›› TALKiNG PiCTURES
Ursidae, gone tomorrow... Pixar flick taps into primal fear of being eaten by bears, says Pierce Gonzalez by Davi d Te mp l e ton
Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to interesting movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-ﬁlm conversation. This is not a movie review; rather, it’s a freewheeling, tangential discussion of life, alternative ideas and popular culture.
pares, to the tale of a selﬁsh man whose fate becomes wrapped up, literally, in the culinary creations of a local baker. As a writer and teacher of the power of the personal folktale, Pierce Gonzalez has been curious about Brave, the new Pixar ﬁlm we’ve come to see today, for which we’ve endured numerous he world has become a little pre-show previews packed with complicated too complicated,” Karen Pierce ﬂuff to get through. Gonzalez whispers, underscorBrave, Pixar’s ﬁrst story built around a ing the ﬁnal few frames of a preview for female character, is a Scottish fairytale, of the ﬂuffy ﬁlm Ice Age: Continental Drift, in sorts, in which an adventurous princess which a number of animated prehistoric named Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonanimals exhibit an array of ald), resisting her parents recognizable human neuattempts to marry her off roses, psychoses, phobias, “If you look back in the to a neighboring clan, unﬁxations and affectations. oldest fairytales,” Pierce leashes a series of disasters “If those were people, it Gonzalez says, “kids are and near-tragedies in her would be disturbing,” she attempts to change her points out, softly, her eyes eaten up all the time. fate. Essentially a motheron the screen. “But because It’s a fear that appears daughter fable, the bulk of they’re animated animals, in all of those stories.” the story explores the relawe think they’re adorable. tionship between Merida See what I mean? Even our and her mother, the queen ﬂuff has become too complicated.” (Emma Thompson), after a spell has Cotati resident Pierce Gonzalez is a writer, transformed various members of the royal journalist and teacher, and is the founder of family into bears. FolkHeart Press, a small publishing company “I walked away with a greater appreciafocused on books that explore the art of tion for the phrase mama bear,” laughs folklore and folktales. Her new book, Black Pierce Gonzalez. “The phrase refers Pepper Visions: Original Folktales & Stories to parents who become primal and You Can Eat, was just published. The book is instinctive in protecting their children. a collection of highly imaginative and visually You do not want to mess around with a arresting short stories by Pierce Gonzalez— mama bear.” the majority of which revolve around food, In the ﬁlm, the classic “hero’s journey” from the opening piece about an abandoned is turned on its head. woman whose grief and anger is transferred Merida’s hero’s journey isn’t about iniinto the black pepper she obsessively pretiation into the tribe, or into the world or into adulthood. Her journey isn’t a blessed hero’s In her book, ‘Black Pepper Visions,’ Karen Pierce journey, where the tribe Gonzalez has penned a series of folktales that takes her to the edge of the all center around food. village and wishes her well on her adventure. In Brave, she is propelled out of her village by her own anger and her desire to change her own fate—because, otherwise, there was going to be no hero’s journey for her. There was only going to be a wedding. “If Merida had not allowed herself to become angry,” she continues, “to become righteously angry at what was happening to her, she would never have run away, she would never have had the journey that leads her into the kinds
In ‘Brave,’ the young heroine must overcome a classic ‘hero’s journey,’ and ﬁgure out why her family has all turned into bears.
of self-discovery she has. A hero’s journey takes you out into the world, where you are fortiﬁed only by what you can internally bring with you—your values, your wit, your resourcefulness, your faith, your truths, your sense of the world.” When Merida escapes, she is innocent and naive. “But at the end, she has achieved a kind of wisdom she’d never have learned otherwise. At the end, she realizes that she has made choices that weren’t working out, and that it was her responsibility to make things right again.” Pierce Gonzalez ﬁnds the choice of bears as the spirit animal of the story to be especially interesting, since bears do eat humans. In the ancient folktales, the fear of being eaten is a major theme. “In some of the very early Grimm’s fairytales,” Pierce Gonzalez says, “back before they were cleaned up and made appropriate for Disney movies, the mother who eats her children is an actual character. Cannibalism and motherhood, or grandmotherhood or step-motherhood, was a theme that came up a lot—especially with step-motherhood, of course. Stepmothers are one of the major recurring villains in those stories.” That theme, the potential of Merida’s mother-bear to eventually eat her, is hinted at early on in the movie, when we see the young Merida playing with her mom, who lovingly threatens to gobble her up. “If you look back in the oldest fairytales,” Pierce Gonzalez says, “kids are eaten up all the time. It’s a fear that appears in all of those stories.” Though there is no cannibalism in Pierce Gonzalez’s book of short stories, the focus on food leads me to ask her
about the image in Brave of the enchanted cake. When Merida escapes the castle, she encounters a woodcarver whom she recognizes as a witch. After bargaining with the spell-maker to give her something that will change her mother’s attitude, the witch presents the princess with a cake, promising that whoever eats it will be changed forever. “Food is always a major metaphor in folk stories,” says Pierce Gonzalez. “Food is life. Food is everything. It represents nature, and it is a composite of the world around us. The food we grow, the trees and fruit within our reach, how we harvest our crops, the way we cook and prepare those foods, all of that is a part of our environment. So if there is anything magical in the world around us... it’s going to end up in our food, baked right into it. “And that magic—the lessons of life and the lessons of nature—it always ends up transforming us—one way or another.” < Find out more about Karen’s books, and FolkHeart Press, at www.folkheartpress.com.
Children being gobbled up by trusted adults was a favorite theme of the Brothers Grimm—yet rarely translates into box-ofﬁce gold as a Saturday kiddie matinee.
It’s your movie, speak up at ›› paciﬁcsun.com AUGUST 10-AUGUST 16, 2012 PACIFIC SUN 19
Section of the August 10, 2012 edition of the Pacific Sun Weekly