Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Popcorn Is Political

Dodai Stewart:

In Brave, Merida isn't interested in the young men trying to win her hand, or in marriage. Which is not to say that she is gay. There's nothing in the film to suggest that she is; and Markovitz doesn't assume that because she enjoys outdoorsy activities, she must be gay. But because her character is not defined by her sexuality — unlike, say, Ariel, Jasmine, or Cinderella — she could be a lesbian. The point is: Kids will notice that her happily ever after isn't dependent on a wedding. And that feels like a step in the right direction.

Okay. Think back with me now to all the fairy tales and Saturday morning cartoons you absorbed as kids, many of them grotesque and reactionary if taken literally. How many of them informed your adult worldview in any meaningful way? What an impoverished mindset it requires to look at a fucking CGI animation and see it as political propaganda for blank slates. However much we have to stretch the definition of art for our purposes here, what a paucity of imagination and integrity it indicates for someone to judge popular art by how faithfully it trumpets the cause du jour.

The point is not that people should or shouldn't relate characters and themes from books and movies to their own experiences; they always have and will, and skillful creations will resonate with audiences long after current political obsessions have faded. The point is that people who are concerned first and foremost with making Brave into a referendum on feminism, redheadedness or gay rights are myopic prigs, and that it takes incredibly insecure people to demand that their sociopolitical values be validated and affirmed by even popcorn entertainment.