Disney princesses. Although portrayed as virtuous, serene and empathetic individuals, the damsel in distress archetype is both archaic and degrading. However, the recent emergence of feminist-friendly Disney films committed to female empowerment is extremely promising, and Disney’s latest venture Brave is no exception.
The story of Merida, a teenaged Scottish princess, Brave explores the contentions that arise as a result of resistance to convention. Having grown up adored by her equally exuberant father, King Fargus, and stifled by her extremely traditional mother, Queen Elinor, Merida fervently opposes her mother’s frequent attempts to tame her audacious nature. Characterized as headstrong, self-assured, and incredibly bold, Merida is disgusted by the prospect of marriage, particularly when she meets the three disagreeable suitors vying for her hand. However, Merida’s refusal to accept the result of an archery competition, intended to award one suitor Merida’s hand in marriage, eventually leads to a blitz of chaos throughout the land.
Furious that her mother does not understand her resistance to betrothal, Merida capitalizes on an opportunity to alter her fate, with disastrous effects. Merida’s struggle to reverse the effects of her rash decision is a source of comedy throughout the film, while her heart-felt conversations with her mother add a touch of poignancy. Ultimately, the journey Merida takes is both inspiring and entertaining, lending a unique quality to the film.
Merida’s attempts to reconcile the expectations of her mother with her expectations of herself constitute the major conflict of the film, rendering the thematic ideas of Brave remarkably substantial. It is also extremely refreshing to watch a Disney movie without any romantic entanglements whatsoever. Rather than discovering her sense of worth through romance, Merida affirms her identity through the dissection of her complex relationship with her mother. Rather than succumbing to the pressures of tradition and the value of security placed on her by her mother, Merida seeks to escape the ploy in which she feels she is trapped.
My absolute favourite moment of the film is when Merida, stifled by having to watch her suitors participate in the momentous archery match, boldly decides to end the madness by declaring, “I am Merida, and I’ll be shooting for my own hand!” Merida’s valiant nature, coupled with her strong sense of self, makes her incomparable to any other Disney character, male or female. And for that reason, I give Brave five stars out of five.