Disney has been trying to pave the way for more female empowerment and feminism with characters like Tiana from “Princess and the Frog,” Elsa from “Frozen” and Moana from her self-titled movie.
These self-sufficient women exist thanks to another determined, self-driven tomboy, who was one of the first pioneers in Disney’s driving force toward feminism. This princess is Merida from Pixar’s “Brave,” released in 2012.
Above all Disney princesses, Merida was determined to change her fate and grab destiny by the horns as she refused to let anything deny her individual freedom. Merida made her demands heard, and when her voice wasn’t strong enough, she took matters into her own hands with a reputable bow and arrow.
“Brave” is about an adventurous redhead with untamed locks who doesn’t let anyone control her persona or her vision — especially not a man. Although several Disney princesses such as Mulan, Tiana and Rapunzel were depicted as strong women, Disney made the extra effort to create a co-leading male role.
These women could have saved China, started their own restaurant and found their home in their own ways without a romantic interest, which would’ve created a much more impactful film, especially for impressionable youth.
But Merida differs from this norm, her story is all her own without being supported or swayed by the heroics of a man. “Brave” told the story of a young girl who saved herself, her mother and her family without a romantic subplot.
She wasn’t the typical damsel in distress; she was the headstrong fighter who protested against conforming to a sexist society where women were expected to follow a strict social etiquette and cross their legs, use their manners and be polite.
This was in direct opposition to the male characters, who were able and even encouraged to yell and fight. This obnoxious, stereotypical masculinity only proved the double standard Merida wanted to put an end to.
Along with the overall message of the film, Merida’s stubborn attitude was unique among princesses. Sure, Jasmine from 1992’s “Aladdin” conjured that same stubborn attitude by claiming she was “not a prize to be won.” But by the end of the movie, Jasmine is married off to Aladdin, unlike Merida, who makes her negative outlook on marriage explicit.
Merida stands her ground about marriage, even if it meant disrupting the peace between clans. She controls her future by winning her own hand in an archery competition as she breaks tradition and frees herself from being controlled by others.
Not only is there no male love interest, the film also refrains from featuring a musical number from the princess. Merida doesn’t sing or dance — she fights.
Every Disney princess sings, whether it be a solo or duet, but Merida is the first princess to break that tradition.
The lack of a musical number exemplifies her empowerment. Instead of moping around and singing to her half-painted reflection or to the ocean about being the perfect daughter, Merida springs into action.
Although she seeks guidance from the wrong person, Merida was quick to come up with a plan. When her plan failed and turned her mother into a beast, the most important lesson that came from that failure was that she needs to clean up the messes she creates.
Merida continued to be independent and believe in herself without stopping in her tracks for a spontaneous musical break.
Despite the fact that “Brave” is supposed to be an empowering film for women, its female director, who provided the initial idea for “Brave,” was taken off the project more than a year before the film was released. Brenda Chapman, the director, was taken off for “creative differences,” according to Huffpost.
After being taken off the project, Chapman went through her own empowerment. She could have easily given up and let herself fade out, but instead she continued to actively work in the entertainment industry with projects such as the “Brave” video game and this year’s live-action version of “The Lion King.”
Chapman went on to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature for “Brave” in 2013, which was shared with Mark Andrews (“Brave” director). She became the Academy Awards’ first woman to win an Oscar in that category, according to IMDB.
Chapman’s work wasn’t re-envisioned or tossed in a bin; instead, she overcame numerous obstacles and was rewarded for her work on the project. This is much like the message “Brave” promotes to its audience through Merida’s journey of gaining respect and independence.
Disney has created some strong princesses, the difference is that Merida knew who she was right from the beginning. She didn’t bend her will to please others, or allow herself to be controlled by someone else. Merida did what women preach today, which is to be strong, make your voice heard and be that b—-.
Merida isn’t another doormat — she’s the future.