The Five Least (and Most) Princess-y Things About Brave

Yesterday, a group of Bitch staffers/friends/kids attended a matinee screening of the new Disney/Pixar film Brave. While our reviews were mixed—as most reviews of the film have been—we all agreed that it was refreshing to see a different take on the princess narrative that has so permeated the media landscape lately. (Say what you will about Merida, at least she doesn’t wear a pink tiara!)

Merida shooting a bow and arrow

Though Merida is indeed a teenage princess whose parents want her to live a traditional life and get married, through knowledge, determination, and honest communication with her mother (and some magic—this is a Disney princess movie, after all), she subverts the princess paradigm. Well, sort of.

Here are the five least princess-y things about Brave, followed by the five most princess-y. Spoilers ahoy!

Not So Princess-y

The endgame isn’t romance. The stakes are high in this movie, but unlike your traditional princess who’s risking it all for her prince (usually someone she barely knows but inexplicably loves), Merida is fighting first for her own agency and then to save her family.

No one mentions anyone else’s looks. It would have been so easy to make a point of mentioning Merida and her mother’s beauty, or even the oafishness of her father and his rivals. However, even though part of the plot is trying to marry Merida off to a neighboring clan, no one ever says anything about her being “the fairest in the land.” When the talk turns to marriage, it’s actually about getting to know one another and not just falling for the first hottie you see in the glen.

The women don’t need rescuing. At its heart, this is a story about a mother and daughter. When the two of them face danger, though, it isn’t Merida’s dad or brothers who come to the rescue. The women work out their own problems and help each other.

The witch isn’t a villain, she’s a crafty carver! When Merida happens upon a witch’s cottage, it seemed like the same tired “this old woman is evil and resents you for your looks” story. That is, until we meet the witch and she turns out to be a delightful entrepreneur. She’s on her way to a craft fair! And, for what it’s worth, she more than warns Merida about the dangers of buying a spell from a stranger.

It’s about self-actualization. Toward the end of the film, Merida has to use her knowledge as a well-schooled princess (thanks Mom!) and her archery skills (thanks Dad!) to solve a problem and bring her family and community together. Their kingdom isn’t about material possessions or displays of dominance, and the “happily ever after” narrative concludes with the DunBrochs hanging out together making art and playing sports, thanks to Merida’s self-discover and maturity.

Merida walking through the woods with a bear following her

All that being said, this was still a mainstream movie about a princess, and it wasn’t all subversive and refreshing.

So Princess-y

The standard of beauty is white, thin, and flawless. No mention was made of Merida or her mother’s looks, but their pale skin, small waists, hourglass figures, and feminine features reinforced the traditional (white) standard of beauty that is present in almost all princess media. The men had more diversity in their looks, but the female protagonists were all Disney all the way.

It’s full of stereotypes. A lot of the typical othering done in Disney movies past is present in Brave as well, it just so happens that the characters are white. As Melissa points out over at Shakesville, “Scots are tribal with weird indigenous clothing and silly instruments and some old language and funny words and goofy accent and ginger hair, and these facts have been used to marginalize this occupied nation for centuries, but they’re WHITE, so it’s okay!”

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. While an exception could be made for King Fergus, who was a pretty active parent and husband for a princess movie, there is a clear divide between the men and the women of Brave. Merida and her mother Elinor do challenge gender stereotypes, but the men in the film are buffoons who can’t control themselves and need a mother figure to direct them. The gender dynamics felt like an animated version of King of Queens.

The story is about marriage. Though Merida resists her parents’ wishes that she marry, the plot of this movie still hinges on marriage. Yes, you could argue that in order to subvert the princess story you need to start with marriage, but this film could just as easily have started with an archery tournament that wasn’t for Merida’s hand.

It’s set in the 10th century, because sexism is a thing of ye olde past. Yes, it was fun to see the beautifully animated countryside and stone castle of Brave’s medieval Scotland, but setting the film in the distant past lets people believe that Merida’s lack of freedom is as old as the hills, when you only need to look at a newspaper to know that girls today also face sexism and limited choices because of their gender.

Have you seen Brave yet? If so, what did you think?

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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64 Comments Have Been Posted

I loved this movie.

I really enjoyed this movie. I might be a little obsessed with Scottish accents, so bonus point one there. I'm also a redhead with fair skin and blue eyes; bonus point two (Merida is way more exciting than Ariel, whom I grew up wanting to be).

Anyway, bonus points aside, I have mixed feelings about the way we are talking about this movie. It was the first Pixar movie with a female protagonist; feminists everywhere are so excited! And she's an archer; now we're more excited! But it's still just one movie, and one story, and it can't be perfect. I feel like it might be easier to view this film as a step in the right direction. If we take off the pressure of being SUCH A BIG DEAL for women and feminism (which it is, don't get me wrong, but just go with me for a minute), I think it's still a great story. How often do we get to see mother daughter stories (especially in comparison with the number of father son stories)? And I think Merida is a great character. She's fun, independent, and never doubts herself. She makes mistakes, acknowledges them, and tries to fix them. She felt like a very real person to me.

Yes, there are problems with this film. There are problems with films in our society in general. We could make the same points about "sexism in the past" and "white as the standard of beauty" for sooo many movies that are produced. And I'm not saying that this film, or any of them, gets off the hook simply because there are others out there doing the same thing. I just mean that this IS a step, and we should praise that step in the right direction instead of tearing it down for not being perfect or feminist enough. Maybe the next film will be about a non-white girl in the 18th century. Maybe it will be about a non-white boy who doesn't fit in with the other men in his life in the year 2014.

Of course, Pixar (and Hollywood in general) are still moving slowly, and good movies about women, people of color, homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender people, etc., are definitely too few and far between. And we should keep pushing them to produce more of these films and market them to mainstream audiences. But we should also praise that films that are moving in the right direction, which I think this one is.

Me too! Come on, get over the

Me too! Come on, get over the fact that they couldn't get everything right...but at least the substance part is right. Women are the leads, and fierce, independent, nature-loving...

I would suggest that, even

I would suggest that, even though the standard if beauty in the movie is white, thin and flawless, there is a veeeeery slight deviation from the norm : Merida's "crazy" curls! I think it's good that they didn't go with perfectly straightened hair and that she rocks her natural curls.

