This is probably trite as hell, but I have to say it. Brave has a lot in common with Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?, (but of course, on a much, much, much simpler level), they’re both about independent women, separating themselves from their mothers. Obviously, one is aimed at tiny children so it’s a different sort of approach, I know because I went to a midday showing of Brave and the massive audience of kids (predominantly 5 years old and under, from what I could see) were silent, paying rapt attention throughout the entire film. Boys and girls, they clung to their adult escorts, grimly fearful of the heroine’s plight. Eventually, resolving her relationship with her mother, just as her mother came to respect her, they reached a resolve. Her monstrous appearance was changed and our girl Merida was able to get the comfort she so badly needed. I’ve read the odd complaint that Brave is simplistic or familiar. I would remind those reviewers that it is a film aimed (very effectively) at tiny children. I would also ask those reviewers instead to take a look at Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? which might be more age-appropriate.
Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama. Alison Bechdel (writer/artist). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardcover. 304 Pages. $22.00.
Though on the surface I prefer Fun Home after one reading of Are You My Mother?, I suspect Are You My Mother? is a book I will return to many times over the years and always glean something new from, both as daughter, wannabe academic, writer, and depending on how my life turns out, possibly as mother, because Bechdel’s book is complicated and layered in a way that few graphic novels are and it affected me powerfully both in what I understood and what I know that I cannot yet understand. I feel that though I read the book carefully, and adored it, at the age of 35 I can only process some parts of it.
Perhaps I am not ready for the rest.
At 45 I suspect I will see it in a whole new light. And at 55 it may become something else entirely.. It feels like the kind of work that will stay with me my whole life, revealing new layers as I am equipped to understand them.