LIKE many journalists, I am a fount of useless knowledge. I can tell you, for example, why Lorne sausages are called Lorne sausages.
I know what a Marine means when he says he’s as chad as your dad, and I am worryingly familiar with the reproductive cycle of the giant panda. In other words, I have little practical usage, but I come in handy during a pub quiz.
Thus it was that the other night, during a heated game of the 1990s edition of Trivial Pursuit with friends, I was able to trot out the rather astoundingly useless piece of information that John Ratzenberger, better known as Cliff from Cheers, has appeared in every animated film that Pixar has made. He has been in Cars and its less successful sequel Cars 2, all three Toy Story movies, Wall-E and a clutch more of the greatest animated films of the modern age. He serves as the studio’s good luck charm, and that means, of course, that he has also appeared in Brave.
Brave, for those who have been lurking under a large stick of Edinburgh Rock for, oh, the last six months, is Pixar’s latest big-budget animated movie. It’s set in medieval Scotland and it features pretty much every Scottish film star you’ve ever heard of, from Billy Connolly to Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane and, er, Mr Ratzenberger.
The director and cast have, from the get-go, been careful to make the film as genuinely Scottish as possible. The cast is almost entirely Scottish, there’s plenty of genuine vernacular in there and a crew from Pixar even made a trip to Scotland and attended Highland Games, drank whisky and went skinny-dipping in lochs to try and get a real flavour of life in Scotland (because that’s obviously what all of us Scots do every weekend). At least they tried.
VisitScotland is so excited that it has launched a £7 million global campaign, hoping to entice movie-goers intrigued by the funny accents, the red hair and the pretty landscapes into visiting the film’s real-life counterpart.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of Brave is that despite being a fairytale and despite being a cartoon, it is also – or so the critics are saying – a feminist film. Princess Merida, the flame-haired star of the show as voiced by Macdonald, has three suitors, none of whom she thinks are good enough for her. She is also a dab hand with a bow and arrow, and perfectly capable of beating any of said gents in a fight. Her father is a high voiced weakling of a king while it is her mother who provides the solid, steadying hand. In essence, Brave is a film about strong women, and specifically, about strong Scottish women.
It is hard to over-estimate how big a deal this is. Despite advances in Hollywood, most films, particularly the ones produced by animation studios, are still made by men. That’s why people get so excited when a movie like Bridesmaids, which featured female writers and cast, and a women-led story line, comes out. In big-budget animation, women-led story lines are even rarer. In the old-school Disney films we had simpering women such as Snow White and Cinderella, while in the more modern world of animated films, strong heroines, with the exception of Disney’s Mulan, have remained worryingly thin on the ground.
Thus Brave is, well, brave. And groundbreaking. To have a woman carry a movie – the official poster features the back of Princess Merida, with her red tresses tumbling down her back and the word BRAVE in enormous letters, leaving us in no doubt about who, in this film, is the brave one – is still relatively rare, whether that woman is flesh and blood, or a pixelated character.
I find it hard, on a Saturday night in Glasgow, when I see young women in barely-there designer dresses throwing themselves at men with money and actively hunting out footballers, to believe that Scotland is a feminist country, capable of producing young brave women like Princess Merida.
But perhaps part of the film’s appeal is that for once it will give young women a positive female role model on the silver screen. In a world over-obsessed with image, looks and marrying a footballer and getting a reality TV show, perhaps just what is needed is a feisty young redhead who can fire a straight shot and only listens to advice from her mother to prove that there’s more to life than nail extensions and The Only Way Is Essex. And maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t that be a great piece of useless knowledge for some pub quiz many years in the future?
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 22 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North