Pixar's 'Brave' And 'Coco' Provide Refreshingly Healthy Examples Of Parent-Child Relationships
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Pixar's 'Brave' And 'Coco' Provide Refreshingly Healthy Examples Of Parent-Child Relationships

These films do not encourage teenage rebellion against authority—instead, they emphasize the compromise and mutual understanding that must take place between parents and children.

Pixar's 'Brave' And 'Coco' Provide Refreshingly Healthy Examples Of Parent-Child Relationships
Walt Disney Pictures // Pixar Animation Studios

"Coco" and "Brave" seem like two Pixar films that could not be any more different. "Coco" revolves around 12-year-old Miguel, a sweet, ambitious, and musically talented boy growing up in a small yet vibrant Mexican town, where he lives in the same house as his loving, close-knit extended family. In contrast, "Brave" explores the life of 16-year-old Merida, a spirited and headstrong medieval princess living in the Scottish kingdom of DunBroch in the noble household of her father, the king.

The settings of these two movies are vastly different—a small town in Mexico vs. a medieval castle in Scotland—and the respective protagonists, Miguel and Merida, must navigate distinct lifestyles and unique family dynamics. Nevertheless, both of these young characters struggle with the same core issue, one that resonates with teens and children everywhere: both Miguel and Merida want to carve out their own paths in life and follow their hearts/dreams, yet their desires lead to conflict with their parents (or in Miguel's case, with all of the older generations in his family, including his grandmother).

Miguel dreams of becoming a renowned musician, driving him to defy his family's ban on all forms of music (and resulting in numerous arguments and lectures with/from his parents and grandmother as he tries to live out his dream). Merida, meanwhile, clashes with her mother over the latter's desire to find a suitable husband for Merida against her wishes. Miguel wants to pursue his dream of music, and Merida wants to be free from the constraints of arranged marriage. As a result, both young protagonists feel held back by their parents, who seem to be keeping them from becoming who they want to become.

This theme of conflict between kids and their parents is nothing new—indeed, numerous movies/shows explore this theme in their plots, and many kids who watch "Brave" and "Coco" can relate to what the young protagonists are going through. Indeed, many typical books/movies present such child protagonists in a pitiful light, leading the audience to sympathize with them and to root for them as they clash with their parents. At best, the parents/adults in such stories are presented as obstacles to be overcome. At worst, they are presented as cruel, aloof, and unwilling to understand what their children are going through. However, both "Coco" and "Brave" break from this mold and present a refreshingly unique take on the resolution of conflict between child/teen characters and their parents.

Indeed, both "Coco" and "Brave" do prompt the audience to root for Miguel and Merida, respectively, and to hope that the parents in these stories will have a change of heart and come to embrace their children for who they are. However, while the two protagonists initially see their parents as obstacles to defeat, the movies make it clear that the parents are not the enemies. Indeed, both Miguel and Merida must go through journeys that are not simply about defeating their parents—both of them must learn to love and embrace their families, regardless of their parents' imperfections.

Toward the end of "Coco," Miguel, who has been transported to the magical Land of the Dead, concedes that he is willing to give up his dream of music, if only he can be reunited with his family in the Land of the Living. And Merida, in hopes of saving her mother from a terrible spell, decides to look past her conflict with her mother and mend the bond between them, even if that means marrying the man her mother chooses for her. Thus, while both Miguel and Merida embark on journeys to follow their own hearts and rebel against their parents' wishes, they both come to find that they must love and cherish their families. Their connection with their families/their parents is something that can never be replaced, and they must seek to do all in their power to preserve that relationship.

Of course, these movies do not try to say that the parents/older people in the stories are always right in how they approach things—eventually, Miguel's family comes to accept his love for music, and Merida's mother ultimately decides to let her daughter follow her own heart instead of marrying a man against her will. The parents do realize their failings and have a "change of heart," so to speak. However, neither movie presents this change of heart as a victory for children over their "cruel, unfeeling parents"—rather, both "Coco" and "Brave" show that the children need to understand their parents just as much as the parents need to understand their kids. Neither the parents nor the children are always right—they must both learn to understand each other and to make compromises where appropriate. Together, they must make a joint effort to preserve their familial love and connection. What matters is not who wins—it's about reconciling with each other and preserving a relationship.

Thus, "Coco" and "Brave" together provide a refreshing message to teens and children—for both movies show that while parents are not always right, kids should also seek to understand where their parents are coming from and to love their families, despite the fact that they do fail sometimes. These films do not encourage childish spite or teenage rebellion against authority—instead, they encourage kids and teens to love and cherish their families, and they emphasize the compromise and mutual understanding that must take place between parents and children. The parent-child/teen relationships in these movies communicate a much healthier message to modern kids than typical stories of teenage rebellion. Through watching these films, today's kids and teens can witness family relationships that involve mutual love, effort, and grace that must come from parents and children alike.

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