Lesbian Disney Princesses (Are All Right With Me)

I don’t want to get married, I want to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen firing arrows into the sunset. ~from “Brave”

I know that when there’s all kind of controversy about a movie I haven’t even seen yet, chances are that’s a movie I’ll want to see. The movie in question is Disney/Pixar’s Brave, which, after the disaster that was Cars 2, hopes to restore the integrity of that most pedigreed of studios. Though I didn’t get to see it opening weekend, I’m hoping to get there sometime this week when the target audience kids are already fast asleep.

The real thing that perked my interest from the first trailers was the fact that its heroine, Merida, is a tomboy despite being one of the ubiquitous Disney Princesses. She shoots a mean bow and arrow in the same league as Katniss Everdeen, she rides a massive Clydesdale through a wild wood, she climbs craggy mountains. Oh, and she doesn’t appear to want to marry a prince, leading some bloggers to conjecture that the red-haired beauty might (gasp!) be a lesbian.

To which I say: even if she, a computer-generated teenage girl, is a lesbian, who the hell cares? This is the 21st century. We have hopefully moved past 1950s wet dream Princesses like Snow White, whose only talents appeared to be housework and who agreed to marry some complete stranger just because he was a prince, and Cinderella, who lived the life of a slave and pined away helplessly instead of staking out on her own. I’m ecstatic that Disney is making movies about girls and women who defy narrow gender roles. Girls today need them now more than ever (remember, I am Gen X, and it still wasn’t until my teens that I started to get fictiona tough-girl role models like Sarah Conner, Xena, and Buffy instead of Barbie and Jem.)

But that’s beside the point. Merida’s sexuality (or lack thereof) should not be the issue here. Are we, as a society, so obsessed with toeing a certain line when it comes to rigid gender roles that we automatically toss out labels? Are all girls who show interest in “boyish” things automatically lesbians, or are all boys who enjoy opera and show a smidgen of sensitivity going to grow up to be gay? Of course not. The whole point of Brave, if I read the trailers right, is for parents and societies to allow children to determine their own path in life. If that means a non-traditional gender role, so be it.

As for me, I’m thrilled about seeing Brave. I can identify with a strong-willed teenager whose parents had other ideas for her. I turned out not to be a lesbian myself, though I have many lesbian friends and am very LGBT-friendly. I did turn out to be a woman who defies many norms of society, from pairing long dresses with combat boots to learning Kung Fu for fun. In terms of pursuing a life-mate, I haven’t found the right one yet. If he (or she) shows up, maybe I’ll change my mind. I have a feeling Merida is in that same boat. After all, she’s supposed to be…16 or so? She has plenty of time to figure things out. That’s what growing up is all about.

I’m sure there will be plenty of discussion about Merida’s orientation. If she becomes a heroine to closeted and/or misfit girls and women, that’s great. We sure could use a few positive, non-stereotype depictions of strong women in media. Not to mention women who don’t look like airbrushed ideals. I love the fact that this girl has a full mane of wild, untamed hair. Take that, oh-so-unreasonably-perfect Ariel and Pocahontas.

And yeah, there’s a kind of poetic justice to the diversity-friendly Disney featuring a lesbian in its stable of Princesses. If they broke barriers with an African American (The Princess and the Frog) an Asian (Mulan) and a girl who likes to read (Beauty and the Beast), why the hell not? I just won’t hold my breath for a Princess with a disability or one who isn’t a size 2.

What are your thoughts on Brave and/or a non-traditional Disney Princess? If you have seen it, what did you think?

Author’s Note: Congratulations to Thatawkwardkid93 for winning the Who’s Your Hero? contest, and to 1Pointperspective for submitting the best photo caption. I’ll be in touch with you guys so you can get your prizes.

As always, be sure to click “Like” and leave plenty of comments so the site mascot doesn’t break out his kilt and fake brogue…

~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on June 25, 2012.

24 Responses to “Lesbian Disney Princesses (Are All Right With Me)”

  1. Cannot wait to see this movie along with Wreck It Ralph.

  2. I am very much looking forward to this. It is too bad that there are still so many people (women can sometimes be almost as bad as men with this) so invested in “traditional” gender roles (if they knew both their Celtic myth and history they may not think this young heroine so odd) that they have to make a fight where there is none.

    • I agree, Christine…those Celtic myths are full of gender-bending heroes and heroines, not to mention amazingly powerful goddesses like Morrigu. It’s sad that we’ve started to regress toward a neocon definition of gender roles after 40 years of the feminist movement.

