A "Brave" New Disney Princess

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Kara Eschbach
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I’m going to confess this up front: I love princess movies. I grew up on the Disney classics--my mom was super-cool and let me dress up as Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine for Halloween throughout the years--and I still enjoy popping in The Princess Diaries for a movie night. But, when I heard that Pixar’s newest film, and their first with a female lead, was a princess movie I was a bit skeptical. Aren’t princesses passé and anti-feminist and all that jazz? Was this going to be a PC foray into the genre?

Well, just a bit. Brave felt a little typical in trying to make its princess atypical--as Richard Lawson on the Atlantic Newswire says in his analysis of the film, “She's just a girl who doesn't want to get married? She's a girl who rejects girl things and is thus a hero? (Because girl things are silly, whereas swords and arrows are totally cool, period.)” The oafishness of the male characters made me feel bad for the boys watching--does a strong female character really need to be accompanied by silly men?--although it was nice to see a character who actually had two loving parents in their life.

Otherwise, I appreciated that the central storyline wasn’t your typical princess-romance or even coming-of-age story. The film focuses on the relationship between mother and daughter and their process of coming to understand each other and their differing perspectives. It was a welcome difference to see a parent who, while flawed, wasn’t made out to be completely wrong or out-of-touch.

Likewise, the portrayal of feisty, adventurous, yet stubborn Merida who believes herself to be wiser than her mother in knowing what’s best, was a refreshingly real take on adolescence, and her character growth showed a natural increase in maturity.

Brave also distinguishes itself from the Disney-princess-movie canon in its tone; the film is decidedly dark and at times genuinely upsetting, so I won't be taking my 6-year-old niece to see it. For my own night at the movies, however, it was an entertaining 90 minutes and well worth the $13.50 to see Pixar's latest take on this classic genre.

Image copyright Disney/Pixar

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