Brave's Merida, the celebrated first female hero of a Pixar film, is a tomboy. She's a skilled archer, she fights, she detests girly clothes, rejects all her male suitors, and explicitly expresses that she does not want to get married. So, asks Adam Markovitz in a controversial article at Entertainment Weekly, "Is Merida gay?" It isn't just that the character bristles at "traditional gender roles" that raises suspicion, Markovitz says. It's the timing of Brave's release to coincide with major parades in New York and San Francisco in honor of LGBT Pride Month, which he thinks was an intentional decision. The argument sparked a firestorm of commentary. Is Merida a thinly disguised gay character, and, if so, does it matter?
Just because she isn't girly doesn't mean she's gay: I really wish that society would "stop reading a girl's desire for physical activity or pleasure in the abilities her own body gives her as a sign of potential incipient gayness," says Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress. A girl who likes playing sports — or in Merida's case, enjoys archery — is just as likely to become a lesbian as a cheerleader, art enthusiast, writer, or any other type of girl. "Sexuality and gender performance are not the same thing."
"Brave's Merida and why we need to stop equating gender performance and sexual orientation"
It's ambiguous, and that may be intentional: Pixar is "notoriously meticulous," with its painstakingly subtle references and hidden "Easter eggs," says Chris Heller at The Atlantic. It's likely, then, that the ambiguity over Merida's sexuality was deliberate. "Brave preaches acceptance;" Merida delivers a rousing speech about the "freedom to marry whomever she wants." These things resonate amid the current same-sex marriage debate, and themes about embracing one's own identity are sure to resonate strongly with the LGBT community. "The film doesn't need to tell us whether Merida is gay. It just needed to make us ask."
"Does it matter if the heroine of Brave is gay?"
She's not sexual: It's fair that some people could read into the fact that the movie was released during Gay Pride month to infer that Merida is gay, says Andrew O'Hehir at Salon, but I don't believe that was Pixar's intention. Instead, the studio created "an autonomous, independent-minded and indeed pre-sexual or nonsexual character." Merida may be aged as a teenager in the film, but Brave is marketed to young audiences who should have no problem accepting that, in a movie that at its core is about a girl's relationship with her mother, Merida isn't a sexual being at all. "There's a germ of something" to the theory that she's gay, but, ultimately, she's just "a girl in a fairy tale."
"Is Pixar's Brave princess a lesbian?"
Merida shouldn't even be sexualized: There's no need to classify Merida's sexual orientation at all, says Michael Izzo at Business Insider. "This isn't 50 Shades of Brave;" it's a movie for kids. Certainly, Disney and Pixar would never publicly state that its new lead character is gay, and "risk potentially millions of merchandising dollars" by alienating audiences with whom that wouldn't jibe. Let's just be pleased that Merida is "a strong, independent, female character," which is reason enough to praise Brave.
"Is Disney/Pixar's newest lead character gay?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- America created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Meet the ISIS 'truthers'
- The Obama era is over. The presidency continues.
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How American businessmen are ruining American business — and the U.S. economy
- How Harry Houdini escaped death
- What is Molly? Everything you need to know about the party drug
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- On ISIS, neocons and liberal hawks have a 'boy who cried wolf' problem
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- What's really limiting advances in computer tech
Subscribe to the Week