Monday, June 25, 2012

The inexplicable need for classification...

On Entertainment Weekly's website there was an article with the title, "Could the heroine of Pixar's Brave be gay?" (If you're still planning to see this movie, you might want to avoid this post, because there are spoilers here.)

The article reads:
"Today, crowds will line the streets of cities like New York and San Francisco for parades that mark the high point of LGBT Pride Month. At the same time, legions of kids will swarm into theaters to watch Pixar’s Brave, the animated story of a young Scottish princess named Merida who goes to extreme lengths to avoid having to marry one of the three noblemen that her parents have chosen for her. The two events don’t seem to have much in common at first glance. But it’s quite possible that while watching Brave's tomboyish heroine shoot arrows, fight like one of the boys, and squirm when her mother puts her in girly clothes, a thought might pop into the head of some viewers: Is Merida gay?

"Let’s be clear: Merida isn’t an overtly lesbian character. Nothing in the story implies that she’s attracted to other women (or men either, but more on that in a second). 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. And neither Pixar, which created her, or Disney, which is distributing the film, has made any official attempt to tell the gay community that Merida might be one of them.

"But could Merida be gay? Absolutely. She bristles at the traditional gender roles that she’s expected to play: the demure daughter, the obedient fiancĂ©e. Her love of unprincess-like hobbies, including archery and rock-climbing, is sure to strike a chord with gay viewers who felt similarly "not like the other kids" growing up. And she hates the prospect of marriage—at least, to any of the three oafish clansmen that compete for her hand—enough to run away from home and put her own mother’s life at risk. She’s certainly not a swooning, boy-crazy Disney princess like The Little Mermaid’s Ariel or Snow White. In fact, Merida may be the first in that group to be completely romantically disinclined (even cross-dressing Mulan had a soft spot for Li Shang).
While there may be some truth to these remarks, why is there a need to classify this character in such a way? Doesn't this writer fall into the same stereotypical traps the gay community is trying to fight—Merida doesn't want to get married, and likes to climb rocks and shoot arrows, so she must be gay? And would an equivalent male character like to sing and dance, or like to be smartly dressed, or enjoy reading rather than fighting? Because all of those things definitely mean you're gay, right?

Don't get me wrong, it would be great if we lived in a society where a character in a movie, television show, book, etc. could be a strong role model who just happens to be gay. But I believe it will be a long time before a gay character is presented as a hero or heroine in a movie, television show, or book geared toward children. Since it happens so rarely, I understand the need to make a big deal out of a character's sexuality if they are being presented as a person to emulate. I just don't see the need to assign labels just based on stereotypical traits.

Can't a movie character just be a movie character? Can't we just revel in Merida's independent streak rather than seek to find its attributions? Can't we just enjoy a person's humanness, or a character's personality and goodness, without the need to classify them? Sigh.

1 comment:

  1. seriously? cartoons don't have a sexual preference...... THEY'RE CARTOONS!