The Disney Princess an interesting trope, a concept that is charming and endearing yet leaves many with much to be desired. The idea that a knight in shining armor is going to whisk you away and save you from all of the monsters and evils of the world (debt, jerks, and boredom for those of us in the real world) is as old as the spoken word.
You only need to look to the classic example of Andromeda and Perseus in which Poseidon god of the sea, is angered and the only way to appease him is, naturally, human sacrifice. Perseus, like all great heroes, saves Andromeda from the jaws of the very odd looking Cetus. There is a natural appeal to this type of story that is rooted deeply in the human psyche, it is spelling out gender roles, and these are agents of socialization. Disney knows this and at one point they were a factory for these types of films: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and The little Mermaid etc. But what is interesting is that if you look at each successive film, the role of the princess evolves ever so slightly; the leap from Ariel to Belle is noticeable. Ariel on one hand is clearly looking for love and acceptance, while Belle is busy studying and taking care of her father when she happens upon Beast. The leap from Jasmine and Pocahontas to Mulan is even furthermore dramatic. Mulan is in fact Disney’s first warrior Princess, but she still finds her prince charming in the end. Disney then makes the transition from Mulan to Merida, the heroine of Brave. Brave is an apropos title when this movie’s main idea surrounds the heroine and her determination to forge her own path– fate be damned.
Brave is a pretty heavy film conceptually speaking, but once you strip away the independent woman mantra you start to get a glimpse into the heart of the film. This film deals less with feminism as a whole and deals more relevantly with the choices we make in our lives and the unintended consequences behind some of them. The bond between mother and daughter is something that is portrayed at great length throughout the film and it is the central story arc. We watch as the two of them are at their best and at their worst, and we see the relationship between the two of them blossom into something really special; by the end of it, the two characters are have grown together and their bond is even stronger. Though the movie deals with mature subject matter and contains some harrowing scenes, this is a very light hearted family friendly affair. The animation is fluid, lifelike and enchanting. The movie feels like what it is trying to portray: a fairy tale. The voice acting is charming and very, very Scottish you will find yourself trying to imitate a Scottish brogue as you exit the theatre. The movie may have a target market in mind but that doesn’t mean that the other gender can’t enjoy this exceptional coming of age family adventure.
As a film Brave challenges tradition both on and off the screen in its portrayal of Princess Merida. She goes against the established order of things in order to forge a new path for herself and her country. Brave sets the bar for animated films once again in its ability to relate to audiences of all ages, without being too grown up for kids or too kiddy for adults.