Everyone is excited for Disney Pixar’s Brave which premiered on Friday, 22 June 2012. For me, it’s about history, folklore, Europe, Scotland, accents, costumes, scenery. But it appears, for everyone else, it’s about the new heroine, Princess Merida, who is Pixar’s first female protagonist.
She’s a fiery red-head with tangled curls who’s everything but what her Mother wants her to be: a lady (or, a true princess). For centuries, women from all cultures were expected to be a lady. A lady must:
- have good posture (sit and stand up straight)
- be gracious
- well-dressed, no matter what one’s class is
And the list goes on…
I should know. I spent the first part of my childhood in the British system and sitting up straight was drilled into all of us, boys or girls.
All the girls wore uniforms in the form of skirts or dresses. If we had no uniforms, one’s parent(s) usually expected us to wear one of them. I was one of the those odd girls out there who preferred dresses and skirts over jeans, trousers and shorts.
Manners were practically considered ‘next to godliness’. One should never speak while eating or speak too loudly for that matter.
As I was watching Brave, I started to understand where Disney and/or Pixar was going with Princess Merida. Some may think she is the new princess that Disney is inspiring girls to become. That’s what I’d thought when I watched the trailer. Tiana from The Princess & the Frog was already quite a different heroine than the original princesses: independent, hard-working (she actually works and earns money, lucky her!) but a romantic at heart.
Yet it turned out that Princess Merida reminded me of so many highborn ladies in our world, be they ladies, countesses, duchesses, princesses, queens or empresses. The main one who stood out for me was the Kaiserin/Empress Sisi. Princess Merida is practically the Scottish version of the German-born Austrian empress.
- love the outdoors
- athletic – skilled horseback riders
- disliked etiquette
- were considered “wild”
- disliked taking orders (both have a mind of their own)
- both have fathers who couldn’t care less for royal etiquette
These are just a few that I can think of at the moment. Thankfully, because this is a Disney movie, Princess Merida is blessed with a jolly loving father and a mother who, over the course of the film, eventually ‘understands’ and supports her daughter. It’s the fairytale we want – even if there is no royal wedding at the end!
Sadly, in the real world, very few princesses were lucky to do exactly as they pleased (e.g. evade unhappy arranged marriages with horrible in-laws and even horrid etiquette laws to follow). Kaiserin Sisi, though she was allowed to marry the man who fell in love with her, soon awoke in reality as the Empress of Austria. Her story is one of the most tragic.
Let us be glad that was not the case for Princess Merida – and hope that will not be the case for her, should there be a Brave Ever After!