So, the internet has randomly buzzed about “Brave” and “Frozen” in terms of the feminist agenda. On some level I am glad that people are considering what lessons children’s movies teach. On every other level, I am disgusted by what the internet teaches. Once again idiots grasp for the current events as examples of what is happening to the youth and discard hundreds of years of finely refined educational material. There are much better role models than Elsa, Anna and Merida.
First, let us discuss Frozen. It seems certain groups have latched onto the fact that there is no wedding and actually no romance for Elsa as a “bold move.” People seem to think that this makes it a story about women that is not a love story and therefor empowering women. You know what? It’s a story about a scared child who grows up in isolation and learns to come out of that isolation and be herself. She controls the magical powers that define all of her uniqueness so that she doesn’t scare people. She learns to hide who she is for the most part, but bring it out here and there where it is fun and entertaining. She learns to live within social norms with a little flair here and there. I guess that is a good message, but let’s not pretend it’s empowering.
Anna is in the story to bring the romantic side to everything. As more of the movie follows her, it would be valuable for the people who claim that it is not a love story to pay attention and shut up. Not that I find anything wrong with the character or her development. There are valuable lessons in Anna that I would want my daughter to learn from a movie rather than real life. The most valuable of which is that both you and the person who really loves you are probably idiots and don’t recognize true love. Also the idiot that pursues you and looks all handsome and acts all romantic probably wants something very specific. The guy who cares about animals and helps strangers and sounds like an idiot whenever you’re near probably wants everything you are. I’m a real romantic.
Then there’s Merida. I really like this girl. I’ve got a thing for the Irish and I have a thing for redheads, though Irish redheads are a little too scary for me. Aside from her amazing accent, she represents a great strength that I want my little ones to have. I never want them looking for someone to define them, as marriage in the olden days did. The other lessons she learns across her story arc are pretty great too. All in all, there is nothing bad I have to say about Merida, except that the movie ended too early. Not too early for me or the kiddos, but too early for the feminist trolls of the internet. Just because she was a powerful character and an incredibly strong young girl, it does not mean she is immune to puberty or incapable of love. I hope my little ones, boys and girls, learn that they can be by themselves, can be themselves and can be themselves publicly and around others(unlike Elsa). I also hope they learn that they can depend on some people and be vulnerable and need help every now and then. It is okay to fall in love. It is okay to see someone and lose yourself as long as they never ask you to lose your _self. People so often underestimate the value of that little blank space.
There is a Disney Princess who demonstrates all the strength of Merida, but whose story arc covers a different chapter of life. It came out 23 years ago. It is the story of a girl who dreams of a life greater than her own. She dreams of a life far greater than anyone she has ever seen or met or heard of. She knows what true love is. It’s not clear if she knows that she’s the prettiest girl in town or perhaps the world, because that’s not really important, is it? She loves her father and trades her life for his, even though she is terrified. She runs away, but her captor risks his life to save her from a pack of wolves, maybe to drag her back, maybe because it was the right thing to do, but she nurses him back to health. When someone saves your life, return the favor and thank them. She melts his heart in that act, because he didn’t think she could care for her captor and moreover he didn’t think that anyone could care for him at all. He does something nice for her and cannot take his eyes off her as she looks over the present; he’s completely in love with her. Somehow she’s still too strong to notice. Then one magical night, just as he’s about to tell her that he loves her, she finds out that her father needs help so he sends her to him.
Of course, the movie I am talking about is Beauty and the Beast. On the last night before the curse becomes permanent, everyone else in the castle is talking about time and last chances, while the Beast is worried about looking funny. The closest he comes to considering the time is as decides to set her free, he looks at the last petal on the rose, but it doesn’t shake him. She goes back to town and accidentally sets a lynch mob after the Beast, so she rushes back to save him. The Beast was completely heartbroken and ready to die by letting Gaston kill him. All it took was hearing her voice and he fought for himself. In a moment when all the Beast had to do was listen to Gaston and “let him go” for Gaston to plummet to his death, humanity suddenly flashed across his brow and he put Gaston down safely and let him leave. Gaston of course stabs him in return and then falls to his own death as a royal idiot. Belle realizes how important the Beast was and what feelings he’s awoken in her. The spell is broken and they live happily ever after.
This is what I want in a daughter. This is what I want in a wife. This is what I want for the women in my life. I think women should be open to falling in love. I think most of the awesome women I know can fall in love and get married and pop out kids and not lose their identities. I think most of them haven’t lived their lives looking for a man to give them purpose. Yeah, so screw that not getting married and not falling in love nonsense. If you think you’re a strong and independent woman, there is nothing to fear as long as you look beyond the fur and into the heart of the Beast. That is what I will teach my daughter if I ever have one. There is no better story.
Also, if that is Merida’s next story, more power to her. Screw all the internet horse hockey about it being a sellout if she hits puberty and falls in love and raises fine, fun children that are boys and girls and independent and happy and awesome characters themselves. Screw them all even more if she falls in love with a girl. Keeping love out of the story and keeping beauty out of a character is the saddest halfhearted and quarter brained attempt at feminism I’ve ever heard of. My little angels will be beautiful little cherubs and taught that they are so. They will also be taught that their beauty is of little importance in the grand scheme of things. Hopefully they’ll learn that the important people are the ones who feel that way about them.