I've read comments about the movie complaining that the main character has "bad" or "untamed" hair as if curls were inherently ugly. So it's good to have an interesting female character that challenges this assumption.

It's a tiny, tiny step in the right direction I guess, but it is frustrating that the creators think it's necessary to include a beauty standard for women to adhere to (or, that ideology is so deeply embedded in their brains that they haven't realized that they are actually presenting the audience with a limited idea of what beauty is).

Natural grey

Was anyone else not happy that the mom was rocking a natural grey and was still known for her beauty and pose? To me, it implied that aging was beautiful.

"To me, it implied that aging

"To me, it implied that aging was beautiful."

And that is a bad thing because? Aging is a natural and beautiful part of life, I don't understand how Merida's mom having grey hair would be a bad thing.

From what I understood,

From what I understood, Laurnil is saying that it is a good thing... I might be wrong, though.

I read this as " has anyone

I read this as " has anyone else heard complaints that she had grey hair? Because to me the natural grey implied aging is beautiful."

standard of beauty? not so much

I take some exception to the author claiming that Merida is a vision of standard beauty. As a woman with some wild red hair, myself, I have to say that redheads are definitely not considered conventional beauties. I have collected 40+ years of personal evidence to back that claim. In Great Britain "ginges" are abused quite openly, and they are here in the US as well. It's acceptable, even, to remark upon red hair as well as degrade a person for having red hair and a freckled complexion. No, I say Merida's hair is more representative of rebellion. Recall that Rupert Murdoch scandal recently? Well, Rebekah Brooks, whose hair looks like Merida's, was lambasted more often for having an untamed curly red mane than she was for actually doing anything else. How dare a woman flaunt such an unruly mane of (evil, wanton, rebellious) red hair! There are reems of lore denouncing the redhead, centuries old and never-ending. And next time you watch films for children and adults with a female villains, notice how often the female villains have red hair.

Yeah, I'm a curly-haired lady

Yeah, I'm a curly-haired lady too, and it's nice to see a woman rock her "natural" curls. This particular animated representation, however, is of a (curly haired, redhead) white woman, small nose, huge eyes, thin and "perfect," achieving the gendered ideal of the dominant white beauty standard. A redhead with crazy hair, a crazy "rebel," yes, but white. Mainstream media consistently disciplines women of color through the representation of hair--which, for a woman of color to be considered beautiful, is always "good hair"--not "crazy rebel hair."


please give me a break about her "whiteness." of course she was white! she was from medieval scotland! and let's not forget that the scots were very much an oppressed culture for a very long time, and some still consider themselves to live in an occupied country. also, it seems to be acceptable to make fun of them and their accents. yes, maybe disney needs to make a few films about girls in countries in Africa or girls in South America, or wherever, but to criticize a film about MEDIEVAL SCOTLAND for not having people of color is ridiculous.

But we're not in medieval Scotland...

Right, "Scotland." The movie is set there and then, but the target market for the film is young women of today, however historically accurate you may think Disney/Pixar movies are. We are in the U.S. and the larger audience for the transnationally funded contemporary media--that's the context, not medieval Scotland. They chose a white, Scottish character not for historical education and accuracy, but to appeal to today's young women, who do continue to participate in and celebrate whiteness. Of course the movie wasn't set in Africa or South America, it was meant to appeal to audiences of the white-dominated media. As my post suggests, if there was a movie featuring a woman of color meant to appeal to U.S. and international audiences made by Disney/Pixar, the protagonist's hair would likely be straight--and though she might have darker skin, surely she would be thin, and would probably have huge eyes and a tiny nose. I will keep looking out for anti-racist representations of women that offer an alternative standard of beauty geared towards young women; this is a nice film about a brave girl, but the standard of beauty doesn't deviate from the racialized norm.

Oh my Lord. Talk about

Oh my Lord. Talk about political correctness gone bonkers.

The writer of the movie (who is also the original director), Brenda Chapman, HAS CURLY RED HAIR. Jesus Christ. That's why she decided to set it in medieval Scotland so it would make sense for her to have her lead with curly red hair, like her.

What you want is a completely different movie.

Red hair is actually a

<p>Red hair is actually a relatively rare trait in any population (in Ireland, which is always stereotyped as full of gingers, people with red hair are uncommon enough that according to pre-Christian folklore they were under suspicion of being fairies), and it definitely isn't exclusive to any particular culture in any specific time period, so...your argument about the director and her curly red hair doesn't actually make that much sense. Also, it's a fantasy film--the writers could taken a red-maned protagonist and set her anywhere they liked! Or done whatever they wanted with the Scottish setting--the film is already grossly historically inaccurate, and the accuracy obviously isn't the point.

Also, Romans and other over-seas invaders are explicitly mentioned in the film, and the British Isles traded with other cultures from around the world. "It's medieval Scotland!" isn't actually a valid historical argument for ethnic and cultural homogeneity. People move around, interact with each other, and even settle in faraway lands, you see. It's something we've always done, since way, way, way back when.</p>

"your argument about the

"your argument about the director and her curly red hair doesn't actually make that much sense."

My argument was that Merida most likely has curly red hair because the person who wrote the screenplay has curly red hair. Maybe she's Scottish by descent too? Seriously. Stop asking people to change their vision to comply to your over political correctness.

"Also, it's a fantasy film--the writers could taken a red-maned protagonist and set her anywhere they liked!"

And Brenda Chapman wanted to set it in medieval Scotland. Or else she would have written it in a different time. And yes, there are a lot of redheads in Scotland, I would know, my dad's side hails from there and they're almost all redheads. As someone with Scottish ancestry and a lot of redheaded family members, I'm stoked that the movie is set there and the protagonist is a redhead. I'm thinking, "way to represent my ancestry!"

"Or done whatever they wanted with the Scottish setting--the film is already grossly historically inaccurate, and the accuracy obviously isn't the point."

And they did. You realize that adding in people of color simply for the sake of "diversity" is racist, right? And that if these characters didn't have speaking parts, and were merely in the background, you'd have a problem with that, too.

"Also, Romans and other over-seas invaders are explicitly mentioned in the film"

I don't recall any mention of Romans or "other over-seas invaders." Besides, why do you expect an animated movie to be completely historically accurate? You've already said that it isn't because they wear kilts and face/body paint, yet you expect them to add in people of color because of "trade routes," to make it historically accurate. Make up your mind.

