The Upshot on Princess Merida in Disney/Pixar’s Brave: Why the Tomboy Trajectory Is Off Target
2. Plot Summary
3. Merida as a Quintessential Tomboy
Merida: I will NEVER be like you! [Merida sticks the tip of her sword into her mother’s tapestry]Queen: NO! Stop that!Merida: I’d rather DIE than be like you![Merida suddenly slashes the tapestry, after which the queen throws Merida’s bow into a burning fire]
3.1. Tomboyism as Dilatory Tactic on Path to Adulthood
[Merida begins to cry and kneels before her mother]. Oh, mom, I’m sorry. This is all my fault. I did this to you, to us. [She tearfully hugs her mother]. You’ve always been there for me. You’ve never given up on me. I just need you back. I want you back, mommy. I love you.
3.2. Hegemonic Masculinity
King: [Holding a big drumstick with bites taken out]: From nowhere, the biggest bear you’ve ever seen! Its hide littered with the weapons of fallen warriors. Its face scarred with one dead eye. I threw my sword and…Merida: [Interrupts with excitement]: Whoosh! One swipe, his sword shattered, then, chomp! Dad’s leg was clean off! Down that monster’s throat it went!King: Aww! That’s my favorite part!Merida: Mor’du has never been seen since. And he’s roaming the wild, awaiting his chance for revenge. [Merida makes a rrrahr sound like a bear]King: Let him return. I’ll finish what I gobbled in the first place. [Merida places her bow on the table]Queen: Merida, a princess does not place her weapons on the table.Merida: Mom! It’s just my bow.Queen: A princess should not have weaponry in my opinion.King: Leave her be! Princess or not, learning to fight is essential.
4. The Emasculation of Suitors in the Archery Contest
Queen: “You just embarrassed them! You embarrassed ME!”
5. Return to a Feminine Script
“I’ve been selfish. I tore a great rift in our kingdom. There’s no one to blame but me. And I know now that I need to amend my mistake and mend our bond. And so, there is the matter of my betrothal. I decided to do what’s right, and… [looking around the room, she sees her mother in the background motioning her to change course] And … and break … tradition. [She then takes her cues from her mother who is miming what she should say]. My mother, the queen, feels … uh, in her heart, that I…that we be free to…write our own story. To follow our hearts and find love in our time. The queen and I put the decision to you, my lords. Might our young people decide for themselves who they will love?”.[italics added]
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The most notable fictional archers across all ages and gender, are listed here in descending order of a study’s respondents that mentioned the character as influential in them taking up the sport: Robin Hood (23%), Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (15%), Legolas from The Lord of the Rings franchise (14%), Princess Merida from Brave (12%), Hawkeye from The Avengers franchise (9%), and Green Arrow from the Arrow television series (9%), showing that one third of the most prominent fictional archers are female (Davis 2016).
Merida placing her bow on the table mirrors her father’s same faux pas earlier (that elicits the same criticism), an echo of the “trident and fork” theme of Disney’s Little Mermaid (Dundes and Dundes 2000).
During a joke, there may be “jabs” (short punches) prior to the “punch” line in which the “butt” is targeted that may cause the audience to crack up or be in stitches, from Old English stice, meaning “a puncture, stabbing pain” (as in having a stitch in one’s side when running). To be the late-night punch line means to be the butt of a joke on a talk show, an insult meant to connote powerlessness.
The 1970s popular joke series about screwing in lightbulbs includes an example relevant to this discussion: “How many feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? That’s not funny” (Dundes 1981). The punchline reveals that women who seek equality (and more equal power in society) lack a sense of humor; they are wet blankets unwilling to be a receptive audience that validates the status quo of men.
In the well-known nursery rhyme and song, Mary had a Little Lamb (Roud Folk Song Index 7622), a male lamb follows Mary around and looks to her for protection, emphasizing lambs’ association with meekness and vulnerability (which also explains the role of Little Bo Peep as shepherd).
Maidenhead as a term for virginity exemplifies upward displacement (Dundes 2002).
Wee Dingwall’s lucky bullseye prompts his father to dance a victory jig to taunt the fathers of the other suitors, topped off by his father lifting his kilt to reveal his own unscathed “butt” to them, declaring, “That’s my boy” (who penetrated the butt).
The game Pin the Tail on the Donkey as well as the hapless donkey Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh stories reflect this pattern (as the Latin word penis also means tail). After continuously losing his tail adorned with a feminizing pink ribbon, gloomy Eeyore must have his tail nailed back in. For both donkeys, the “ass of the ass” is impaled or pinned (with “pinned” being a term of symbolic feminization in wrestling, a male sport).
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Dundes, L. The Upshot on Princess Merida in Disney/Pixar’s Brave: Why the Tomboy Trajectory Is Off Target. Humanities 2020, 9, 83. https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030083
Dundes L. The Upshot on Princess Merida in Disney/Pixar’s Brave: Why the Tomboy Trajectory Is Off Target. Humanities. 2020; 9(3):83. https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030083Chicago/Turabian Style
Dundes, Lauren. 2020. "The Upshot on Princess Merida in Disney/Pixar’s Brave: Why the Tomboy Trajectory Is Off Target" Humanities 9, no. 3: 83. https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030083