An internal “uh-oh” echoed in my head when I heard the curly red haired girl ask for a spell to change her mother’s mind in an early movie preview of Pixar’s Brave, well before I knew the plot.
As expected, that turned out to be not such a good idea, as we saw when we took my four-year-old daughter to Brave opening weekend. It was a great movie, both an adventure with a strong heroine and a story of a mother, Elinor, and daughter, Merida, who didn’t see eye to eye.
What caught the attention of the left side of my brain was ways that a mind could actually be changed. (Spoiler Alert)
Be Specific in Aim
Merida wanted to change her mother’s mind. Well, the spell did that alright, by changing Elinor’s shape into that of a bear, with her mind soon to follow. What she wanted was to change her mother’s mind about having her marry the son of an allied lord. And even then, it didn’t have to be her mother’s mind that was changed specifically. What she wanted was to not be required to get married and to have everyone involved be happy about that.
Show the Change on the Outside First
One of the dramatic points of the movie was that Queen Elinor started to become like a bear in the way she acted. Her mind was changing to match her physical form. This is an idea that can be applied on purpose, both for self improvement and as part of inspiring change in others.
Connect on Commonalities over Time
The way that Elinor’s mind really changed was by a combination of connection events. She saw and respected the knowledge and skills her daughter did have in the woods, probably for the first time. They laughed together and fought together towards a common goal.
Show Respect for the Other Side
The tipping point, the one where Elinor decided to stop the marriage plans, began when she heard Merida use the words and tactics that Elinor had used herself. And the new decision was made when she saw Merida take responsibility.
Involve Other Interested Parties
Amusingly enough, after Merida proclaimed that she should be able to follow her heart, the three sons that were supposed to be fighting for her hand all chimed in with complete agreement. She might have taken a different tack at the beginning of the problem by reaching out to them, risky as it would be. With backing behind her, they could have had a voice together that would have inspired Queen Elinor to rethink her plan.
At first Merida took the emotionally easy way to solve the problem of reversing the spell. She went after the tapestry that she’d sliced in half, separating the images of herself and her mother. But that turned out to have nothing to do with it. It was when Merida accepted fault, exclaimed about how sorry she was, and asked for her mother back that her mother’s mind and form were changed back to human.
And as the queen herself said at the end, “We both changed.”
What about you? Did you see Brave? What did you notice?
If you liked this Inventing Elephants post, please share it.