x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

You don't need a prince to live happily ever after

Girls need strong role models who aren't afraid to speak their minds, not swooning damsels in distress conveniently falling asleep until their prince arrives.

I finally watched a movie I've been meaning to for a while: Disney/Pixar's Brave, which won Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars last month.

Teenagers don't like to admit that they still enjoy Disney movies, or any animated movie, really. It means sharing a movie theatre with squalling children who dissolve into uncontrollable giggles when the princess meets the prince. It would injure our pride to announce to our peers that we love the decidedly uncool idea of a happily-ever-after carriage ride into the glorious sunset.

Nevertheless, Disney clearly strikes a chord with a large number of us. Teenage girls can identify with the Disney dream of finding a handsome royal boyfriend and spending their life singing in pretty dresses. It makes an attractive alternative to puzzling over integration and trigonometry.

Unusually - and to the chagrin of Disney princess movie aficionados - there was no handsome prince in Brave but instead an exploration of a teenager's troubled relationship with her mother.

With International Women's Day not far behind us, it seems timely for the film industry to be exploring the power and independence of a strong-willed young lady who doesn't need a guy to have a happy ending.

The story unfolds in a wildly beautiful Scotland of craggy mountains, lush glens and imposing castles, mists wreathing the hilltops and a plaintive Celtic melody setting the scene. You begin to have your doubts when Merida, the daughter of King Fergus of Clan DunBroch, makes an appearance as a gurgling, carrot-topped baby with a cutesy smile.

We heave a sigh of relief when the saccharine sweetness gives way to an older Merida whose curls rival the British journalist Rebekah Brooks's locks and wouldn't look out of place at a rock concert. Her resigned moaning about not being able to get away with anything, unlike her annoying baby brothers, kindles in our hearts sympathy for a fellow teenager being persecuted by the world, as usual.

When Merida's mother, Elinor, tells her daughter that she is betrothed to one of her family's allied clans, Merida throws a little tantrum, and we nod in approval.

A series of wacky events follow, turning Elinor rather ludicrously into a bear. Merida and her mother, who are initially always at war about manners, appearance and the importance of being a "good princess", slowly learn to appreciate each other's point of view. Parents' favourite pastime seems to be nagging their young offspring as much as humanly possible, and we answer spiritedly with as much rebellion as we can manage without being turned out of the house.

Disney finally seems to have realised that their heroines can manage perfectly well without each movie ending with wedding bells ringing out. Girls need strong role models who aren't afraid to speak their minds, not swooning damsels in distress conveniently falling asleep until their prince arrives.

Brave heralds a new era of Disney movies, and can prove inspiring stuff for a new generation of freethinkers.

 

The writer is a 17-year-old student in Dubai