And stop expecting and demanding that everyone's vision to align with yours. If you want a movie like the one you describe, then write it yourself.

Honestly, I'm just baffled. Finally, we get an animated movie with a kick-ass female lead who is athletic, defiant, and wants to change tradition, the endgame isn't marriage and a prince/man saving her, it's a mother/daughter story (which we never get) and all you can harp about the fact that it's set in medieval Scotland, that she's white, and that there are no people of color. Choose your battles.

Romans and "men from the

<p>Romans and Vikings are both explicitly mentioned in the scene in the great hall when the clan leaders introduce their sons. The leaders describe their sons' valiant exploits in battle against these invaders. And you're "baffled" that people dare point out media that perpetuates racism within an overwhelmingly racist culture? How silly of us! Sticking a few minor characters of color into a story that's about some white girl might not render a film anti-racist, but at the very least it acknowledges that non-white people exist and have lives, stories, and histories. What we should really be calling for is for more stories that <em>aren't </em>about some white girl, but you're actually arguing in favor of total erasure.&nbsp;The exclusion of&nbsp;non-white people from popular fiction isn't a cute little inaccuracy for the kids, like the kilts and woad; it actually hurts people.</p><p>I liked the movie, personally, and I explained why elsewhere in this comment thread. But I can still criticize it because--as is sort of the point of this&nbsp;post--a film can be great in some ways and very problematic in others. The whole "pick your battles" argument (i.e. "Shut up and be happy about this ostensibly feminist thing even though it's racist.") is actually a time-honored method of silencing feminists of color and telling them they have to wait their turn. That thought-process only allows for changes and new representations that only benefit a few (white, straight, affluent, non-disabled) women. Feminism is about more than just sex and gender because "women" isn't a discrete, monolithic category. Race isn't a separate construct that needs to wait its turn, or that ought to be addressed on its own. Race is a feminist issue, as are all such intersectional constructs and attributes. This whole debate reminds me of this recent <a href=" on Racialicious</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p>

I'm baffled at the demand for

I'm baffled at the demand for overly political correctness and that movies adhere to your personal vision. And that they should have changed it to adhere to your vision of what the movie should have been like.

"Sticking a few minor characters of color into a story that's about some white girl might not render a film anti-racist, but at the very least it acknowledges that non-white people exist and have lives, stories, and histories."

Do you really think people are that stupid? Honestly. That when some average American sits down at an animated movie set in Scotland, that people are going to sit there and over-analyze and think "Hm, there weren't any nonwhite people in that movie, they must not have existed at all!" Please. There's criticism, and then there's "Jesus Christ, get the fuck over it already."

"The exclusion of non-white people from popular fiction isn't a cute little inaccuracy for the kids, like the kilts and woad; it actually hurts people."

Kids don't think about those kinds of things, adults who think too much think about those kinds of things. It's one thing to criticize a movie where there legitimately *should* be people of color in it, but this? What you're arguing for is tokenism, which I find racist. Placing people of color in a movie for the sake of not hurting someone's feelings or to be politically correct is racist.

You'd have a valid point if the setting were different. But this is the setting that the writer chose, and if it was a different setting, it would be a completely different movie. Like I said before, if you want all of that in a movie, write one yourself with your own vision and don't sit there and demand that writers adhere to your vision.

The point is

Why do filmmakers keep making films that require all white casts in the first place. We get it. The story takes place in Scotland, but one must ask WHY all these films feature white people.

And maybe kids don't think about it because all they ever see is constant whiteness. Everywhere. POC are barely represented in children's movies...

Brave, for what it was, was enjoyable. But could the filmmakers have done better? Absolutely.

" Baffled"?? really??

No offense, but I think your replies show how deep institutional racism runs. It's so ingrained that you can't see the objection of yet another euro- centric plot by pixar/ Disney -media in general fed down every child who this is marketed to as what is beautiful, what is normal and what stories are valued in the present day. It is not something that I fault anyone for it's how our society has been built. But addressing concerns of this as being too "politically correct" is very disturbing. I'm glad that you could look at this movie and identify with the main character. It feels good to see a strong, brave heroine that in someway resonates with the person you are. I would say that for children this pride of seeing images of themselves in media is 10 folds greater then in adults. Try thinking of the children that get missed when their images are NEVER seen in the media or very rarely with intertwined stereotyped characteristics (i.e., feisty, sassy, loud). BRAVE is just a movie, yes. The responses show a greater social need for diversity and from some of the responses, cultural sensitivity of the lack thereof from media.

And I think your reply shows

And I think your reply shows how we're becoming politically correct to the point of stupidity. Scotland didn't have people of color at that point, and non-Scottish people, excluding maybe the Roma (or "gypsies" as you probably know them) would have been idiotic. Anyway, it shouldn't even be an issue because the Irishand the Scottishused to be consider "black people". Look it up. You technically saw a movie that our racist white ancestors would have said was filled with "black people". Feel better?

So it's racist to say that

So it's racist to say that it's ridiculous to expect POCs to be included in a movie set in medieval Scotland. Right.

"It's so ingrained that you can't see the objection of yet another euro- centric plot by pixar/ Disney -media in general fed down every child who this is marketed to as what is beautiful, what is normal and what stories are valued in the present day"

That's a whole separate issue.

"But addressing concerns of this as being too "politically correct" is very disturbing."

And I find it disturbing that you think everything should be "politically correct" because you can't please every single group on Earth, you can't include everyone, it's impossible.

"Try thinking of the children that get missed when their images are NEVER seen in the media or very rarely with intertwined stereotyped characteristics (i.e., feisty, sassy, loud)."

And interestingly enough, redheads are included in that group. I can think of one other redheaded cartoon character meant for kids (Jessica Rabbit doesn't count).

Population Statistics

Brave is set in Medieval Scotland, which is not particularly known for it's diversity. Even TODAY, over 90% of the people living there are white.

