How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

Is BRAVE Really Bad for Boys?

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I’ve been seeing some unusually high number of link-baity posts and intense debate around Pixar’s BRAVE this week. Specifically, a few bloggers have called into question the depiction of men/boys in the film, saying it’s not a good movie for them. I decided to write a Nyquil-fueled blog post about it over on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DADS.

I tried to be thorough and more to the point in the post because, seriously, I was about RAGEQUIT THE ENTIRE INTERNETS.

Look at this father. He’s such an uncaring, buffoonish @sshole, right?

Go check it out if you have a second or five, and tell me what you think, having seen the movie yourself. Would love to find out that I’m insane or not thinking clearly (HA!).


PS: Don’t get me started on the ridiculous accusations that Merida is gay because she’s an archer and doesn’t want to be stuffed into a relationship. Someone else, already covered that.

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21 Responses to “Is BRAVE Really Bad for Boys?”

  1. Looking forward to reading it…if Babble ever loads (what is the deal?). As it happens, I’ve already started a post of my own about Brave, and I have the EXACT same anchor graphic as yours. Great minds…

  2. Really want to read you V.P but the article won’t download. This afternoon I’m taking my 20 yr old daughter to go see it – My husband and sons already saw it (I was out of town and they refused to wait)They, being the males in my family, like it.

  3. porche says:

    Well written! Fearing that such a movie or characters are going to damage their son is really only showing their own insecurity of their place in life. My son will see this movie when he is old enough to pay attention and many others like it. If we want our sons’ to be strong MEN then they must search for a strong woman (or other partner) who knows her own mind as well. I encourage a lack of boys vs. girls crap. If my son decides he wants to wear a tutu just because its in the dress up trunk, then he can wear the damn tutu, and tiara, and anything else he wants.

    • wgk says:

      The Tutu, tiara, and anything else he wants? That has nothing to do with the movie. Are you purposly creating a Perpetual cycle of emasculation?

  4. I’ve already taken my son to see BRAVE, and he absolutely loved it. I hardly think he’s going to be scarred for life by the depiction of male characters. No, he was rocking back and forth in his seat during horse chase scenes and giggling at the things Merida’s little brothers did. I had to put my hand on his shoulder for comfort during the scarier bear scenes and when he thought that Merida’s mom would stay [spoiler] forever. But he told me afterward that it was a GREAT movie. I’m pretty sure the genders of the characters weren’t even on his radar.

  5. Julie says:

    I’m going to repost my thoughts I posted to your article hear since it seems stuck in the land of “waiting for moderation”

    Ok, well. I’ll say this. You’re giving Merida WAY too much credit here.

    “Merida isn’t your stereotypical Disney princess.” – How’s that now? What’s that you say?
    -Belle (Beauty and the Beast) – refused to get married because she was supposed to, defied the norm and stood out with her love of reading, inventing and her love for her father. Sacrificed herself to save him at any cost. Just because she slaps on a dress at the end, you can’t pretend she’s little miss girly, prim and proper princess.
    -Ariel (Little Mermaid)- refused to settle to be a pretty singing princess mermaid, wanted freedom from her father and the sea, was an adventurer who sought out danger, etc.
    2 examples of “typical Disney princesses” So, just because Merida doesn’t want to wear a dress, she’s somehow better? Sounds like you’re arguing the opposite of what you’re here complaining about.

    “struggles against the conformity of her daily tasks, and yearns for freedom” – Yea, covered that. That’s just about every Disney Princess, dude.

    Brave was *intentionally* marketed very widely by Disney/Pixar as “the first Pixar heroine” oh please. So what? Isn’t Pixar already setting themselves up for this kind of gender-role bickering by going “Sorry we made films for over a decade and just now are giving you a girl lead. All better?” No one made a thing of it til they did. I don’t know many people up in arms cause Wall-E was a boy robot or Sully in Monsters Inc wasn’t female. Characters are strong positive role models for kids/adults alike and its not until someone points the girl/boy thing that it even matters.

    That said the only real complaint I’ve heard about Brave, fairly consistently, is it’s a beautiful movie with a shallow story/characters. I’ve heard people say without the triplets, the movie would be too dull to watch (I’d agree) and the ONLY girl/boy thing I’ve heard is this movie is definitely a good mother/daughter film (oddly, I’ve heard the opposite argument too that Merida is too selfish to care truly about her mother, yadda yadda)

    All this said, I think it’s a touch unfair of you to fight so hard for this movie after you were wined and dined by it just a few days ago. You can’t do a big write up about your review of going to the premiere then write more getting mad when people complain about the movie. You basically went to prom with the cheerleader then are mad when you find out the rest of the school doesn’t like her as much as you do. I LOVE love How to be a Dad, but gotta totally disagree with you and where you’re coming from on this.

