us.
Just as the politicians have captured the "bear" (Queen Elinor) and Merida vows that they won't kill her mother, so Elinor symbolizes America and we have to be brave and not let those who are deceived kill "our mother."
In conclusion, the warring clans seeking the hand of the fair maiden is really the political parties today seeking the vote of undecided Americans and Brave (strategically released during the celebration of our country's Independence) wants to remind what real independence is by showing us what it is not. Eat Your Art Out, The Fine Art Diner
What going to the polls in November will be like for many of us...