At the recent RNA conference in Penrith, Heroine Addict Julie gave a talk about the story arc of Pixar films and I have to say this was right up my street. I absolutely love Disney/Pixar films and as I’d never stopped to analyse one before, I found Julie’s talk both fascinating and inspiring.
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It will come as no surprise then that I rushed to the cinema last week to see the new Pixar film ‘Brave’ as soon as it came out. I would have gone either way, but looking at it in light of what Julie had said made it even more exciting a prospect and I couldn’t wait. In fact, I had fairly high expectations, to say the least. I know their films are always of the highest standard and that I wouldn’t be disappointed. And I wasn’t. At least, not for the most part.
Visually, it was quite stunning. The heroine – Merida – had hair that looked amazingly real (and very much like my own daughter’s!), as did the fur on her horse Angus. The clothing was brilliantly depicted and all the back drops - from castle to Scottish Highlands to standing stones and witch’s cottage - beautifully done. And I loved the characters, most of them larger than life of course.
Really, the only thing that slightly disappointed me was the fact that there was no love story. Well, I am a romantic novelist after all, and somehow in a Disney film you expect the HEA! A hero and heroine falling for each other, things working out for them in the end. Not this time. There was a HEA, only here it was slightly different. Because this was a tale about a mother/daughter relationship, and although it wasn't what I'd expected, I certainly empathised with it and got caught up in the story one hundred percent!
Not only did I see myself with my mother when I was a teenager, but there was also my own daughter and me when she’d reached that stage. The whole “why won’t you ever listen to me?” and “god, that’s so unfair!” and “I hate you, you’re ruining my life!” thing, was so familiar, so obviously universal. And when I think about the way I’ve portrayed female relationships in my novels, there is a lot of that in them. I guess it can’t be avoided!
There must be mothers and daughters who get on really well and never have a single argument, but I would think that’s the exception rather than the rule. Teenagers being the way they are, with hormones running riot and thinking they’re adults when really they’re only ‘adults-in-training’, there is bound to be strife.
I’m not sure exactly in which era ‘Brave’ is set (11th century?), but it was reassuring in a way to think that teenage girls have always felt the same way. They may not have had the freedom to express these feelings quite as much as we have (something I have to remember as I write historicals), but they must nonetheless have been simmering under the surface. And this gives us great tension between our mother/daughter characters, a wonderful timeless source of conflict used in lots of novels. In particular, it makes me think of poor Mrs Bennett in Pride & Prejudice, with five daughters in the house it’s no wonder she takes to her bed so frequently!
As the ending of the film showed (and I don’t think I’m spoiling it for anyone here as you can probably guess the outcome for yourselves - it is a Disney production after all), the love between a mother and her child will triumph in the end. The teenager grows into a mature person who can see both sides, while as mothers we also have to adapt and give our children the freedom they crave. And although, being an incurable romantic, I would still have liked for Merida to fall in love with one of her suitors, it was enough for now that she and her mother were happy together.