    • charlie says:

      Hey Julie,

      Thanks for the taking the time to write such an epic comment. Let me address a few things.

      1. She isn’t your stereotypical princess because defies the cultural norms. I’m sorry if you disagree with me, but she stands out because while she was raised with the trappings of becoming a princess she actually learns skills outside of those and has a life outside of conventional “womanhood” for the time. That is a step forward in my opinion. She kicks ass, shoots a bow and knows what she wants. It’s not the dress, it’s the character that wins me over. She’s not tethered to princess-hood in the same way others have been. That’s a good move. That’s how she’s a-typical to me. Belle and Ariel have their moments too, but this FELT different, are you going to disagree with my feeling that way?

      2. Have you seen the movie? It sounds like you haven’t. Please tell me I’m wrong about that.

      3. You seem a big rage-quitty about this. The producer and director did NOT have gender stereotypes in mind when I asked them point blank about it. They said they wanted to create a strong hero and the producer, Ms. Sarafian, said herself that she was the ‘career now, relationships later’ kind of person. I can roll with that. She played tons of sports and didn’t want to get married until SHE felt ready. That sounds like she is a good caretaker for the film.

      4. You should know better, Julie. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for over 10 years (my God, it’s been that long?). Lest you get the impression that they “wined and dined” me, living here has dissolved my enthusiasm for these events. I enjoy watching the movies as a fanboy of projected light on a screen, but I’m almost immune to the pomp and circumstance of the privilege. I guess that’s called being “jaded”?

      5. I’m not fighting for the movie. I’m saying I enjoyed it and I don’t appreciate people saying that it’s not good for boys. I’m calling bullshit on that. Let’s get our stories straight.

      6. I’m glad you disagree with me and will fight for your right to do so.

      • Julie says:

        Nice to get an honest reply back!

        Yes, I have seen it. No, I didn’t particularly care for it (and as for my background- I make these kind of films for a living. Unfortunately in my industry, you’ll get all but tarred and feathered for not openly adoring every Pixar film to come out. which is a shame)

        I’m not going to argue any particular point. That’s awesome this film spoke to you like that. That’s why we make movies like this. That’s the point. And it’s easy to get passionate about things you attach yourself to. You’re passionate about how people are reacting to it as am I. I’m coming at it as a mother of a boy and more importantly- a girl. I’m more just tired of people making such a thing over the boy/girl thing. And that animated films for generations have been allowed to paint girls in a stereotypical light but if they dare do it about boys, guys stomp their feet about it. Stereotypes are just that. Girls will always be pictured in dresses and pink and with fluffy cute sidekicks. Boys will be dirty, huffing their chests, breaking things and causing trouble. I don’t think Brave did that any more or less that pretty much any other human based, animated film of the last 50-60 years. That’s why I rolled my eyes at any of these reviews of it demanding it is or it isn’t type thing. They all are, but because Brave was promoted as “strong female lead” it made it much easier to jump on the “hey, they’re being mean to boys!” bandwagon.

        I think what led me to comment (normally don’t) was how defensive your article sounded and yes, coming from a readers perspective, you showcased going to the premiere and all the fun and greatness of it all, so it makes you seem impartial. It’s great you get to do that stuff (funny to think a blogger/writer gets to go to the premiere but the artists who put their time, lack of sleep and countless time away from family don’t.) but to many readers, it can feel like its not coming from the right place.

        I’m truly glad you enjoyed the film. It was not close to my favorite, but to each their own. I don’t appreciate people getting defensive over these kind of films on either side of your issue. That’s where I’m coming from with it. Boy/girl, we’re all represented as stereotypes and it’s not fair to tell either side of that issue whos wrong because you’re both right AND wrong.

        • charlie says:

          It all makes sense now. You’re in the industry. BELIEVE ME, I’ve been acting and writing for 10 years+ now and I TOTALLY understand your point about people being invited to events.

          What are your favorites? I’d love to see them.

          And I don’t think they revolutionized gender stereotyping by any means, again, I think it’s steps in the right direction for my money. Maybe one day we’ll be discussing a boy who doesn’t want to marry girls, ever, and isn’t a loser just because he can’t fight. Maybe one day.

