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a Hollywood stabbing & Disney's Brave

Is anyone else here a fan of animated Disney movies? I absolutely love them - always have, apparently always will. How about the movie Brave? If you haven’t seen Brave, that’s okay! You don’t need to have seen it for this post to make sense! Having rewatched it this past weekend for sketch comedy research purposes, I am again reaffirmed in my belief that Brave is quite underrated in comparison to other Disney Princess movies. What it lacks musically (and trust me, music is everything to me), it makes up for thematically.

I’d written in an earlier post that I would try to tackle the conversation I had with a friend of mine recently regarding life’s purpose. I tried my hand at a car metaphor, and looking back, I’m still proud of that metaphor. It’s clunky, but it works. The rest of the piece then continues on to describe my belief about constantly being at a state of Point B in greater detail. There’s a lot of stuff worth unpacking, and this post is very much a continuation of that one (which you can read by clicking here).

The reason I used a car metaphor in the first place when writing that previous post is because my friend had asked me a question about my personal beliefs in an external capacity since I had mainly described my view in terms of personal actions, choices, and consequences. He asked me, “well what if you walk outside right now and get hit by a car?” And it was a good question because so much of my explanation of my views up until that point in the conversation relied on personal responsibility and, specifically, how it pertained to my life. I’m really glad he asked about external factors outside of oneself. It’s an important question.

Where I live in Los Angeles is located about a block from the local police station. I can walk out my front door and see it from my street. On Sunday afternoon, part of my road was blocked off and a few dozen police officers were positioned across the street from another apartment complex. Having no previous knowledge of the situation when I first saw the commotion, the only information I had to go off of was the phrase “we have the entire building surrounded, so come out with your hands up” heard from over a loudspeaker. A simple walk around the block with Archy suddenly became a live version of Cops.

There wasn’t a ton of additional information at first as the cops were being mostly tight-lipped. The excitement wore off, and Archy and I continued on our way. Fast-forward to a couple hours later and I hear loud helicopters circling over my apartment. I decide to take Archy on another short walk around the block and come outside to see that not only have additional streets been blocked off, but there are now multiple S.W.A.T. vehicles outside, including a black firetruck (this easily excited me more than anything else). Being that my car was parked on one of the blocked-off roads and I had plans later that night with some friends, I asked the closest police officer if I’d be able to move my car. He responded that I could but that if it were just a short errand I might reconsider since he didn’t know if I’d be able to return and re-park in the immediate future. He then told me the long-story-short of the event. Apparently there had been a dispute between a tenant and manager of the apartment building in which the tenant stabbed said manager. He assured me that the manager was going to be okay - maybe a few stitches, nothing life-threatening - but that the tenant had since barricaded himself into the apartment. He also assured me there was no evidence of a gun (only the stab weapon), which made me wonder why the S.W.A.T. team was needed. Alas, I am not a police officer so I do not know the protocols (but rest assured, I will be researching them soon enough - #curiousmind). And just as quickly as he and I had that conversation, the police tape was cut from the streets, and the entire situation ended with the suspect surrendering himself peacefully.

What does this have to do with a Disney movie that only got a C+ rating on Rotten Tomatoes? EVERYTHING… because Brave is extremely underrated. In a beautifully-handled voiceover sequence, Merida says, “Some say our destiny is tied to the land, as much a part of us as we are of it. Others say fate is woven together like a cloth, so that one's destiny intertwines with many others. It's the one thing we search for, or fight to change.”

When the tenant and building manager woke up Sunday morning, I highly doubt they both saw themselves in the situation they were in by Sunday night. I’ll never know exactly what happened because I wasn’t one of the two people in the apartment, but I bet things simply escalated and got out of hand. Each person made personal choices along the way that led to that specific outcome. The manager didn’t show up at the tenant’s apartment expecting to get stabbed. He probably didn’t make any choices along the way that would have dictated him wanting to be stabbed, but although he has personal choices with consequences and his choices did not convey to him the specific outcome of a stabbing, he does not exist in a vacuum separate from other human beings. The choice the tenant made to stab the manager was a personal one that now has some pretty harsh consequences.

A couple paragraphs ago I mentioned my friend asking me the “well what if you walk outside right now and get hit by a car” question, but I waited until now to provide how I responded. My response to his question was something along the lines of “you’re right because the only personal choice I would’ve made would be to leave your apartment at a specific time. That’s not a personal choice I’m making that should be consequential, but it doesn’t prevent other people from making their own personal choices that have consequences.” His question really helped open my mind and solidify my life view to the point that human beings don’t live in a vacuum where their own choices are the only choices being made. At that time, it also helped that it was St. Patrick’s Day and I could use someone else’s irresponsible choice to drink and drive as an example of someone else’s personal choice having consequences. And like the manager whose only decision was to interact with the tenant, he entered a situation in which he couldn’t control the other human being who also had his own personal choices, which ended up being hurtful to the manager.

Brave becomes an incredibly relevant animated film when relating to this discussion because Merida’s fate is not just her own. It is intertwined with many other characters’ fates in her world. Her personal actions have consequences that affect not just her but other important people in her life, as well. By approaching the Witch for a spell to change her mother, she believes she’s only going to change her mother’s mind so she doesn’t have to marry someone she doesn’t want to marry. She specifically makes a choice that isn’t actually personal. She tries to change her mother instead of changing herself, which leads to an entire plot line based around bears. What Merida comes to learn is that by toying with someone else’s fate, she almost loses one of the people she loves the most, which would affect her own personal fate negatively. By stabbing his manager, the tenant not only affected the manager’s fate, he also (very) negatively affected his own. The Witch in Brave repeats the phrase, “Fate be changed, look inside. Mend the bond torn by pride.” In order for Merida to return her mother to her human state, repair their relationship, and change her fate, she must look within herself and recognize her selfishness. Once she can own up to her wrongdoings, put aside her ego, and undergo that difficult self-growth that is necessary, she can mend the bond between she and her mother and get the happy ending they all want. And while Merida goes through her own changes and growth, her mother also looks inside herself and puts her ego to the side, realizing that some of the ways she had been raised cannot apply to her daughter who is a different person than herself.

So much wisdom for a Disney movie, right?! But it’s true. We can all make personal choices, and those personal choices will have consequences and will affect others, so we should try to make the best choices we can with the information we're given. We can’t make choices for other people or the results could be disastrous. We must trust ourselves with our decisions, as long as they are not decisions ruled by our egos, and we must look inside ourselves in order to change and grow into the fate we deserve.

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