Thursday, July 05, 2012

Brave - is Merida a Disney Princess?

Pixar's first dozen movies featured male characters. Most of them were non-human males but even WALL-E had a male personality compared with EVE. Their 13th, Brave has a female lead, the Princess Merida. Her mother is also a major character.

This movie has gotten a lot of criticism. Some people have dismissed it as just another Disney princess.

Originally Disney had six "official" princesses: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine with Pocahontas, and Mulan as unofficial princesses. Later the last two were added to the official role along with the latest creations,Tiana, and Rapunzel.

Right off the bat, Merida is disqualified from being a typical Disney princess. She has too many parents. Of all of the official princesses, only Aurora has both parents and neither parent plays a role in her story. The others are missing one or both parents*.

Merida has both parents and has a normal relationship with both of them. He father is kind and indulgent. He is the one who gave her her bow and arrows and taught her to shoot. Presumably he also gave her the war horse. Her relationship with her mother is strained but familiar to anyone who has raised a daughter.

Merida is also lacking a handsome suitor. She does have the sons of the three clans competing for her hand but the first is skinny with a big nose, the second is incomprehensible, and the third is, well... the third choice of this trio.

Finally, Merida is lacking anyone who actually wishes her harm. Belle and Jasmine have unattractive suitors forcing themselves on the respective princess. Most of the others have someone who is actively trying to kill her (there is a giant bear but he seems to hate everyone).

All of that said, there are some similarities: She is a princess and, like most Disney princesses, she is fairly young (at 14 she is the youngest). There is an element of the supernatural including a woodworker/witch. Finally, she does have some intelligent animal companions.

The biggest difference between Merida and the Disney princesses is that she is a totally original creation. All of the others were pilfered from myth or literature.

* Rapunzel's parents are both still alive but she didn't know this. She was raised by a woman claiming to be er mother.


Liz Evans-Gist said...

Psst, Mulan had both parents and a grandmother. ;) She's a frequently a sorely forgotten 'Princess' though, and her mother was much more of a background character than her father or grandmother (voiced by Marni Nixon!).

I believe Aurora has both parents as well, but like Rapunzel, they appear only at the beginning and end, and she's instead largely raised by the three Good Fairies.

tsbscotland said...

Merida totally counts. Where is it written that you have to have less than two parents and a suitor and be in specific danger to be a Disney Princess. This is Disney's way of creating a princess character that is a better role model for the modern girl. If we are going to start qualifying based on the Original Four, then we have to include "helpless" as a trait as well. In that case, Jasmine, Tianna, Mulan, Belle, Ariel and Rapunzel (who was not helpless only inexperienced) are out as well. The only qualifications that should be here are 1) is she a princess, 2) is she the lead character (if this wasn't here I would throw Nala into the mix as well, even though she's a lion), and 3) is she in a Disney movie.