Brave fares a lot better, replacing the catfight with a fairly nuanced exploration of the strains that can wear down a mother-daughter relationship as the daughter comes into her own and rejects her mother’s ambitions for her. The movie also passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, which should be a given for a movie with a female hero, but is more than can be said for Snow White. Also in the plus column: despite my temporary fear that Merida would be called upon to save the day by sewing, she is given ample opportunity to live up to the movie’s title, and she does so with smarts, strength, skill and unwavering gusto.
It’s also more than notable that no one in the entirety of Brave so much as comments on Merida’s looks. Not her suitors or their fathers, not her family, no one. (There is one moment that finds the Queen admiring how suitably princess-like Merida looks in her betrothal outfit, but even that comment is about her living up to the Queen’s standards and not her intrinsic attractiveness or lack thereof.)
What’s truly revolutionary about Merida as an Action Princess is our heroine’s cause: she’s not fighting to avenge anyone’s death, to save a kingdom, or defeat an evil power. She’s fighting for her own freedom, for her bodily autonomy and her happiness. She is her own cause. If there’s any Big Bad in Brave it’s princess-dom itself, with all its patriarchal trappings. And Merida’s not universally “good” either – she’s a stubborn daredevil, sometimes selfish and even spiteful. Hardly surprising for a teenager, but downright subversive for a Disney princess.
From the Guardian: From Snow White to Brave - the evolution of the Action Princess. (via georgethecat)