Brave 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 fiancee. 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.