Brave Teaser Trailer on Disney Video
My husband said, when I showed him the Merida doll I bought for my daughter, "but you don't even know if it's any good yet!"
And I don't, it's true. But I am full of hope, because I love Disney, almost as much as I hate the princess culture that has developed between when I was a kid and when I had a daughter. I understand that it makes Disney oogobbles of money. But Disney, and we, are better than this.
We don't really want our daughters to think they are princesses in the traditional sense of that word, do we? With all of the attendant helplessness and emphasis on looks over intelligence? Princesses are that girl that stands by the sidelines and waits for someone to save her while pitifully whining about her fate. You know, Bella Swan.
I grew up loving Wonder Woman. I guess you could call her a princess, of sorts. But I wouldn't expect her to wear high heels and wait around for a prince. She's far more superhero than traditional princess. We used to play Superfriends on the playground - and though it was difficult when more than one girl wanted to play (nobody wanted to be Catwoman, or Batgirl, or Supergirl, or - god forbid - the girl Wonder Twin) - it was fun, and I always felt the equal of the boys. Wonder Woman was smart and powerful and could save the day by herself. I did always wonder why she fell for a guy who was lame, but I figured she'd change over to Superman or Batman someday.
And btw, how are we at the point where we are rebooting Superman, Batman, and Spiderman for the umpteenth time and there has not been a single live-action Wonder Woman movie? Oh, but Elektra and Catwoman we could do? Come ON, Joss is ready and willing, and you know he can make money. And how does that decision to choose to air the Playboy Club over a TV reboot of Wonder Woman feel right now, NBC?
My daughter is luckier in some ways, and will be more challenged in others. My daughter will have Hermione, Hillary Clinton, and Dora. She'll have Abby, Zoe and Rosita. She'll have a world in which there are three women on the Supreme Court, and in which it's no big deal for a woman to be Secretary of State, Attorney General, or the most powerful woman in television (though maybe Oprah isn't considered that anymore).
But I had some advantages, too. I grew up in the 1970s and 80s - in a time when "liberal" parenting was in. When most kids dressed in unisex, easy-to-run-and-climb-in clothes that were multi-colored (not all pink or purple for girls). When there was Free to Be You and Me, and Schoolhouse Rock, and Sesame Street was a bit less about merchandising (though at least now there are girl muppets besides Prairie Dawn). We had Barbies and princess movies, but it wasn't all about being a princess then. Princesses were a part of a large group of pretending options, not the main focus of everything girls could wear, play with, and watch on TV.
Princess culture is everywhere with everything you ever buy for your daughter these days. Clothes, shoes, toys, books, TVs, furniture. Diapers. Cups and spoons. Bibs. I mean, it's EVERYWHERE. And the choices are very gender-stratified, and they are about as hard as stone. You can't find a boy's t-shirt with any girl character anywhere on it. I've tried. Toy Story 2 and 3 have three leads, right? Woody, Buzz, and Jessie. The boys shirts? NEVER have Jessie on them. The girls shirts? Sure, they could talk about how the girl LOVES Woody and Buzz.
I was at Disneyland, trying to find a boy's shirt with any female characters on it, and it was like a crusade. (I ended up with the one at right, which if you squint, you'll see has Jessie in the Monorail and Tinkerbell up top.) I'm not even sure why I care so much anymore, but when I first realized it - that they have decided that boys/parents-of-boys will not buy merchandise with anything girl on it - it made me as mad as the parade of pink princess crap I'm supposed to get for my daughter (with inappropriately coquettish visions of the princess characters, to boot).
...But I digress...
So yeah, I'm psyched about Brave and the seemingly awesome Merida. But I'm not the only one. My daughter screams "there's Merida! I looove Merida!" every time a Brave ad comes on (which she has to do pretty darn quickly, because I only watch TV on DVR), and every time she sees a picture of Merida.
And best yet, Merida gets to have a mother who loves her - in the movie! What's the big deal about that, you say? Let me give you a list of Disney movies in which the mother is dead (or dies right at the beginning - I'm looking at you, Finding Nemo): Snow White, Cinderella, The Rescuers, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin (neither Aladdin nor Jasmine get to have a mother), Pocahontas, Lilo and Stitch, and Finding Nemo. And then there are Dumbo (mom imprisoned and taken away) and Bambi (well, you know). In a bunch of the other Disney movies the mom is a non-entity (Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Sleeping Beauty), and in many of them there is an Evil Stepmother or Evil Enchantress/Witch who torments the main female characters (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Tangled, Snow White, The Little Mermaid). There is plenty of feminist literature explicating the pretty awful views of women in fairy tales, but Disney changed all sorts of things when adapting movies (hello, the ending of The Little Mermaid?), so they could have done whatever they wanted with these movies. My take is that a lot of screenwriters (and writers, period) think that the loss of a parent, particularly a mom, is shorthand for challenges in life and a large obstacle that's easy to put at the beginning of a story. But that's kind of lazy, when there are all kinds of challenges life throws people's way.
So yeah, I'm excited about a "princess" story with a strong heroine; a strong, loving mother; and the promise of a story that's mostly about a girl and her family and growing up, not about a handsome prince coming to save the day.
And also, Merida's just pretty cool.
Families & Legend Trailer on Disney Video
Update: Brave is awesome: The movie was funny in places, a bit scary in places, and was based around a great mother-daughter story that made me cry (in a good way). Ultimately, my husband and I decided it was a bit too scary for our (pretty young) kids to see in the theater, so they'll have to settle for seeing highlights when it comes out on DVD for a bit.