I went into Brave fully expecting to see a cutesy children’s film full of whimsical moments, charming animals and a forgettable soundtrack. “Meh,” I thought to myself, “it will be a fun way to waste an evening.” I left with a heart full of hope for the future of female heroines in movies as well as a new appreciation for my untamed hair.
It might not be red and conventionally curly, but certainly gives me a feral look on humid mornings.
While I don’t subscribe to the school of “Disney movies turn all little girls into subservient housewives who feel obligated to sell their metaphorical voice to seduce the right man,” I definitely see the problem with the messages of the classic Disney films that I watched as a child. There’s not really any good way to spin Belle falling in love with a literal beast who took her captive. Nor is there a good explanation for Prince Eric falling in love with a woman who can’t speak.
Luckily for me, my parents raised me. Not Disney. So even though I watched each Disney movie 19 times, my family surrounded me with lots of other positive female role models and examples that diluted whatever lessons I took out of those beloved films.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t need positive female role models in movies for children. While I’m little rusty on the big kids’ movies of the past 10 years, I’m pretty sure we’ve never seen a princess who spends the entire film fighting for her independence — only to learn that growing up is about more than getting away.
It’s about compromise and respect and trust. It’s a big lesson and I’m sure most kids will just leave begging for a bow and arrow set. At first. Then they’ll think about the movie and process the message (in whatever way children process messages. With legos, I assume) and remember that it’s not every girl’s destiny to meet a prince.