          I think I took a stronger stance because I don’ the film necessarily HARMS boys or scars them, as some have LITERALLY said.

          By the way, if you want to invite me to a screening of yours, I will totally be wined and dined. Indie filmmakers do it for me way more than GIANT studios. I’ve made 3 indie films myself. I know how hard it is.

          • Julie says:

            My favorite animated films? Hm, well as of recent, I really enjoyed Tangled and How To Train Your Dragon. Both were equally beautifully rendered, likable characters all around and engaging stories. I guess you could argue HTTYD similar to Brave with how the genders seemed very balanced in treatment (But again, I’ve heard more people grumble how Brave feels like Pixar’s direct reaction to HTTYD. But then again, I had a talk with an animator the other day who angrily declared Brave was just “Scottish Mulan” so do with that what you will!) Dumbo is heartbreakingly sad, but will always be one of my favorites. Not many films can showcase a boy’s love for his mother and vice versa like that one. If you have children and watch that without crying, I’m pretty sure you have no soul!

            I totally agree, about boys in Brave. I highly doubt one little boy will walk out of a screening and decide to rethink his life! And yes, for the females, it is a good step for getting rid of gender stereotypes, but I think it’s going to always be there. That’s why its gotten so tough to do human-styled animated films as of late. Animals, robots, toys, etc are much more forgiving in terms of what people will be ok with them doing. It still gets frustrating to see people get so defensive over something like this stuff though.

      • Christina says:

        And in all of this, the only thing I dreadfully want to ask is this:

        WHAT ABOUT MULAN?!?!?

        SHE defied cultural norms and even risked beheading for her crimes! Only she did it to save her father.

        Haven’t seen Brave yet, but I know I’m gonna like it and I just solve all this controversy crap by not reading any of it.

        Ignorance = Bliss. And in this, ignorance is totally acceptable.

  6. Ralok says:

    I havent seen it, but if it perpetuates the stereotype that boys (and men) are all self obsessed, mentally deficient animals, who cannot control themselves and have no emotions . . . yes it is bad for boys

    if it doesnt . . . then it isnt bad for boys . . .

  7. Jessica says:

    Well firstly I want to say what about Mrs. Incredible? A heroine through and through, despite the ensemble cast.

    I have seen the film and honestly I think they were just poking fun at the Scots, rather than men themselves. But more to the point just because Brave is good for girls it doesn’t mean it’s bad for boys. In fact I think it’s GREAT for boys and here’s why:

    1. Stereotypes of perfect princesses are bad for boys as well – Merida (and most Pixar women) has imperfect hair, a small bust and is bottom heavy in the thighs. She’s strong and she doesn’t wait around to be rescued. I don’t want my son thinking he needs to find himself a helpless princess who needs rescuing. Positive female role models benefit girls AND boys.

    2. There are some very positive images of men in this movie. Merida’s father is her biggest fan and supporter. You can see his admiration, awe and love for her in every scene. And yet he somehow manages to support both his wife and daughter as best he can even though they tear him in opposite directions with their conflict.

    The youngest son who is competing for Merida’s hand in marriage is mocked for his scrawny, dimwitted appearance and yet is the most ferocious and competent athlete. When Merida’s mother repeals the rule about her daughter’s betrothal, the princes express relief as well. You’d think a stereotypical, one dimensional male character would be aching to get his hands on a piece of princess.

    If people have a problem with the men brawling – it’s feudal fu***** Scotland, get over it. If people are upset because when the male clan leaders are together they are a bunch of one-upping, peacocking, chest thrusting bar brawlers – well, a lot of men ARE like that. In saying that, they will at a moments notice band together against a common foe (the bear). They also weep unashamedly for Merida and the Queen when she remains transformed as a bear – see? Big boys do cry.

    Just my thoughts – I loved it.

  8. CourtneyS says:

    My husband just took our daughter to see this movie. (I stayed home we have a 7week old baby thats a boob-a-holic). They both LOVED it. He actually came home and said “It would be a great family movie-I love it when it shows a family that loves each other, and supports each other when Sh*& happens”. Thumbs up, my daughter loved it, my husband loved it.

    Only down fall? When she asked me the next day if it was true that “Gingers have no souls”. So I’m more pissed off about what she learned about red heads on the play ground than in a movie. I can guarantee you-she doesn’t look at her father or brother any diffrently. To a 5, 6, or 7 year old its just a great expirence that doesn’t happen every day.