Statistics are as follows (from 2001):

White Scottish=4,459,071
Other White British =373,685
White Irish =49,428
Any other White background =78,150
Pakistani =31,793
Indian =15,037
Bangladeshi =1,981
Chinese =16,310
Other South Asian=6,196
Black Scottish (or any other Black background)=1,129
Any Mixed Background=12,764
Any other background=9,571
All population=5,062,011

Minority groups...ALL OF THEM...composed 2 percent of the total population in 2001. And that's IN MODERN TIMES.

You still want to tell me how black people are feasible in Medieval Scotland?

I think you need to chill just a bit, and I think it was a bit stupid of you to expect black people in a movie about Medieval Scotland.

"You realize that adding in

"You realize that adding in people of color simply for the sake of "diversity" is racist, right?"

This is really one of the most effing stupid things I hear repeated nowadays. Maybe what you should consider is that despite the fact that only 20% of the world is made up of white-skinned, white-identified people, most of the money, resources, and power are held by white-skinned, white-identified people, and most of the media is made to appeal to white-skinned, white-identified people. In contrast, most of the dark-skinned people of the world live in poverty, still in the shackles of history and Western capitalism. The original post said that Scottish people were being stereotyped in the movie and did not explicitly ask for POC (correct me if I missed that part), which is true and, as a POC and a person who can commiserate with another marginalized folk, that alone also bothered me about the movie. However, wanting to see more films that include people with the same skin color as 80% of the world is a pretty valid desire, if you ask me, especially when these people are not included because of a long history of imperialism and racism. AND considering that so often when POC are included, it's as background characters, sidekicks, comedic relief, magical Negroes (or magical old Chinese people, magical old indigenous people, etc.), maids, servants, etc. Anyway, don't even talk to me about "historically accurate" when white people still play roles as indigenous people and Asians. SFUAB.

I really can't add anything

I really can't add anything more eloquent to this argument that hasn't already been stated, but I'd like to applaud the women here who can enjoy and recognize this movie as a small step in feminism while at the same time acknowledging the narrow beauty standards in promotes in terms of race (as well as size, etc).

The feminist movement has historically disregarded racial issues,causing division amongst its sisters (and brothers...and others) when it should be promoting solidarity. As feminists, we need to listen to and acknowledge these concerns and encourage them to be voiced. Why are we silencing our sisters for speaking out about things that concern them--that should concern ALL of us? We need to be aware of our own privilege (and how we're acting on it), instead of arguing that we should be content with the proverbial broken clock that's still right twice a day.

I have not seen this movie,

I have not seen this movie, but I have been curious about it, and now would like to see it, thanks to this review.

However, I would disagree with the stereotypical "thin" princess comments. From the pictures here and elsewhere, I would actually say that the princess looks healthy. Strong, even. She is not thin. And I certainly don't think she fits the same measurements as most of Disney's princesses. Of course she's not every feminists' dream, but I believe it's moving in the right direction.

I would love to take my nieces to see this and then talk with them about it afterward.

Thanks for the review!!

She's overall slender and has

She's overall slender and has a narrow waist, just like every other animated how is she not thin? Yes, she's strong and healthy, but she's also thin. And there's nothing wrong with being thin, but I agree with Kelsey that it would be great if there were much more variety in the shapes and sizes of female protagonists in children's media.

Bad advetisers

I feel like the advertisers missed the point of the movie entirely and this confirms it.

Ugh, merchandise!

I saw that exact doll at the supermarket the other day (still haven't seen the movie and despite the mixed reviews, I am SO excited). One thing that picture doesn't show is the doll's only accessory: a comb. Way to completely miss the point, market research team.

Did we watch the same movie?

I was really disappointing in Brave. Admittedly, I'm a huge old-school Pixar fan, but I thought it had SO much potential and just hovered on the edge - never reaching where it needed to be. Sure, it was pretty but when I saw the trailers, the little girl in me leaped. And then the movie.

1) It was thematically disjointed. I was so excited by the witch who was not a villain. And she just disappears in the middle, never to be heard of again. When it was clear, I thought, fine, okay, Merida's going on her OWN adventure . . except she didn't. She stuck around the castle to play out an awkward and kind of claustrophobic chamber piece. I've read some cool comments about how the Mom is actually the heroine, which I'd buy, because she's the most well developed character, but . .

2)I just kind of thought the story was weak. The main theme seemed to be that you can "change your fate," but as Merida learned, that came at a price of putting those you loved in danger. Did I miss something? Because I'm not sure if the rift between the family would have been fixed any other way. Not to mention that the very real social costs to her (and her family's position) were downplayed. I understand it's a kid's film, but finding Nemo did this better. Being lost then was SCARY. But here? Total war, hahah, big joke.

3) Why couldn't Merida have fixed the problem without magic? I mean, we never see the witch again. It would have made for a less disappointing second and third act, which leads me to . . .

4) Why isn't anyone questioning the fact that Pixar fired it's first female director on this project? There is some talk as to that's why the movie was so disjointed. Basically, that Pixar couldn't handle the bad press of scrapping both the film and the director.

Also - and I am fully aware I am just being picky - did anyone else think it was overkill to have both a Disney-esque horse AND a bear? Bad bad universe structuring, that.

with ya

I was one of the Bitch staffers who saw the movie, and I'm not speaking for everyone, but I definitely agree with you! (Although I will say that we framed this post specifically around how <em>Brave</em> did or did not engage with typical princess tropes, we weren't trying to discuss everything about the film).

I also was expected Merida to go on an adventure (I thought that bear-in-the-castle scene was never going to end!). Seriously, the Toy Story toys have more harrowing adventures than she did! Also I thought the jokes were sub-par, Loony Toons I'm-a-bear-I'm-so-clumsy!!! material.

I didn't know about #4...that's interesting. We'll just have to see what Pixar does down the road...

Hmm, I had so much to say

Hmm, I had so much to say (long time reader, first time commenter!) that I guess I got a little confused.

I guess my biggest sense of disapointment was that this still WAS a princess movie. She may have been a reluctant Princess, but Merida is still a princess . . .something the early previews didn't really encapsulate. And the end, even though things have changed, she's still a princess, a fact underlined as she (quite literally) neatly sews up the really bizzare conclusion.

The details on the director are few and far between. This article has a little bit of information, though :


I know what you mean about the princess tale—it felt like more of a Disney movie to me than a Pixar movie (which makes sense I guess, since they are technically one company now, but still). Though overall I enjoyed the film and there were moments where I was surprised by what happened, it still felt like a fairy tale in a way that, say, <em>Toy Story 3</em> or <em>Up</em> didn't.

