Pixar's Brave and the Black Bear of Menopause.
Another day, another liberal chick flick.
Pixar's Brave is a beautifully drawn film about liberalism (that is, about the ability to choose our destiny without natural constraints). The ostensible plot is simple: the feminist teenage heroine chooses to remain single and unmarried even though she is obviously of an age to have sex and bear children...
...Never mind that she's living in a tribal society where her marriage options become grievously limited in a few years.
...Never mind that no contraception exists in Celtic Scotland to allow her the freedom to make this decision.
...And never mind that real life traditions don't actually dictate she marry the firstborn, but only to pick partners from her own class.
No, history, biology, and decency is all just so much subjective guff for this Pixarian Scotland. Why? Because feminism.
Because it's only when her mother, changed by her daughter's selfish actions into a black bear, has been returned to humanity that we see the grey lock on her forehead - the grey hairs of menopause. It's subtle, but very real. The mother's transition to maturity is the real story.
Please let me repeat this point in more detail. The real story is not one girl's foolish and ahistorical struggle against sensible social tradition and biological demands. No. The real story is about the black bear of menopause. The real story of Brave is the tale of a woman driven mad by biology and restored to sanity by her willingness to step out of the shadow of her immature husband the king and become her own individual. Pixar's Brave is a story about madness and maturity, not a tale of marriage and magic spells.
We all know something about the strong magic of menstruation. It's a far more real and solid magic than being turned into a black bear for two days. (Come to think of it, with its two day black bear of madness, the film can also be read as a allegory for a the female heroine's first period and the discovery of her sexual power.)
One of the tell-tales of this movie is the literal and metaphorical lack of blood in the film. The bloodlessness is not only in the oddly unnatural and adolescent violence, but in the almost complete lack of the color red until the rolling of the credits at the end. Here the unspoken red spot is rendered invisible and metaphorical, displaced onto the ending credits in a sort of delicate, tampon-advertisement discretion.
The three ages of modern women are represented here - the free-spirited idealised elder (who spends her days memorialising the glory days of menopause by carving wood, and travels the country), the multitasking menopausal mother, and the liberal, spoilt millennial.
What is missing, however, is a genuine adult man. Where is the masculinity in Pixar's Brave?
So empowerment in a feminist world relies on liberty. It's a lovely dream we live in, isn't it? And isn't it nice we can afford contraception to give us this brief moment of historical freedom? We can appreciate our relative freedom from almost complete bondage to biology and history which we have purchased via contraception and by our unique Christian distinction between religious tradition and state. We have purchased this historical space dearly. Today, women are free, almost 25 days of a thirty day month, to make and enjoy movies like this. It's a good deal for everyone.
Let's hope it lasts.