Saturday, December 29, 2012
2012 Pagan Name of the Year: First Runner Up
2012 was a pretty good year for Pagan friendly movies. Ravenna was suggested, and it's a great idea. But as much as I adored Snow White and the Huntsman it was not universally liked in the Neo-Pagan community. Despite the fact that Mirror, Mirror also released this year, Snow didn't really feel like a great pick. Paranorman was well received, but the name Norman doesn't really stick out. The Hunger Games has some Pagan subtext and great names, but as the books were popular before the movies there's nothing particularly 2012 about Katniss. Same thing goes for Pi from Life of Pi. I could say that it was difficult to pick one name from the batch, but I'd be lying.
Some criticized Brave for being too formulaic in comparison to Pixar's other films. Granted, it is familiar territory. Before the movie came out, some regarded the prospect of having yet another Disney princess with the requisite merchandise with low enthusiasm. But I disagree, I think "formulaic" is the wrong word. They essentially created an original Celtic fairy tale, one that has an added depth of meaning to a Neo-Pagan viewer.
Brave is the most Pagan movie that I can remember Disney/Pixar ever making. The forest carries a symbolic meaning in this movie, as a sacred and magickal place but also as a place full of trials and challenges. There is a magickal, ancient stone ring and will o' the wisps (kind of like fairies) that help Merida. Shape shifting plays a prominent role in the plot, which is very common in Celtic mythology.
Many compare Merida to Atalanta, an independent woman from Greek mythology. And, of course, every Neo-Pagan who saw the movie loved the witch character. Probably because she is reminiscent of the Witch artisans that sells their wares at our festivals. The witch isn't a scary character here, she's a comic one. I listened to the director's audio commentary, and according to them they knew that the "witch" character always has a lot of baggage and they wanted to do something different. But all of the modern Pagans that have watched it felt like they were being catered too a little bit. That's a nice feeling. We very rarely get that.
All little bits and details aside, the film is also very Pagan thematically. It leaves us with the moral that we tell each other all the time: magick is real, so use it wisely and consider the possible ramifications. Brave is also about the power of myth and legend, and how they all have a ring of truth.
Disney princesses have always boosted names up the charts, think Ariel and Jasmine. But it is worth noting that Merida is not a Scottish name like the popular Mackenzie. The general consensus seems to be that it's Latin, but it's a variant of Meritus, Emerita, or Maria depending on what sources you look at. The fact that it's the name of a city in Mexico will probably help it's chances more in the United States with it's large Hispanic population.
Little Meridas popped up on birth announcements almost immediately after the movie. Who knows if it's ever be mega-popular. We'll have to see what the top 1,000 for this year will say. Until then, it gets the silver metal for Pagan Name of the Year!