      • And let us not forget the very real story of Boudica!

        I don’t think we are regressing, otherwise we wouldn’t see a movie like this. What we are experiencing is push back from some very motivated anachronisms that see their irrelevance looming.

  3. I can’t think of a woman I know who would like to have her mate chosen for her–or worse yet, decided based on the results of a competition. Based on previews I’ve seen, Merida strikes me simply as being really spunky, talented, and courageous. Isn’t *that* the point–that she has a mind, a heart, a will, and the wherewithal to forge her own way? I rarely go to movies, but I really do want to see “Brave.”

    • I agree wholeheartedly! And that’s a message I can fully support for young girls: that they can choose their own fate without outside influence or arranged marriages. (Plus, I automatically thought of you with that curly red hair.)

  4. I don’t think it is getting very good reviews, but I don’t think it is because of her sexuality. You will have to let us know what you think of it. I heard it just wasn’t the same quality as other Pixar films. To me that means they raced through the digitizing.
    It looks really cartoony and not that appealing…..

    • You’re right, Susie…when I first saw the trailers it just didn’t *look* like a Pixar movie to me. More recycled Dreamworks. I hope they’re not starting a slow decline. This one I’m more interested to see from a story point of view. I’ll post a review later this week when I see it. 🙂

  5. Reblogged this on dizzyblondecocktail and commented:
    Cannot wait to see this!

  6. It does annoy me when people make assumptions about sexuality based on what people are interested in. Stupid gender stereotyping. I’m straight but have never been a girly girl. I even used to wear armour and fight with broadswords and big axes!

  7. Poor Disney. They just can’t win. Their princesses are too boy crazy, and when they’re not, their sexuality is questioned.

  8. I, myself, did not see the movie, but my M.I.L took my daughters (11 & 7). They are both very well rounded, informed, intelligent girls. I asked them to tell me all about the movie when they got home. Having read a few articles inciting questions of Merida’s sexuality, I asked them what they thought. It turns out what both of my girls took away from this new Disney movie was the importance of the mother/daughter relationship. My 7 year old was in tears 3 times during the movie (she told me herself, and my mother in law confirmed). I’m honored and proud that I’ve brought my girls up to cherish their relationship with me, so much so, that they cry when trying to relate to a movie plot about losing their mother and trying to get her back.
    I’m inclined to think Disney hasn’t branched out to a gay/lesbian theme, but has kept in line with the same Family in Crisis themes of the past (Cinderella with the abusive stepmother, Lilo & Stitch with deceased parents and big sister raising little sister, Little Mermaid with a deceased mother, tyrant father, and love story about 2 people from different worlds, or Finding Nemo with the mother killed and the child being raised by the scarred, overbearing, over protective father that winds up pushing the kid into getting himself into big trouble.) Disney makes Family movies about screwed up families.
    But that’s just what I took away from all this.

  9. […] Heather Bumbershoot is actually the person who invented the bumbershoot, which is a recorder of bird calls and a […]

  10. It was an amazing movie, and I never even thought about her sexual orientation. My friend (who identifies with Merida because they have VERY similar hair) did point out that she didn’t end up with a prince. After a muttering of “forever alone”, the two of us decided that Merida will end up with neither of the princes that were presented to her, but will find someone eventually.
    People get too worked up about sexuality. Merida doesn’t do anything that could reveal her sexuality, and is more concerned with avoiding marriage. It’s refreshing to see a teenager with something other than sex and boys on her mind 🙂

  11. I saw this movie and loved it. I loved that she was a tomboy, I loved her hair and her attitude. Her brothers were great. Her dad was a riot and her mom only wanted what she thought was best for her daughter. I especially liked the way family pulled together at the end. Good lesson for today’s kids and adults alike.

    I never even thought about the Merida’s sexuality. The movie wasn’t about that, it was about a young girl coming of age. Mostly though it was about family.

    I think some people just look for reasons to complain.

  12. JUST to cool 🙂

  13. […] to believe, but a piece I wrote last year (Lesbian Disney Princesses Are All Right with Me) continues to garner the most hits. It isn’t even close. And, as fate would have it, the […]

  14. The Little Mermaid had the closest thing to a disability we’re going to get…

  15. I haven’t seen Brave – heard a lot about it though.I’m all for diverse princesses. An ugly princess would be good, I’m pretty sure there’s an affirmative fairy tale about an ugly princess who was so clever and charming nobody cared.

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