  9. Karen says:

    Well, we went to this as a family. It scared my daughter who is 8 – she had that look that she was not having fun during it though she tends to like movies with a strong female lead because she is sick of wimpy girls waiting for a man to save her from herself instead of saving herself and then chosing to share her life with a man who will respect her. My son liked it as did my husband. But we felt the story was lacking.

    Irony, two days beforehand we went as a family to see Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – 8 year old daughter loved in and giggled the whole way through. She also loves van Helsing – for the female lead who is strong too and can match van Helsing. She hates Twilight and can explain why it is an unhealthy relationship between an obsessed teen and a stalker/abuser…

    Daughter liked Tangled. Hated every other Disney Princess movie…

    I screwed up somewhere.

    Oh well! At least this year on the way home from Alice Cooper we did not wind up in a biker bar.

    • Christina says:

      The thing about Twilight – I’m impressed. I had the biggest issue with it because the characteristics of the relationship are exactly what an emotionally abusive relationship would be in real life, only it was paraded as “true love”.

      So glad some kid out there realized that’s not what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like >.<

  10. Alan says:


    I’m glad to see another of the few who didn’t see the baffoonery. I joined the ranks of Brave bloggers, albeit a more narrow discussion than yours, myself. I focused on the goodness of King Fergus and how he showed admirable qualities as a husband, father and man. I’ll admit, I started out thinking his portrayal was going to be that of the hapless fool, but Disney came through and gave us a simple, honest, caring, strong dude-of-a-king.

    Excellent post and expertly written. Wish i’d have covered it as well as you.

  11. Kevin says:

    I haven’t seen brave yet, not sure if my little guy is quite ready to go
    to the movies yet (but soon, I hope!)
    I just wanted to say that if anyone is concerned about men being depicted as incompetent buffoons, then they only need to avoid one thing: Television.
    I tend to avoid TV myself, mostly because I seem to prefer shows that get cancelled before their time. But when I have watched broadcast TV, I find that sitcoms and commercials for any household product just seem to be an ongoing stream of jabs reinforcing the cultural stereotype that men are incompetent, and certainly not capable of performing any household function without hilarious mishap, only to be rescued by their long-suffering highly-competent wife wielding a frozen dinner or cleaning product or snappy comeback. That doesn’t describe my family at all, but I have found people I know, men and women, parroting back those same attitudes. I’ve even told people that they/their husbands are not the male buffoon that TV tells them they are.

  12. I finally saw Brave and loved it!
    On subject: The daddy was brave, strong, and though possibly not the brightest bulb, a very good man. His three sons were little geniuses, child prodigies. Sure, the suitors and their dads were kind of dumb, but they turned out all right in the end. Why would this affect little boys badly? In fact, it’s a whole lot better than the morals that *Disney Channel* shows when it comes to men and women.
    I don’t think it’s really a movie for small kids though. The bears and the intensity of Merida trying to save her mother in the end would be scary for someone so small. (I’m going off my three-year-old niece, who isn’t allowed to watch it yet because we know it would scare her.) Honestly, just know how you’re kids will react and make a smart choice.

  13. Rebecca says:

    why do people insist on making something so simple as a movie a debate. no matter the reason one gender will not be happy. For the life of me, I cannot understand what was wrong with the male characters, they were not abusive, nor were they drunk, But coincidentally they were not Prince Charming or the hero. Merida’s father looked out for her plus the writers gave all the men a dash of humour. Do I think this will be a bad influence on little boys? ABSOLUTELY NOT!lest be candid how namy Kids do you know who analyze a movie scene by scene thinking to themselves “this is a bad influence on me” so why can’t we all enjoy a movie without feeling the necessity to pick it a part? aren’t we supposed to enjoy the movies?

  14. Lies says:

    What? WHAT? There’s a beautiful movie with a strong girl/woman in it, who really stimulates girls to be who they want to be, that they don’t HAVE to be pretty princesses if they don’t want to (nothing against princesses, I’m just a girl who never felt like acting like a princess), and people are suddenly raging against how presumably bad the men in the picture look? WHAT? Indeed, first of all, they did’t look bad, I really LOVED the father in all his rough cuteness AND the three little hilarious brothers! Second, yes, they are stereotypical, but women AND men have been portrayed stereotypical since the very first film, so there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you don’t depict all men as unsensitive assholes or all women as fragile, dumb, stay-in-the-kitchen princesses. If you don’t want ANY stereotypes, don’t watch movies, in general…
    I reeaaaaally loved Brave! I really felt connected to Merida. (Just as I have always felt connected to Ariel the Mermaid.)

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