I’ve just rewatched Disney/Pixar’s brave from 2012. It’s a great movie for a lot of reasons, and it brought into focus some of the problems with this year’s Pixar release, Turning Red.
Great scott I hate that stupid movie so much, and the more I think about it the worse it gets.
In short, they are both movies about a young girl who is at odds with her mother because they want different things. The mother, well meaning as she is, has focused on what she wants from her daughter (some ideal sense of perfection) without learning to listen to the girl so as to get to know her. Because of this, the girl feels trapped by her mother’s plans for her future, and this leads her to feel justified to not only conflict with her mother, and defy her, but even use deception to get what she wants.
That’s the clear foundation of the story in both of these films- what a girl wants vs what her mother wants. It’s the direction that each story takes after this is established which illustrates the immoral dumpster fire that is Turning Red.
In Brave, the heroine, Merida, is a head strong, confident girl who doesn’t want to be the perfect princess that her mother keeps trying to make her into. In Turning Red, the conflict is the same, only Mei’s mother isn’t trying to make her a princess, but rather a good student and a proper Asian girl like the women in her family. Merida’s father is strong and involved, and her mother teaches her lessons of things she thinks Merida needs to know. Mei’s father is a background character with no strength or importance, and her mother seems to just impart expectations and control over her.
So Merida’s parents seem like really good parents, with a good relationship, where as Mei’s parents are a weak idiot and an over controlling idiot, who seem to have a terrible relationship. So, there’s more than one lesson to be learned here.
Merida is very confident and strong willed, but she is also a strong, skillful girl, capable of archery, horseback riding, climbing, and other skills primarily taught to her by her father. While the film establishes that she does not enjoy her mother’s princess lessons, it also shows that she endures it enough to learn those lessons as well, and before the story is over she has used those skills too. She is smart and, as frustrating as it is to her mother, honest about how she feels. Merida is honest, even if it means conflict. She’s not a coward, even when she is being selfish.
Unlike in Brave, the heroine of Turning Red, Mei, is overconfident, but without cause. Mei is a selfish, annoying 13 year old girl with little self awareness or self control. While she apparently gets good grades until the film starts, she isn’t portrayed as having the kind of actual skills that would justify her confidence. She seems simply arrogant even though there’s nothing special about her, like she has a shelf full of participation trophies in her room. Like she’s a YouTuber, or has an Instagram account.
And unlike Merida’s honesty, Mei begins with an already established wall between what she is thinking and what she reveals to her parents. The first major sequences of plot have Mei intentionally hiding things from her mother, and when her mother over reacts, trying to be helpful (as awkward as her attempts to help are), Mei refuses to simply come out with the truth. She sinks into silence or lies. Each scenario is worse because Mei fails to simply communicate with her mother. She hides and lies and ultimately, that makes things worse for Mei.
While she becomes very emotional when she doesn’t get what she wants, Mei is also fearful of conflict. She uses her fear as justification for her decision to be dishonest instead of confrontational. When the movie finally has her embracing honesty and conflict, she breaks into crudeness and violence, shaking her butt at her mother for an uncomfortably long time and literally punching her mother in the head and knocking her unconscious.
The way the stories end are polar opposites. Merida learns to set aside her selfishness and see how her choices affect others. She learns merely by looking around her that her selfishness has caused others to suffer, and has decided that she needs to put her desires aside and think about what benefits her family and her kingdom. In the words of the film she learns to “Mend The Bond Torn By Pride.” She recognizes her own pride, sees it for the destructive selfishness it is, and seeks to mend it, to set things right.
In the film’s dramatic conclusion, she remembers that her mother, frustratingly different as she has been in her goals, has always been there for her. Her mother was always loving and caring. And before the end, her mother fights for her daughter at the risk of her own life. When Merida remembers who her mother is, and forgets about the fact that the two of them have wanted different things, she owns up to her own faults and apologizes for the things she has done wrong. She puts aside her selfishness and embraces the love of her family, even though it may mean duty and responsibility. Merida grows up.
Mei, on the other hand, grows more selfish and deceitful. She lies to her parents, she lies about her friends, and she physically assaults a classmate twice. The climatic conclusion to Turning Red has Mei abandoning her family for her own selfish goal of going to see a boy band with her friends.
Yup. Where Brave has a young girl upset that she is being married off to a total stranger she doesn’t get to choose as part of a political treaty, Turning Red’s major conflict is, “No, you can’t go to that concert, that’s the night we have to cast a demon out of you.” I’m not even making that up. Like, had the concert been the next night, it seems like they would have let her go. But even if not… a boy band concert.
In the films climactic conclusion, Mei runs away from her family, with no regard for them or what they want, or even the fact that they are trying to do what they believe to be the best for her. She is controlled by her immature selfishness and abandons them for… sigh, roll my eyes… a boy band concert.
Mei doesn’t learn to see her mother for the love and support she has shown, despite her flaws. Instead, Mei continues to see her mother as an obstacle to overcome. The conflict at the end doesn’t involve the two of them joining sides, but literally fighting each other. Where Brave has mother and daughter fighting together against a beast, each willing to risk her own life to save the other, Turning Red has both literally turning into beasts and fighting each other in public, screaming at each other the whole time, and putting an arena of teens in danger as the building is destroyed around them.
Even after knocking her mother out cold, Mei is given a sense of smug superiority over her mother, even taking the adult role in their relationship in the final sequence as she leads her mother’s child spirit crying through the spirit woods. Mei’s last lines to her mother are not words of love and acceptance, but petty selfish defiance. Mei hasn’t learned to humbly accept her place in her family like Merida does, but rather arrogantly establishes herself as some sort of peer to her mother, throwing off the shackles of her mother’s authority so she can sneer, “My panda, my choice, MOM.”
Merida ends her movie as a young woman who learns to grow up and be less of a child. Mei ends her movie more of a baby, and a selfish cry baby as well. Merida learns to mend the bond torn by pride, but Mei learns to embrace her PRIDE. It’s a disgusting reminder of the total lack of moral compass which the Leftists at Pixar have. The old guard is gone and more are leaving all the time. The new kids have taken over Pixar and instead of telling great stories for all people, like Wall-E, or Monsters Inc, or Finding Nemo, this trash comes out so that one person can make a 90 minute selfie, exposing herself as still a teen age dirtbag with no character. They used to make movies for the audience. Now they make movies about themselves for themselves, and they seem to lack the maturity to even realize that they are showing how selfish, smug, violent and emotional they are.
Either the House of Mouse will turn around and go back to telling good stories worth telling, or they will go Woke and go broke. As long as China has a controlling interest in the company and everything they do, I don’t expect the next Pixar movie to be Brave. I expect it to be selfish as they increasingly Turn RED.