‘Brave’s Girl Power Problem: Empowering Girls at the Expense of Boys?


BraveBrave, I wanted to like you. I really did. In fact, I wanted to love you.

Pixar’s latest 3D animated movie has been promoted up the wazoo as the type of princess movie that moms wanted their daughters to see. Finally, all of us modern feminists would have a princess who didn’t just wait for Prince Charming to give them a fairytale ending.

And it almost worked.

Spirited Scottish princess Merida (who I imagined as a pre-Tom Cruise Nicole Kidman in a live-action version) loves horse-riding and archery and eating sticky buns with her hands.

Meanwhile, her very proper mother, the Queen, wants to turn her into a true princess: table manners, bone-crushing corsets and all.

Every now and then, Merida goes all Katniss with a bow and arrow, riding off into the forest on her horse, bare-knuckle mountain climbing. Pretty incredible, right?

It was, until the boys came into the picture.

In one scene, three suitors come from other kingdoms to win Merida’s hand in marriage. And they’re total idiots: A meathead who speaks unintelligably. A 98-pound weakling with troll-doll hair. And a cocky jerk who likes to flex his pecs.

Finally, we had a strong, independent princess but why did all of the male characters have to be the butt of the joke (sometimes literally!)? Sure, we’ve come a long way since helpless, naive Snow White ate that poisoned apple and had to be awakened by a kiss from her Prince Charming. But I can’t help but wonder if we’re now teetering on the edge of empowering girls at the expense of boys.

Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate all the effort that children’s filmmakers have made to change the perception of girls as fair maidens who only exist to wear ballgowns and be saved.

But maybe the way we can truly instill girl power into our daughters is to show them that they can do anything boys can do–even when the boys are worthy opponents.

Follow Michelle on Twitter @HWMichelleLee

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