Childrearing

EW’s ‘Lesbian Princess’ Theory Proves Why We Need More Movies Like Brave

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Feisty PrincessesBrave was this weekend’s top box office earner. The first female-centered Pixar film has feminists everywhere rejoicing about the strong and independent protagonist. Even my mother and grandmother were discussing their amazement that a princess movie would end without the young girl finding the love of her life.

Really, this is a huge step forward for young girls. Although recent movies depict princesses with courage and strength, they still have to end up with a handsome prince. Think about Disney’s latest heroines from The Princess and The Frog or Tangled. Tiana and Rapunzel don’t exactly meet Prince Charming, and they definitely have personalities of their own, but they still fall in love at the end.

Merida’s tale promised to be different. It was a chance for a girl to be successful and happy all on her own, without a strong arm to hold onto. And women everywhere were pretty excited about this. Including me!

And this excitement is why I’m doubly offended that Adam Markowitz over at Entertainment Weekly thinks that because Merida isn’t interested in getting married, she must be a lesbian.

Let’s be clear: Merida isn’t an overtly lesbian character. Nothing in the story implies that she’s attracted to other women (or men either, but more on that in a second). She doesn’t completely swear off the idea of marriage to a man, and she never hints that she might have a hidden sexual identity.

But could Merida be gay? Absolutely. She bristles at the traditional gender roles that she’s expected to play: the demure daughter, the obedient fiancée. Her love of unprincess-like hobbies, including archery and rock-climbing, is sure to strike a chord with gay viewers who felt similarly “not like the other kids” growing up. And she hates the prospect of marriage — at least, to any of the three oafish clansmen that compete for her hand — enough to run away from home and put her own mother’s life at risk.

It feels a little cliche to just say, “Seriously?” But SERIOUSLY? As the wonderful Jenni Maier at our sister-site Crushable says in a piece that you should definitely read in full, “So let’s go over this. Because Merida doesn’t want to participate in her arranged marriage and because she like sports, she’s a lesbian. Parents all over the country with teenage daughters who don’t want to get married because it interferes with their high school sports practice schedule should just joining PFLAG right now. Their daughters are all gay.”

Would I have a problem with a princess or movie protagonist that happened to be a lesbian? Of course I wouldn’t. I think it would be a wonderfully progressive step for the movie industry. My issue isn’t with the idea of a lesbian princess.

However, I’m highly offended by the idea that a girl who is strong-minded and independent has to be a lesbian. It couldn’t possibly be that a young girl just doesn’t want to live happily ever after with a prince who will rescue her when life gets too difficult. It couldn’t possibly be that a young woman is interested in physical activity and the outdoors and still heterosexual.

What about lesbians who don’t fit Merida’s mold? Suddenly, it’s impossible for a lesbian to want to settle down with her partner and wear pretty dresses? Whose to say that our traditional princesses weren’t lesbians in disguise, according to Markowitz’s theory?

This entire incident simply proves to me why we need more movies like Brave. We need more girls like Merida. Because it seems to be too easy to make a lot of antiquated assumptions based on the idea that a little girl doesn’t want to settle down with Prince Charming.

I would love to see a fairy tale centered around an LGBTQ hero or heroine. But that shouldn’t be something we have to guess about based on eye-roll-inducing stereotypes. That should be an accepted part of the character’s journey. Let’s not turn the first prince-less princess into something she’s not though. Let’s not assume that any woman who doesn’t want a husband must be a lesbian. Or else how could she resist Prince Charming, right? Wrong. That’s the exact type of thought process we’re hoping this movie will dispel.

(Photo: Jaimie Duplass/Shutterstock)

9 Comments

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  3. katie

    July 2, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    As a feminist, I felt compelled to say that I for one was NOT happy with the “refreshing” portrayal of a “strong and independent” princess. Why does she even have to be a princess? Other Pixar leads get to be superheroes and animals and toys and cars and all sorts of unique characters. First female lead = princess. WHY. Will we never get past this idea that children’s movies with a female lead MUST be princess stories??

    And the other thing: I’m tired of the whole “making a statement about women’s empowerment by shunning arranged marriage” (Aladdin, Pocahontas) thing. Is that really the best we can do? Seeing as arranged marriage hasn’t been common practice during any moviegoer’s lifetime, it feels cheap. It’s too safe to be meaningful.

    • Lyra Belacqua

      July 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      Well, katie, It seems to me like you’re asking for WAY too much. If Pixar felt like doing another princess movie and they CHOSE to make the female lead strong and independent how is that not a better alternative to them doing another movie with talking inanimate objects in which the lead is not female and empowered?

      And you’re forgetting that they need to please their target demographic. If little girls want to see princess movies, you can’t force-feed them anything else. Well, you can try, but you probably won’t make a profit.

      Lastly, depending on your culture arranged marriage may very well be common practice in moviegoers’ lives. I for one know many people, myself included, who felt empowered by watching Pocahontas and Mulan shun the idea of arranged marriage and focus on their family/village.

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