I'd heard that the female director, Brenda Chapman, was taken off the project, but I'm still not sure why (she received a co-director credit along with Mark Andrews in the movie). The article you link to mentions that she was trying to focus on "too many characters"—maybe a conflict of interest since she also wrote the story?

You can't have everything

Just to let you know where I'm coming from: I saw this movie. I was not happy that it wasn't the epic tale of altered fate as advertised, but rather a movie about a mother and daughter needing to learn to communicate and understand each other. However, I still thought it was cute.

So, I'm commenting to address my issues with some of your cons about the movie. Your complaints are less related to the plot of the movie than to the setting. You complain about the fact that her hand is being given, that the people are white and even one of your complaints IS THE SETTING. You can't ignore the past. Painting the past with a rose colored brush just ignores injustices of the past and dooms us to repeat them. It might be good for this next generation to know that they weren't that far from being sold off as chattel. Then, they might be afraid of the current injustices being perpetrated against us now. Also, we can't just have movies set in a perfect feminist world. 1) We still haven't seen that world. 2) Without struggle, it lacks entertainment value. 3) my previous point about ignoring the past. So, this feels like nit-picking at things that are just a part of reality. Yes, we'd like to change reality, but we can't just ignore it because we don't like it.

The crux of Kelsey's

The crux of Kelsey's complaint about the setting is that misogyny is still a thing that happens, and by constantly portraying sexism as a thing of the past, pop-culture texts foster the false belief that it isn't something we have to worry about in our "enlightened" times.

I didn't take away that one

I didn't take away that one of the subtexts was that misogyny was a thing of the past and doesn't happen now. Just because they show that people were misogynistic in the past, doesn't mean that they are saying that it doesn't happen now.

So what do you suggest? Not having movies set in the past? I guess I'm just confused, that's all.

A few points keep getting missed

Maybe this is just because I'm a mom and a strong feminist. And I'm raising a daughter who is kick butt martial arts and archery awesome. But even she saw these few things too. She and I discussed them after we left the movie on a mother-daughter date.

1. There's a clear theme, from the spell to what Merida repeats in tears after everything she has done to save and defend her mother "What has to be mended that PRIDE broke." Then she apologizes to her mother for the fact, NOT that she's strong willed, feminist, and wants her own destiny, but that she made bad choices that caused her mother and family HARM. Merida LEARNED the cost of foolish teenage pride and what it can do to familial bonds.

2. There is a really clear focus on Merida and her mother both learning just how much they have to learn from each other and while Elinor learns "I must accept my daughter- she is beautiful and strong.", Merida learns "My mother will pay any price fight any fight, do anything it takes for her children." It isn't a message kids see ENOUGH right now.

3. It was important that Merida fought for her own hand. Repercussions sucked, yes, But her parents stood up for her. She stood up for herself. My own daughter clapped in delight when Merida pulled her cape back *SPOILERS* and said "I am Merida, first born of Clan DunBroch, and I will be shooting for my own hand." I was so proud to see my daughter clapping over a woman who says "I make my fate." I could have hugged her and squealed.

Yes, we have a long ways to go to accept more body types, ethnicities, story lines, by the Disney/Pixar community but they revamped fairy tales in a big way. Also, back then, did you know that color of red hair was seen as a sign of being devilish, or cursed? She changed that too. I thought it was an excellent pick for a mom to take a daughter to, quite honestly.

***ALSO*** I tried to post this earlier and idk where the hell it went. Trying again! Sorry if it double posts! Sara Rose

I also think it's quietly

<p>I also think it's quietly revolutionary to have a mainstream, financially successful animated feature that's entirely about a fraught but ultimately positive relationship between a mother and daughter. </p><p>

In every other mainstream animated film that somehow centers family, and specifically parents and children, the focus is always on the father/offspring relationship. I love <em>Finding Nemo</em> and the Dreamworks films <em>How to Train Your Dragon</em> and the <em>Kung Fu Panda</em> movies, but they're about fathers and sons.&nbsp;In&nbsp;<em>Up</em>, Carl replaces Russell's distant father.&nbsp;In <em>The Little Mermaid</em> and <em>Mulan</em>, the heroines defy and then reconcile with their fathers. In <em>Beauty and the Beast</em>, Belle's actions are driven by her love for her father. <em>The Lion King</em> hinges entirely Simba's need to live up to his father's legacy. So does <em>Bambi</em>. In <em>The Princess and the Frog</em>, even though Tiana's mother is alive, she's so passive and unimportant to the narrative that she may as well be absent. The story is entirely about Tiana's coming to terms with the loss of her father and letting go of his dream to allow for her own happiness. In <em>Tarzan</em>, the hero's relationship with his loving, supportive mother is overshadowed by his profound desire for his father's approval. I guess you'd have to go back to <em>Dumbo</em> for a major animated film that's ostensibly about a mother and her child, if you can really say that <em>Dumbo</em> is "about" anything.&nbsp;</p><p><br>Pixar went with a safe, "small" movie this time, but <em>Brave</em> is already a box office success, and the way is now open for larger, <em>braver</em> stories about romantically unattached girls and their strong maternal figures. &nbsp;</p>

Oh and btw, I have curly, red hair . . . .

Which in many parts of the world was a mark of 'demons' or being wild, rebellious, hard to tame, etc. People are insane to 'gingers'- even here in America! And yes we are marketing to young people in contemporary society but YES, the majority of the setting WOULD HAVE BEEN WHITE! Point is being missed here- we're paving THE WAY for movies to do bigger, better, more politically incorrect things to show our kids things. I was proud that my daughter saw, as I mentioned, a woman proud to defy tradition to be her own woman and to LEARN LESSONS. Very few kids are willing to learn lessons anymore, especially not the hard way!

I completely agree with you.

I completely agree with you. Kids don't really see that because they don't really care. Most little girls just want to see a beautiful skinny girl that is very talented and can do ballet or something. I think Disney should fix that though because their movies and show are for kids and they should make them a bit less complicated. For example, I was with my little cousin and we were watching the Incredibles when it first came out (I was 14) and there were many things in that movie that kids wouldn't really understand. Like why Syndrome wanted to kill all those superheroes. I understood the movie but I don't think my cousin did. Honestly I don't really care about whiteness or her wild red hair. It's an animated movie. Things don't always have to be right. I just think that all they need to fix in their movies is to make them easier for kids to understand.

