All of which questions bring us back to Brave. The yearning for authenticity and the bravery required to achieve it is easily recognizable in the heroine, Merida. But what makes the movie especially interesting is the fact that it offers a means by which to privilege certain forms of authenticity over others. In the pivotal insight of the story, both Merida and her mother are forced to reckon with the fact that it is their pride that has put them in danger and is keeping them from rescue. Each of them realizes that it is precisely her demand for what I want, how I want, and when I want it that has brought them to such a terrible pass.
Which means that there is a virtue that is even more important than asserting one’s bravery in the pursuit of one’s heart’s desire. That virtue is humility. Humility is truth, as the saints have taught us, and the truth that Merida and her mother finally recognize is that neither of them have all the answers, that their inner voices can be misleading, that it’s not enough to boldly claim, “This is how I’m going to live, and the world be damned.”
This recognition of their respective weaknesses brings Merida and her mother to a new understanding. Merida’s mother comes to acknowledge that the formation of her daughter is not well served by an arranged marriage that ignores Merida’s readiness for such a life, let alone her wishes. And Merida comes to acknowledge (more implicitly, to be sure) that she cannot become the woman she yearns to become without the love and guidance of her mother and father. So while on its surface Brave shows us a fiery young lady breaking with family and tradition, and thus apparently playing into the conception of authenticity as bold self-assertion (encouraged by the movie poster’s tag line “Change Your Fate”), a deeper look reveals that it is only with the aid of parental love and guidance properly understood that Merida stands a chance of being who she is truly meant to be.
There is indeed a “fate” inside each one of us, but it lies deeper than we often suspect. It is not every desire our wayward hearts cling to. Rather, our “fate” is the foundational yearning of our hearts for the true and the good. This is not a yearning we manufacture. It is not a matter of choice at all. It precedes all particular desires, and thus serves as the rule and measure of the rest. Only in the light of the true and the good can we be who we are truly, authentically, made to be. This is the beautiful truth in Brave.
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