On Brave and Lesbianism


Disney’s “Brave”is a new animated film that features a strong female as a lead. She is someone who parents of daughters can root for just as much as the girls who are the target audience do. It’s a good movie and if you haven’t seen it yet, you should. Today, Leslie Dobbins wrote a short piece on SheWired.com about Disney’s new movie “Brave”. In that article, she raises the question of whether the new Disney princess, Merida, is lesbian. In her piece she says that she “could” be lesbian because she doesn’t want to get married and because she is a tomboy. As evidence, she compares Merida to Lara Croft (Tomb Raider), Katniss (Hunger Games), and other prominent film, literature, and gaming “tomboys”.

I find this problematic.

Merida is a tomboy – there is no doubt about this. Now, let’s consider the characters that Dobbins compares her to. None of the Tomb Raider games portray Lara as lesbian. They portray her as a strong female with no romantic interest. More importantly, in the second film (which I understand is not canon, but still feature one Lara Croft) she appears to have a romantic past with the character Gerald Butler plays. Katnis, of Hunger Games fame, is clearly not a lesbian as she has two male romantic interests throughout the series and never shows any romantic interest in a woman. Grace Hart from Miss Congeniality, despite her disdain for frilly dresses, is in love with her male partner. Finally, from the bits I saw of Million Dollar Baby (I wasn’t that interested in the movie, so I spent a lot of time I was watching it with my attention elsewhere) Maggie Fitzgerald was, at best, asexual.

But still, according to Dobbins, and the article that inspired her by Markovitz, she “could be lesbian” or “could be interpreted as lesbian”.

Markovitz writes that because she “bristles at the traditional gender roles that she’s expected to play”, Merida could be gay. He responds to the question with a resounding “absolutely”. Still, he also writes that ” Merida isn’t an overtly lesbian character”. He writes that “Nothing in the story implies that she’s attracted to other women”. He writes that “She doesn’t completely swear off the idea of marriage to a man, and she never hints that she might have a hidden sexual identity.”

Still, Merida “could” be lesbian to the point where she can become “an unofficial gay icon”.

As the brother of a formerly tomboy sister, the friend of many masculine-ish women, and the husband of a woman who prefers fishing in jeans than dancing in a dress, I know for a fact that being a tomboy doesn’t make someone a lesbian, and implying as much makes one just as biased as assuming that all women belong in the kitchen or that all men are stupid and only think about sex or whatever other gender trope you like.

Now, please, don’t misinterpret my words. I am by no means against homosexuality as a concept (in theory or in practice), nor am I for it – I honestly have no feelings in the matter. I am, however, very invested in the analysis of literary and media figures, and the misinterpretation of them as what they “could” be, without any substantiated evidence, gets on my nerves. Was Brokeback Mountain a movie about homosexuality? Yes. It was a great movie. Is Black Swan about lesbianism? No. But it had a scene that showed as much, and it made the movie that much better. The movie V for Vendetta has a back story featuring lesbian love, and – as in Black Swan – it makes the movie that much better. All of these show evidence of homosexuality in characters that impact the story in a major way – or that are main characters. But Brave’s Merida does not show any indication of being lesbian, and that is – ultimately – my problem with Markovitz’ and Dobbins’ article.

Brave is about a 16 year old Scottish tomboy princess who finds archery and fighting more enjoyable than looking pretty, and fights to prevent her prearranged marriage in order to stay alone, not live belonging to a man, and be able to enjoy life – it is NOT about a lesbian princess who doesn’t want to marry a man because she’s lesbian.

In the end, I mean, sure, of course, if we go by what “could” be but there is no evidence for, Merida COULD be lesbian. But by the same standards, she could be a boy crosdressing as a girl or a hemaphrodite.Hell, while we’re making unsubstantiated claims let me throw this one out there: Merida is really a half-valkyrie half-goddess born to Odin and Inanna, who stripped Merida of her powers to manipulate time and reap souls and gave her to Scottish nobility in order to win a bet against Amaterasu about whether she could grow to be stronger than men without her powers. And THAT right there is the question, and for that reason Merida can become a prime figure in the practice of half-god worship.

Sounds ridiculous? Why? I present as much relevant evidence for my claim as the “Meridan is lesbian” people do for theirs.

If Disney / Pixar issued some statement, or if it appeared in another film or book that she was lesbian, then it would be worthwhile to revisit this original Brave and do some sort of gender studies thing. But as it is, saying that “Merida is lesbian because she’s a tomboy” is the same as saying that “Tony Stark is gay because he is a rich metrosexual”, and as we all know, all rich metrosexuals are gay, just as all tomboys are lesbians, right? No? Didn’t think so.

http://www.shewired.com/box-office/2012/06/27/could-there-be-lesbian-princess-disney

http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Princess_Mérida

http://popwatch.ew.com/2012/06/24/pixar-brave-gay-merida/

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About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on June 28, 2012, in Film Commentary, Literature Commentary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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