Is There Finally An Animated Heroine Girls Can Look Up To?


Pixar and The Mouse have teamed up to bring us a new movie: Brave.  AND IT STARS A GIRL!  All the way through.  And she is a Cool Girl.  All the way through.  And the tag line is “Change your Fate.”

Here is the plot (stolen directly from the website): “In rugged and mythic Scotland, the impetuous, tangle-haired Merida, though a daughter of royalty, would rather make her mark as an archer. A clash of wills with her mother compels Merida to make a reckless choice, which unleashes unintended peril on her father’s kingdom and her mother’s life. Merida struggles with the unpredictable forces of nature, magic and a dark ancient curse.”

It looks dark (good), it has a Scottish Heroine (really good), it has magic (cool), looks like it might a fairy tale (Pixar’s first), and a mother-daughter conflict, which a lot of kids will relate to, especially if the conflict is over who the daughter grows up to be.

I am tired of The Mouse Who Shall Not Be Named giving me only pink and pretty princesses who sparkle. Even Belle, who reads books, succumbs to the scenario of domestic violence with the Beast who yells and throws her father physically out the door. And the best part? She has to love him hard enough in order for him to change.  So it is her fault if he continues to be a Beast.  Merida at least will shoot him with an arrow, call him a fool and walk out to finish her quest.  At least, I hope she will.

I have long asked: where are the girls like me?  The ones who climb trees?  And play baseball with their brothers and want to know what is going on in the world?  I thought we might have one in the Princess and the Frog, but in the end, she gave it all up for True Love.  This is, actually, the main reason most little boys don’t like “girl” movies.  I agree with them.

When VoldeMouse finally hooked up with Pixar, things began to change.   They gave us Ellie in Up, the tousle-haired, buck-toothed redhead ready for adventure, Jessie, the cowgirl you could ride off into the sunset with, and Dorie, the charmingly dim sidekick in Finding Nemo.

But, then, Ellie died almost immediately.  Dorrie and Jessie were the comic relief or sympathy factors, not the main characters and there was no girl at all in Toy Story except Little Bo Peep, who had three lines.  Not the role models I want for my (hypothetical) daughter.

Elastigirl rocked (The Incredibles).  Holly Hunter who made it all work with a family and superhero career.  Best line:  “Leave the saving of the world to the men.  I don’t think so.”  And yet, the story was not hers.  She came in to save the day, but the story was about two boys who threw stuff at each other.

Dreamworks chimed in with Fiona, Shrek’s beloved and a heroine in her own right, especially in the third and fourth movies.  She kicked butt.  She led her own army, she was a great fighter and then she gave her heart and her army away when Shrek came along to bring her back to her “real life.”  At this point, she is the best of the bunch.  If only there were a movie with Fiona and Elastigirl.

I am not sure why the major animators have not wanted to give us the Girl.  Do they think that girls will go to boys’ movies but boys won’t go to girls’?  Because girls make up at least half, if not more of the audiences, and they have some pretty good pull.  I am just not sure why this is the case, and it has sent me on more than one rant about the sexism and racism inherent in children’s programming.  And if I had a son, I would want him to see the movie to teach him that real women are capable of so much more than just falling in love.  It isn’t just our girls that are missing out on female role models.

I am pretty excited about Merida, bummed that she is yet another princess, hoping she will be what the name of the movie says, and crossing my fingers, eyes and everything else that I can that she is not the last of her kind.  That finally Pixar, and Disney will get it, and that Dreamworks will take that last step to allow women to be fully formed human beings in their own right.  Not objectified, or someone to be rescued, bullied, or pitied.

The girl who is sitting across from me in Peets as I write this is drinking hot chocolate and swinging her legs, one of which sports a skinned knee and a Superhero band-aid. She is wearing purple Chuck Taylor sneakers, and a Bad Batz Maru t-shirt.  Her shorts have clearly had something wiped on them, and her ponytail is less than perfect.

She is my kind of girl and one that I want to see movies made both for and about.


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Photo Credit: wheatfeildbrown


jane l.
jane l5 years ago

I will be interested to see where this movie goes. Does it signal a change in approach or does the ending go the usual way?

Heather B.
Heather BennetT5 years ago

About time;)

Carmen Harris
Carmen Harris6 years ago

I like this article. I feel that women are put into a stereotypical role nowadays (whether consciously or unconsciously), everything is about how they act, how they dress, how much make up they what if they don't dress up, so what if they don't look good, and so what if they don't act how they're supposed to act. We need a woman role model that is real, that doesn't care about any of that superficial stuff, and act how they want to.

Becki Schulz
Becki Schulz6 years ago

great write up, thanks!

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

is not the issue they want animated heroines over real women? of course flesh and blood women who made history are not as interesting to the advrage child. the "average little girl" may want colorful fictional characters to inspire her.maybe the problem is people want fictional females to dazzle their girls.

fiction writing may result in over exaggerated features in a character. many people fall victem to making them "flat" and one sided. real people are not one sided, or written into an archetype that is an inescapable fate. You canno't make them too one dimensional, yet over complicated. becoming a god in your own rite is not easy. to create people, to give them "life" and avoid cliche and work on multiple good tropes is an artform.

Grace B.
Grace B6 years ago

Wow some really great discussion here - I appreciate all of the different insights. The idea that girls have to be warrior like in order to be respected as sheroes is a great point. There have been some great roles for girls also in the non-animated world, for example. Nimm's Island, Kitt Kittredge girl reporter (not sure if I have the title exactly right), the journey of Natty Gan (again spelling might be wrong). There have been some really great characters. I think the biggest complaint is that they are not frequent enough and also that there is a sense of scorn when talking about movies for girls and womens. Thus my comment earlier about hating the Chick flick, Chick lit names. Keep up the good work my friends!

Kathryn Pierce
Kathryn Pierce6 years ago

The "princess" in The Princess and the Frog didn't give it all up for love. She GOT her dream - the restaurant - and they prince became her helper. It was HER restaurant, after all. I thought that was a pretty good ending.

Laura K.
Laura Bash6 years ago

I have nothing against a strong feminine character but I find your views on Disney a bit over the top. Both Jasmine and Mulan represented girls who wanted balance in their lives. They didn't feel a need to give up their femininity in order to have adventure or assert themselves.

Also, I might point out that Beauty and the Beast was a long established fairy tale and that both the conditions of Belle's stay and the brutish character of the Beast came directly from the original tale. They were not Disney incarnations like the talking mice in Cinderella. You applaud Brave for being dark, well the original fairy stories were. Only portions of Snow White come close to Beauty and the Beast for the true to their nature feel of the original reads.

I am excited to see Brave, she does indeed sound mighty. Not all girls are the same however, and I would be sad to think there would be no place for the Jasmines or Belles among the Meridas.

Lauren Baker
Lauren Baker6 years ago

Empress G. I did not say contribute something to society, I said something else to society. Some women are not fulfilled in their lives by having children. These women still bring something valuable to society. I, myself, am a single mother, who had to work. My son never lacked, as I had my extended family who has always been there for him. And guess what? My son values women. Respects women. Respects all life. A wonderful human being, who does not smoke or do drugs, and only drinks occasionally. Sorry you can't see how diverse females are.

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

Monica, some of them are not strong enough, or in the right way. a woman who acts like a man in year 1000 doing man army things is not good enough. she is being "man-strong". she should stand up, and tell the king to give woman rights, and not continue old ways by saying she can only farm, sew and be a family mother.