The "white" part.

Um... I'm all for diversity. But seriously, how do you get around having a majority of white people in a story about clan-era Scotland? If it were modern Scotland, that might work out...

There could easily have been

There could easily have been a few people of color around, what with bustling ocean trade routes. People of color just tend to get erased from the history of northwestern Europe. Also, 9th century Scots didn't wear kilts and there's no actual historical evidence that the Picts or any Celtic tribe painted their bodies with woad, so you can't really claim historical accuracy anyway.

"There could easily have been

"There could easily have been a few people of color around, what with bustling ocean trade routes."

You're kidding, right? So you suggest that they intentionally create a scene with "bustling ocean trade routes", something not relevant AT ALL to the movie, just so they can insert some characters of color? I'm sorry, but that sounds completely and totally ridiculous.

"Also, 9th century Scots didn't wear kilts and there's no actual historical evidence that the Picts or any Celtic tribe painted their bodies with woad, so you can't really claim historical accuracy anyway."

Except, those are things that kids think of when they think of Scotland. Because it's a kids movie. And, most people don't even know that much about ancient Scottish history except for the general stereotypes.

GUH, the point is that

GUH, the point is that BECAUSE of trading there WOULD and in fact WERE people of color in Scotland at that time. Not just around the port either. Seriously. I haven't seen the movie but I am sure there is at least one crowd scene, so why not throw in a couple of POC there? I really don't think it would detract from the movie at all. And you can't say "oh it's ok to have kilts and face paint because that's what people think of, but don't be historically inaccurate by having POC in the background!" Or at least, you can, but you're being silly.

Because then the writers at

Because then the writers at Bitch would say that it's tokenism to only have POC in the background and not as main characters and say that it's racist to not give them speaking parts. And Jesus Christ, i sincerely apologize for misreading what she said. You don't need to have a heart attack over it. And I still think it would be ridiculous and racist to throw in some people of color just for the hell of it to be politically correct.

A few ideas...

I don't know much, admittedly, about the racial diversity of medieval Scotland. However, since this is a work of fiction that includes magic spells and moms who turn into bears, maybe some of the characters could have been non-white? That being said, someone also chose to place this story in clan-era Scotland, and while I found that really interesting, Disney/Pixar could just as easily have told this story in a non-European, non-white setting. Not that there's anything wrong with white characters or clan-era Scotland of course, just that the whiteness of the protagonist is typical of mainstream princess narratives.

I said this above, but I

I said this above, but I think that the criticism that there aren't any characters of color in it are ridiculous. I dunno. I'm sitting here, scratching my head over your criticisms, because if the movie was changed according to your criticisms, it would have been a totally and completely different movie with a totally and completely different plot, simply because the plot relies heavily on the setting. If she's not a princess whose parents want her to marry, then what's the conflict she has? It would be completely different. If you want characters of color in the movie, it can't be set in medieval Scotland (and also your criticism that she's pale and white..... seriously, meet half of my family, my dad's side who are descended from Scots and who are, you guessed it, pale and redheaded. You can't have a movie set in ancient Scotland and have her be not pale). And, she's more athletic build than thin. To me, at least.

For me, I'm very happy that she looks the way she does. My brother and sister are both redheads, and they suffered endless taunts as children for being redheads, my sister so much that she dyes her hair brown now. Finally, a positive portrayal of a redhead!

Haven't seen the movie but...

To me, the writers of this blog are pointing out in their criticisms that this is still the TYPE of princess that is thought about: a white princess in medieval Europe surrounded by her white kingdom. The issue isn't that this movie was made, but how it may have fit with Disney princess stereotypes. Pixar awesomeness aside, it is important to critically engage with who owns the media, and whether they are continuing with what has arguably been the same tired gender conforming and whitewashed character design.

Why couldn't the princess be fat and still be healthy?
Why weren't there characters of color? In a story of magical realism, even if you may be breaking out of what you THINK you know about Scottish history, couldn't much more be possible? And Disney has no trouble being historically inaccurate or reaching for a desired result; remember Pocahontas?

I'm not a redhead, but Ariel and Princess Fiona are super awesome. I think I will have to wait a bit longer for my princess to have some extra weight, be a brunette with hazel eyes, wear glasses, be short, and still kick butt like myself.


Thanks KazooLoon, that's absolutely what I meant! Again, I have no problem with Merida or white princesses in general, but if Pixar was going to make a princess movie, couldn't they have broken the mold just a little? We've got plenty of thin, white, European princesses to choose from already—even red-haired ones.

And yes, I'm with you; in a magical story, it's okay to include a few characters of color even if it isn't completely historically accurate.


I honestly think the princess stereotypes have really gotten to everyone. Did you bother to look at the character? Or do you assume that since she's a princess in a dress, she's thin?
Merida is not thin. She has an almost perfectly round face, her hips are bigger than a girl of her age would normally be. Her forearms are as big as her biceps. Sure, she's not overweight, but she's not thin.
And honestly, Pixar has always said they make films for the story and for themselves.

I think you're fooling

I think you're fooling yourself if you believe that pixar - or any big company - makes anything for themselves. Seriously.

Normally, I think responding to these kinds of comments are silly, but geeze, it's clearly not the story motivating creation in this case. As much as I wish it was, Brave isn't War and Peace. . . or Toy Story, for that matter. Which kind of summarizes my final feelings on this movie: I feel like I was sold an approximatization of a movie a feminist SHOULD like. Because it has a girl and fights and a redhead, right? Right?

British Actors!

I don't have time right now to read all the comments, so apologies if someone else has already said this, but what I'm stoked about with this film is that they actually employed real Scottish people! Woohoo! So often 'Scottish' characters in US films are just Americans with dodgy accents (Mel Gibson, Mike Myers, I'm looking at you) so it's fantastic to see some local talent being employed. Especially great to see Kevin McKidd getting to use his native accent - so many Scots actors are forced to change their voices to get roles because there's an assumption that if a character's place of origin isn't specified, they must be English/American. I remember when a Scots actress was chosen to play Cho Chang in Harry Potter my English friends couldn't understand it (perhaps partly because of the assumption that there are no ethnic minorities in Scotland and we're all called Jock MacDonald).
It can be a little tiresome that for international filmmakers and cinema-goers medieval Scotland is the only Scotland worth learning about, but considering how little exposure we get at all I'm not that bothered. Luckily there are talented Scottish directors making interesting, nuanced stories about modern Scotland that I encourage American viewers to seek out!

