I just got back from watching Brother Bear. When it comes out on DVD, I intend to purchase it. I don’t care what my financial situation is at that moment. I will have it as part of my permanent collection. I want to see it again, and yet I fear seeing it in the theater. I spent over half the film crying, and most of the drive home. I don’t think I’ve ever had a movie, especially a Disney one, affect me so powerfully.
I don’t think any ever hit quite so close to home, either.
Very early in the film, the main character, Kenai, has his rite of manhood. The shaman Tanana presents him with a rock carved to resemble his totem animal—a bear, naturally—and says to him, “Your totem is… love.” Kenai is embarrassed by this, obviously, but the shaman smiles and encourages him, telling him that his is a powerful and honored spirit, and that he must learn to live by his totem if he is to become a man.
The bear of love… LoveBear…. I dont think I’ve ever had a film slap me in the face so strongly. From that moment, it felt as if I could no longer separate the actions of Kenai from the sense of self. Kenai’s mistakes were
my mistakes, his anger my anger, his weakness and fear and sorrow mine. At his every mis-step, I felt myself cringing. When he ran from the salmon run, I knew his shame. When he turned to Kodai and tried to tell him the story of the monster, I cried his tears.
The film unfolded with inevitibility from Kenai’s departure from his village, until the moment he faces the spirits. I felt pulled inexorably forward, dragged emotionally through Kenai’s quest, until the moment at which he truly became a man. The choice he made… I wonder if I would have the same courage.
To say that the movie was “an answer” would be to miss the point entirely. The film did not explain how to follow Bear. It gave examples, to be sure, but in now way was it a guide along that road. More accurately, it served as a marker, an affirmation and a reminder of the path I claim to follow. It left me questioning my view of self as Hare even as I found myself retreating into Her mindset, away from responsibility and courage. It left me doubting my ability to follow Bear even as She lay Her paw on my shoulder, guiding me back to my path.
I only hope that, now that I no longer claim to bebear, I can follow in Her footsteps. I am not yet to the point of saying I am Bear. I may never reach that point. I know, though, that Hers is the path I follow, and I hope that I can do Her justice.