Brave is set in the 10th century Scottish highlands. Merida is a young princess in training, but she has her own ideas of how she wants to run her life.
Merida’s relationship struggle with her mother Elinor raises issues of authority, obedience, flexibility, and motivation. Fate and destiny are the main themes of Brave.
I’m a huge Pixar fan, but overall, I thought Brave was more “Disney” than “Pixar” in it’s theme, style, and storyline.
Nonetheless, Brave is a great family movie, despite a couple naked butts (on little kids and old men, only for comedy and nothing sexual).
The rest of this written and audio review contains spoilers.
For simplicity, “fate” and “destiny” will be interchangeable in this review, unless otherwise noted.
Brave starts with Merida’s monologue:
Fate—some find it, some are led. [Merida]
There are two aspects of fate and destiny. On one side, it is the unavoidable consequence of something, such as injury from an activity. On the other side, fate is far more philosophical in being a universal force that guides all things, and destiny is a predetermined and unchangeable course of events.
We can’t have a biblically based discussion of destiny without considering predestination—popularly explained that God causes everything to happen.
There are many interpretations of Scripture and perspectives from godly people. Our general view is that God is in total control and nothing happens as a surprise to Him (Psalm [37:23]). However, He also gives us freedom to choose between obedience and its rewards or disobedience and its penalties (all of Scripture). And even though He can control people and use them for His purposes (Proverbs 21:1, Proverbs 16:4), He is not actively controlling our every thought, word, and action—when we sin, it’s our own fault (James [1:13]-14).
Pick an object in your room. You’re in total control of that object. You can pick it up, move it, change it. But when you set it down, you cease actively controlling it, but still remain in control of it. This is how I see the Bible teach us about God’s active involvement in our lives.
Obviously, Brave does not get so theological or even religious. But it does speak against the idea of fatalism: that whatever will happen will happen and we can’t change it, so we just totally submit to it. This is key to several religions, such as Islam and Hinduism.
We can’t run away from who we are. [Elinor, Merida’s mother]
Merida challenges fatalism by seeking her own future—or her fate, as she calls it. She seeks to escape from the royal path chosen for her by her position as princess.
A princess strives for perfection.
Brave reminds us that we can take control of our futures rather than ride the waves of fatalism. But in Brave, this fate can only be changed with the help of Wisps—guiding spirits that lead to one’s destiny. For Merida, this took her to a witch’s workshop where Merida purchased a curse that changed her mother into a bear.
We learn later that the Wisps seem to be the spirits of the dead—possibly those who tried to change their fates.
Can “destiny” be changed?
Did Merida really change her destiny? If the Wisps lead to destiny and they led her to hers, then the whole course of actions throughout Brave were actually her destiny, which seems confirmed at the end after Merida and Elinor kill the fierce bear Mor’du.
You can cause your head to spin by figuring out whether an attempt to change destiny is really changing destiny, or just following the original fate assigned to us.
I think its clearer through a biblical worldview. God’s predestination for us is to be like him: holy (Romans [8:28]–30). While God has plans for us, we can still reject these. Sometimes God is patient with us (like Samson), sometimes He allows us to miss out on his plans (like many of the Kings of Israel and Judah), and sometimes He punishes us to help us repent (like Jonah).
Think of how you are, or might be, with plans for your own children. And this is exactly where we are back on track with Brave‘s theme. Elinor has plans for her daughter Merida to be a princess and someday queen. Elinor pushes these plans in love but with a lack of understanding. Merida rejects the plans, which leads to rebellion and hate.
I liked that Brave required Merida and Elinor to make right and fix their relationship in order to break the curse.
Mend the bond torn by pride.
Both mother and daughter had conflicts from their prides (Proverbs [28:25]). But their new journey helps them learn to appreciate each other’s differences (Ephesians 6:1–4).
Toy Story and Monsters Inc. easter eggs
While in the witch’s workshop, we see the witch carving a model of the iconic Pizza Planet delivery vehicle from Toy Story.
A carving of Sully from Monsters Inc. is sitting along one of the walls.
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