Merida is definitely not like

Merida is definitely not like most Disney princesses. She is much more rebellious and has a very wild personality. I don't like all the crap on here saying, " I haven't seen this movie but shes white and skinny so I know I don't like this movie" and other crap on here like " Well that didn't happen in medieval Scotland! This is historically inaccurate!" Seriously, everybody just calm down. It's a freaking movie aimed at kids. If you don't like it, then don't say anything. And for those of you that haven't seen the movie and you think that it's stupid because you read all the comments on this blog, GO SEE THE FREAKING MOVIE RIGHT NOW AND THEN COMMENT. Geeeeeeez.. Instead of fighting over a kids movie, go argue over that movie Taken 2 or something.

I'm getting really tired of

I'm getting really tired of people complaining about a lack of racial diversity in this movie. This is a movie essentially about two characters: Elinor and Merida. The rest of the characters are from, essentially, the noble houses of this country . There were probably people of different races in the universe, yes. Traders from Arabia, Spain, Africa, maybe even occasionally from the Orient. However, we never <i>see</i> these characters because <i>they are not part of the royal or noble families</i>. These families are old, established, and <i>probably Pictish</i>.

There you go. This movie is set in a slightly-fantastical 10th century Scotland. These people, the characters that are being focussed on, are most likely based on Celts, and would likely be Pictish. There wouldn't be much racial diversity because people didn't travel much. The characters never really leave a smallish area around Castle DunBroch, so we never get to see large markets and dockyards where there would be more racial diversity.

In fact, there could have been racial diversity. The clans all come from different areas of Scotland, maybe even as far South as England. They could be Picts, Celts, Bretons, or even Irish. Clan MacGuffin may have some Viking blood mixed in - they're large and blond. It's not unreasonable. Just because their skin isn't a different colour doesn't mean that they aren't a different people.

But honestly, people, just stop complaining. It's not a whitewashed film. If this was a film set in almost any time in New York, or modern London or Los Angeles, it would be weird and wrong not to have ANY black people, Hispanic people, or Asian people. This is 10th century Scotland, in a story with only about a dozen named characters. They can fudge a little historical inaccuracy, like the corset. It symbolizes that Merida feels oppressed, because her family wants her to get married while she prefers to remain free and single. Merida defies traditional gender roles, but who knows what gender roles the Picts had? It was over a thousand years ago. They can fudge gender roles. And the magic? It's a <b>fairy tale</b>. Fairy tales <b>have</b> witches and spells and lessons learned.

Above all, it's just a movie. Just enjoy it. Or just ignore it.

Thank you. I completely agree

Thank you. I completely agree with you 100%. we didn't see any markets and stuff because they barely ever left that castle. and if the movie was more about what everybody suggested, it would be an entirely different movie. So can everybody just stop? It's a kids movie for crying out loud.

I think everyone who's

I think everyone who's complained about the lack of PoC is missing an importnt point. This takes place in what's supposed to be a backwater of 10th century Scotland and there aren't going to be many, if any PoC. Scotland isn't even on any important trade routes at the time. At this point the only people in Europe with any extended contact with non-Europeans are going to be those living in places like Italy, Spain, Greece, or France. Major centers of trade lying along the border with the Levant and Africa.

And really, would we want to have a person of color just for the sake of it? Doesn't that reek of tokenism and 'positive' racism? I would much rather have a Pixar film about a strong, independent minded princess of color set in a non-European country than try to shoehorn some diversity in this one for the sake of it, even though it would be ahistorical and I'm sure would end up a minor character.

A great movie, although...

A great movie, although it was pretty hit-and-miss in my opinion.

Now that it's out on DVD I own it, and I love it! The animation and style are gorgeous (bought the art book too) and the story is adventurous. It does admittedly fall short of all the hype, but definitely a good movie. I did notice a lot of things after watching it several times that kind of stuck out and bothered me a little, but nothing that really hampers the story in any way.

1.) The corset-lacing scene. Before Merida is presented to the lords, her mother dresses her up in what was either intended to be period formal attire or a period wedding gown (white wedding dresses did not become a custom until some hundreds of years later) and laces her into a corset. I've studied historical fashion for years and I can tell you that corsets like the one her mother laced her up in DID NOT EXIST at the time this film takes place. Even when she turns around, we can see it has hook-and-eye busks in the front--something prominent in mid to late 19th century corsets. Not to mention the fact that the corset as we know it to be, wasn't invented until the latter half of the 16th century (still several hundred years after this movie's setting.)

2.) Elsewhere I've seen people bitching about Merida's age, and how it was "barbaric" to have a 15 year old girl preparing for marriage be the central plot of the movie, and "what does that show our kids?" Blah blah blah. "I missed the point of the movie!" I all I'm hearing there. And on that note, what about Ariel, her age (16) is blatantly spoken in the movie, SHE gets married at the end and returns with a KID in the sequel! Pocahontas? She didn't technically marry in the movie, but historically she was 14 when she met John Rolfe and 17 or 18 when they wed. Not to mention, Merida is a daughter of royalty, marriage at a young age, specifically for those of high rank was very common for centuries. Not to mention this film takes place in the 10th century, living until your 40s was akin to old age nowadays! Historically during Merida's time, some royals were married as soon as they were born (or at least betrothed) and there are many records of princes and princesses marrying at ages 7, 8, 9, etc. And also, as for "what it teaches the kids," it seems to me that with topics like this, people WAY overestimate the intelligence of children and what they are thinking about. It's a MOVIE, a Disney movie, the kids are going to be too engrossed with the adventure and splendor of it all, they won't be asking about Merida's age or consummating a marriage!

