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28 June 2012 @ 11:13 pm
Brave, Gender Roles, and Sexuality  
Fair warning: This is not a post about books and reading, or at least not directly. This is me getting long-winded on the subject of gender and sexuality, the way it's depicted (or the way it isn't depicted) in the media, and societal reactions. This does, of course, extend to books, but if you came here today in search of literary-specific goodness, well, you could always get your fix at the local library. Or, y'know, wait until tomorrow.

Ok. Now that we have today's disclaimer out of the way...

Ever since Pixar's Brave hit the theatres, speculations about the sexuality of the movie's heroine has run rampant. "Experts" have been chiming in on their opinions as to whether she's gay or straight, and of course there's plenty of backlash to these theories. There are so many things about this whole debaucle that make me want to slam my head against the desk that it was time for me to get all ranty somewhere, and so this is me taking it out on all of you. You're welcome.

The first headdesk comes from the argument that because Merida is disinterested in traditional female pastimes, it must be Pixar trying to subtly convey that she's a lesbian. Look, not all tomboys are gay and not all gays are tomboys. No, really! It's true! It's certainly not possible that Pixar didn't specifically mention her sexual or romantic preferences in the movie because it was, y'know, irrelevant to the story they were telling.

Now just for a second, mentally swap all the genders of the characters in the movie. If Merida had been a prince instead of a princess, nobody would be questioning his sexuality. It wouldn't even come up. But because she's a she, her adventure story isn't enough on its own. She's expected to show an interest in marriage or romance, and the theories come out if she doesn't. The message? Girls can't have adventures. And if they do, it's supposed to end with a romance, after which they settle down in their proper place, tending to babies. In the immortal words of Charlie Brown, "Good grief!"

With all that out of the way... I actually think it's great if people are able to interpret an independent character in a kid's movie as being gay. Straight is not the default; gay is not a variation off the "norm." You'd never know it to look at media presented to kids, though. If seeing a kindred spirit in a character like Merida makes a kid --or an adult-- feel slightly less stigmatized in their sexuality by giving them someone positive to relate to, I think that's fantastic. Merida being interpreted as gay (or ace) doesn't change anything about her character or the movie, and anyone loudly declaring that since the movie doesn't explicitly state that she's more into ladies than dudes she must therefore be straight can keep their privileged arguments to themselves.

So the short version of all this basically sums up to the sound of me repeatedly pounding my head against the wall because maybe the constant thumping will drown out the sound of people saying stupid homophobic things or making sweeping generalizations about a fictional female character that they would never apply to a male character. The wall's not getting any softer, though, so I'll see you on the other side of consciousness.
Wrathful and Unrepentant Jade: Spread Wingsjadedissola on June 29th, 2012 04:28 pm (UTC)
One of the reasons I'm taking my son to see Brave is precisely because I want him to see a lead female who does NOT end up with a romantic interest and still has an adventure. (Even Korra fails on this part.) I was so worried Disney was going to push the whole princess thing and that she'd meet a suitor during her adventure and marry and settle down, and when I heard that's not the case, I wanted to shout with joy.

I find it troubling that because Merida doesn't want to pick a husband now while she's still a child and would rather live a life first, suddenly she must be gay! Or asexual! Why does that even matter when there's a whole story to tell about her?

Maybe she's just, you know, a girl like many other girls?
Josenchantedskies on June 29th, 2012 09:08 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I never even thought about her sexuality. Granted, I was curious who she eventually ends up with, but it didn't matter to the story. It was an amazing adventure story about a young woman. It was a coming of age story about the relationship between a mother and her daughter. It was great in it's own right. I was surprised that disney didn't have a love interest, but I walked out of the movie with my best friend going "wow. That was great. And different for disney." That was it. To me, it didn't matter about the sexuality of the character. I didn't even know there was speculation on it because it was an adventure story.

Basically, I agree with everything you said about gender roles. *sighs* This is why I sometimes hate society.