posts tagged "brave"
Part 3: “From Snow White to Brave: the evolution of the Action Princess”
To see Part 2 of excerpts/my discussion of this article by Jaclyn Friedman, click here.
“The tragedy of Brave, however, is that while it’s clear that our new Snow White is an actioned-up old-school princess, Merida is a princessed-out action hero. Brave producer Katherine Sarafian made no bones about this in a recent interview on NPR, saying:
“We tried making her the blacksmith’s daughter and the milkmaid in various things … There’s no stakes in the story for us that way. We wanted to show real stakes in the story where, you know, the peace of the kingdom and the traditions are all at stake.”
Let’s take that in for a minute: the studio whose most iconic heroes include a toy cowboy, a rat, a fish, a boy scout, and a lonely trash compactor (all male-identified, of course), couldn’t figure out how to tell a story about a human girl without making her a princess. That’s the problem in a nutshell: if the sparkling minds at Pixar can’t imagine their way out of the princess paradigm, how can we expect girls to?
The past decade may have seen a welcome increase in on-screen female action heroes, but we’re still far from gender parity in the genre, and even when they’re not princesses, they’re nearly all trained assassins or Chosen Ones. Joseph Campbell wrote indelibly about the power of The Hero with a Thousand Faces – an ur-hero who’s living a mundane life when he’s faced with a challenge through which he can discover his greatness. It’s easy to see why this matters: everyman hero stories teach every boy that he can make himself great through his own actions, regardless of how dull or difficult the lot in life he’s been handed.
Princess stories – even Action Princess stories – inherently fail the Campbell test. That’s why, until we’ve got as many Mulans and (un-whitewashed) Katniss Everdeens as we do Frodos, Batmans, Kung Fu Pandas, Rangos, Shreks, Woodys – I could go on here … to infinity and beyond – even the most liberated of princesses will always be failing girls.”
I’ve covered the above NPR quote earlier and it still makes me sad to re-read it.I think a lot of the points made here are essentially right- the princess genre will always be a problem so long as it continues to define the majority of female lead characters/how we interpret the dreams and desires and futures of girl children/what identities society sees as legitimate. It is too bad that Pixar, of all companies, still has trouble envisioning girl leads as anything other than a princess. The idea that other stories have “no stake” in them says so much about the way we as a culture interpret narratives of the female experience; the experiences of an ordinary girl cannot be universal in the way a boys’ experiences can be… that the life of an ordinary girl cannot be made appealing unless she is princess-ified… etc.
This is also why I continue to have issues with the often used theme of making a movie “empowering” for women by continuing to “challenge” concepts that have been pretty duh in our culture for centuries- yes, you shouldn’t be forced into marriage or relationships if you don’t want them, yes, no one should be able to force you to wear restrictive garments in order to look more appealing.
Constantly identifying these problems as the “major ones against women” undermines current struggles by making it appear that a “feminist friendly” character is “anti-forced marriage”, which leads people to wrongly assume that feminism is about outdated concepts and problems society has already moved past for the most part. It also reinforces what the director stated here: “We wanted to show real stakes in the story where, you know, the peace of the kingdom and the traditions are all at stake.” Nothing is seen as “being at stake” if the main woman in a story is not constantly battling traditions that do not have a whole lot of current relevance. She is not seen as interesting if she is not engaging in this- her own stories removed from these cultural pressures are not seen as interesting enough.feministbatgirl replied to your post: Part 3: “From Snow White to Brave: the evolution of the Action Princess”“I think the main problem here that most of the girls who watch princess movies are middle class or poor. To say the stakes aren’t high in a story without a princess is very insulting to the human dignity of the real girls in the audience.”
Yes, definitely. And if you go to the full article, it references how the princesses inherently live a life most girls can’t: you’re born into it or you marry into it, either way it’s the 1% type thing.
2012: the year of the archers ⇢