I always find it really interesting when Libby and I come to different conclusions about popular media or issues, given that our backgrounds are so similar and we understand each other so well. One such example was our differing choices on changing or keeping our last names after marriage. (Libby wrote a follow-up post discussing last name choices here.)
I came away from watching Pixar’s Brave last Friday feeling a little let down by the high expectations I had after Tangled, but otherwise impressed. I was excited to see a film about a mother and daughter actually doing things together. In contrast, Libby Anne was worried about Merida’s willingness to give up her own dreams for her mother, and the one-sided message from the witch that put the burden of reconciliation on Merida alone.
I take her points to heart. If the writers intended to tell a story about the importance of putting your family’s approval above your own dreams, that’s a problematic message. I didn’t interpret it that way, but I can definitely see how Libby Anne could. The difference in emphasis that we each took away from the movie probably reflects our own present family situations post-fundamentalism.
This is not a judgment on Libby Anne. I count myself lucky to have my mother in my life, actually supporting me. I didn’t always. It has been a rough several years. I don’t think that I could have (or should have) made our reconciliation happen without my mother, like Elinor, having a change of heart.
I tried. I reached out to my mother from the very first day I left. I was sometimes reactionary, imputing meanings to things that she said that weren’t really there. (She once called me a “rebel” in a positive sense, and I interpreted it as a judgment because our church castigates rebellion.) But I tried to keep in regular contact with her, supporting her and listening to her as she cared for my dying grandmother and I was states away (and soon, countries away). But I never offered to come home, “make things right” with my abusive father, or return to the church. Eventually, my mother decided to accept me without demanding those things. I experienced reconciliation as something my mother had to choose to take part in, not something I could do by myself.
Libby Anne’s mother is not so flexible. She does demand that Libby return to the “truth” and apologize to her father for living her life without his permission. The burden of reconciliation, from her mother’s point of view, is completely on Libby’s shoulders. The cost of reconciliation is Libby Anne’s whole life. And I agree that the price is far too high.
My mother and I never would have come to an understanding if she wasn’t willing to put her relationship with me ahead of our differences with respect to religion and my father. I’m glad that she did. If she hadn’t, I’d be in Libby’s position now, forced to live with the knowledge that my mother disapproves of me, and that the cost of her approval is my freedom.
So when Libby and I watched Brave, I saw a reiteration of my own eventual coming-to-terms with my mother, and she saw that same set of demands. I think the movie lends itself to both interpretations. Is that a problem? I don’t know. What do you think?