Apparently Disney has made a bit of a faux pass with their recent rebranding of the popular leading lady in Brave, Merida. But, honestly, when have feminists been anything but upset with Disney’s Princess line? Disney’s portrayal of characters is far from realistic, from animals to pirates. I kind of understand that’s the point: escapism. At the end of the day, if I wanted to see what the world is really like, I could just switch on the news or, God forbid, actually step outside and talk to people.
So, full disclosure here: I actually haven’t seen Brave, and unless I discover a daughter somewhere I’m previously unaware of, I probably won’t in the near future. However, the point that many feminists raise regarding the dearth of strong feminine characters in movies is certainly valid. Of course I don’t personally turn to movies to find role models (I prefer comic books), but having some positive characters that people can identify with is certainly a good idea. Even if it’s from a personal standpoint of being tired of damsel-in-distress, two-dimensional female characters.
Now, if your concept of animals comes from too many viewings of Bambi, or your idea of relationships is based exclusively on Disney movies, you’re going to be in for some serious disappointment later in your life, as well as being a constant problem for the rest of society. But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? Since when has popular culture had so much influence on people’s development and identity? And considering the content of that culture, we should seriously be worried about the quality of people being raised on reality TV and rap lyrics.
Of course reality TV is anything but realistic, and that’s the problem: escapism is so accessible and available that political action movements are defining their struggle through analysis of fictional characters instead of addressing real life problems. Personally, I’d like to see a female lead kick ass in a movie, but on some level I’d be worried that it’s necessary for me to resort to escapism in order to find a strong female character.
Maybe the problem isn’t how Disney markets their characters, but the village we are raising our children isn’t offering realistic, real world role models.