3.) I totally agree with those complaining about the beauty element here. While her wild red hair is new to the traditionally sleek-haired princess roster, she is still tall and slender, with a near hourglass figure. Is she as pin-thin as the other Disney princesses? No, but her figure is a very very slight change from the "norm" that Disney has produced over the years. And going off of ethnic details, I also noticed this looking at Tiana and Mulan; their facial features were made to be more ethnically correct, but both of them still have the cookie-cutter bodies of the others. The only differences I saw were that Tiana's hips were made slightly wider, and Mulan's chest was made a little flatter, but that's all...

4.) Accusations of "Whitewashing." Yes, America certainly has a white-dominated media, I won't deny that in the slightest. However, to say that we have to put people of color in EVERY movie, show, etc. isn't equality, it's tokening a race, which, in it's own regards, is racist. I'm not saying that people of color are irrelevant in the media, in fact, I think Disney (and other children's movies) should feature MORE ethnic/racially diverse characters and stories. Other cultures have a lot of interesting stories and backgrounds to offer and learn from; as of now I think they're a sadly untapped source. Also, I'm not sure whose comment it was, but someone here mentioned that at this time of tribes and clans in Scotland, not all whites were the same either, which is true. Different dialects, cultures, bloodlines, and customs accompanied different clans/tribes and their origins. But no matter what anyone says, it is irrefutable that it would make no sense to have a character of color with a major role in Brave. The movie takes place in Scotland. The movie takes place in the 10th century. The only role a character of color would probably have had for a movie at this time, in this area, would likely have been the role of a servant, serf or slave. And what kind of example is that? But then again, as we've already seen with this movie, Disney didn't entirely stick to accuracy, so I suppose that's open for debate.

But, the facts still stand guys, that if the creators wanted things to be certain ways, the story would've been written for it. Not having any ethnic characters does not make it racist, having a thin, young female lead does not take away from her character, and having some clothing inaccuracies does not make the film a bust. You guys should buy "The Art of Brave," great book, put together by Brave's creative team, and it gives lots of insight about character and story development that may clear some of this stuff up for anyone who still has questions.

ugh. Americans and their

ugh. Americans and their US-centric views. PoC in the Middle Ages? Because of trade? You seem to think the rest of the world is a melting pot. Different ethnicities during these times were extremely elitist. Just because there was trade between different cultures, it doesn't mean that they mixed/lived in the places where they traded. My country was Arab-dominated for over 7 centuries, and the actual arabs living here were a very very small minority. The Phoenicians also had one of their main ports here (more important than any port in Scotland) for centuries and centuries and their presence beyond the docks was practically non-existant. You really think it would be a common thing to see a phoenician or an african roaming around Middle Age Scotland?
Yes, they could have set the movie in a different, non-european place, for a change. But they didn't. And in THIS particular movie, it doesn't make sense to randomly throw in a PoC. This, of course, if it's meant to be "historically accurate" (which it isn't, of course).

Redheads, whiteness, a few thoughts

I feel torn - I agree with that there's not enough racial diversity on screens and Brave's a part of that. And yes, Merida is definitely hour-glass figured, and it would be good to have more variety in our heroines.

But at the same time - I LOVE that there's another redhead on screens! I'm an Australian redhead with Scottish ancestry. It's surprisingly rare to have positive redhead role models - male or female - on screen. Usually red heads are chubby, bespectacled, over-freckled, short, nerdy side kicks or bullies. Merida's hair was what drew me to this film in the first place. Having red hair is hard (google the red-hair festivals or "gingerism" if you what to know more), having red hair is like being the runt of the white identifying population, it's definitely a negative.

Also, looking at films like Mulan and Aladdin - I don't remember much racial diversity in those. Does that bother people too?

And don't forget (again this might be unfamiliar to an American audience) Scotland and it's diaspora has it's own ethnic identity and pride - don't lump Scots in as simply and purely "white". That's kinda racist.

White Princess

For all the complaints about Disney being mainly white. These stories are all based off of medieval European stories. Not many black gals running around then. Disney has made efforts and diversified their cast: Tiana and Mulan. But, due to these all being Medieval European stories (yes, even Brave has a Scottish tale), it doesn't lead to much diversity. It's a stupid to complain about, you want the story but don't like what's in it. Get over it, or better yet, write your own.


I know this article is old, but I've been thinking about this movie again recently and feel the need to post my opinion somewhere. I was very disappointed with the movie. The trailers made it seem like it's about Merida being sort of a tomboy and competing for her own hand. That would have been badass. And it would have been easy to make a whole movie out of it. But then they go and transform her mother INTO A BEAR? I mean, WHY? We've had the whole, oh-no-I'm-a-bear-how-do-I-live-movie before with Bear Brothers and apart from that it didn't make ANY sense in Brave. I mean, how is it brave to turn your mother into an animal because you don't like her parenting style and then run around trying to prevent your father from killing her? She didn't even realise her mistake in the end, the only thing she realised was that she kind of loved her mother, which is great, but she's still a woman in a male-dominated world and she still has to marry a random guy to continue the family line. For me, the moral of the story was: Don't kill bears. Unless they're black and have weird eyes.

Another thing that I REALLY hated was that all of the contesters for her hand were super ugly. In fact, all of the men were super ugly. It would have made more of an impact if at least a few of them would have been handsome and brilliant and Merida STILL would have prefered to live her own life and enjoy her freedom. At least the movie gave the boys a few lines in the end about wanting to choose their own partners as well, but it wasn't enough.

I prefered Tangled. I even prefered that one animated Barbie movie from a couple of years ago where she ends up rescuing the prince and then REFUSING his dating proposal. I mean, the 'princess' doesn't necessarily have to be gay or asexual for me to like her, but at least have a great story and some self-worth. Nobody in the world would have married one of those three dorks in Brave. Phew. This was a nice rant. I can go on living my life now.

Opinium column

Hi! I am using this article as a source for a written task. I was wondering what sort of text type this is. Is it a opinium column, blog, movie review, editorial?

Thank you!

flawed points

"Yes, you could argue that in order to subvert the princess story you need to start with marriage, but this film could just as easily have started with an archery tournament that wasn't for Merida's hand."
everythoing you said was fine untill the last twoo points, first of all if you take away merida's hand as a price from the competition there would be no plot whatsoever, I mean say the win? what's next? nothing, just a simply archery game, taking that away would be destroying the enire story
als it was set in the 10th century because there are no more arrenged angagement like those nowaday

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