been 85 years since Disney unveiled Snow
White and the Seven Dwarfs. In that time, they've unveiled a steady stream
of Disney Princesses. You've got your All-Star team (Snow White, Cinderella, Belle,
Jasmine, and Ariel) and your B-team (Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, Pocahantas,
Rapunzel, and Tiana"”the one from The
Princess & The Frog). But they've all had something in common: they
needed a man to rescue them.
it was a variation Prince Charming or a land-dweller (in Ariel's case), all of
them had to be rescued from an evil relative or freed from an ancient curse to
become the princess.
have been flashes of feminism before. Belle was more interested in books and
intelligence than falling for the beefcake Gaston; Jasmine refused to have an
arranged marriage, and Mulan sought to be the first female soldier in the
Chinese army. But their stories all fell back on that Disney idea of love, that
all that was missing from their difficult lives was a man who could take them
away (or rescue them from grave danger) so they could live happily ever after.
that was then. Now we've got Brave,
which refreshingly features the ideal Beyoncé sang about 12 years ago: an
independent woman. Merida, voiced by Boardwalk
Empire's Kelly MacDonald, plays our heroine, a Scottish princess not
content to live a life of debutante balls and dress-up. She's more at home
practicing her archery (eat your heart out, Katniss Everdeen) and playing with
her rough-and-tumble younger brothers. She reaches a boiling point when her parents
host an archery tournament with the champion winning Merida's hand in marriage.
So offended by the whole contest and its inept bowmen, she "plays for
[her] own hand," pulling a Robin Hood and hitting a bullseye, then
splitting that arrow in two with a follow-up.
her head-strong attitude gets her into trouble as she sets out on a dangerous
journey to further prove her mettle, making a questionable deal with a local
witch to change her fate. She remains self-sufficient to press on in spite of
overwhelming obstacles, and she doesn't have to rely on a man to rescue her.
After nearly a century, Disney has its first true feminist heroine. It was
worth the wait.