Every society tells itself stories about how it came to be. Those stories generally have literal truth, but are used to construct the values of the society. As an example, the American National Anthem*:
Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
This song was written during the War of 1812- what many call America’s “Second Revolutionary War”. It was this war which-
The idea of “Sovereignty” was expressed as “Freedom”, which then reverberated down through American history. That is how, in 1963, a descendant of African- American slaves was able to stand up and declare “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir”, America had no intellectual response. We could only- eventually- agree.
Which brings me to Pixar’s Brave. At it’s core, Brave is about the duty one owes to society. The struggle itself plays out between a mother and daughter, over the daughter’s need to marry the son of one of the clan chiefs. If the daughter fails to marry, it will inevitably lead to war, fire, and death.
In fact, the daughter’s refusal to marry- her decision to rebel against society by running from it- does lead to the outbreak of a war. She returns to her father’s castle to find that the clans are at war over her refusal to wed. Interestingly, it isn’t a rejection of any particular clan or group of clans that sparks the conflict. Rather, it is the rejection of the King’s First Born Child of the system itself. If the King’s child is so decadent that she will reject the system to which the clan chiefs- proud men all- have subordinated themselves, then the King does not deserve their support. The Kingdom will fall.
In the movie’s first climax, the Princess rebinds the kingdom together by invoking the Sorelian Myth. We learn that the kingdom is merely a generation old. The clan chiefs are the first generation to have granted their fealty to a king. She reminds them that they bound themselves together to stave off invasion, and that they are stronger when engaged in mutual cooperation. In the processes, she engages in an act of renewal, pledging herself to the system by promising to marry one of the Chief’s sons. War is averted.
There is a bit more work to be done. The Princess and her mother have united the clans and must (literally) slay the demons of the past. In doing so, they lay the foundation for a stronger kingdom, united behind the a single unifying myth.
*As an historical curiosity, the “Star Spangle Banner” has 3 verses, though the “American National Anthem” has but 1.
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