Much has been made of Brave’s "warrior princess," who marks the first female heroine in Pixar history, but I must say Merida is much more Ariel than Joan of Arc. Like the little mermaid, Merida is resentful of her refined rearing and makes a selfish choice which threatens to destroy her family and kingdom. Once both animated princesses start living the consequences of their mistakes, both eventually take responsibility to right their own wrongs. But, is this "brave" or is this just survival? The lesson in responsibility is valuable, but surely there are better examples to share with our daughters.
As I sat down to dig into the cinematic archives to find the bravest animated female protagonists of all time, my teenage son said to me "Enjoy the '90s." He’s right. For the most part, the world of animation didn’t really catch on that women could be as fierce as men until 20 years ago. Snow White and Cinderella didn’t exactly have spines of steel. Now, plenty of positive female role models exist, but to be one of the bravest, the movie has to be the heroine’s story and she can’t just be undoing some mess she got herself into – she has to take proactive steps in courage.
Belle, Beauty and the Beast. Belle had me at "Goodbye Gaston." Belle’s fortitude comes from a self-confidence in knowing who she is and what is right, whether she’s politely rejecting a popular and handsome suitor or standing up to a fearsome beast. Belle is the daughter we all hope to raise… well, except for the part where she falls in love with her captor.
Mulan, Mulan. Mulan certainly shows her mettle when she takes her ailing father’s place in the Chinese army to fight in a war. But to show the depth of her valor, let’s make it personal. Put my life on the line for my family and country? Absolutely! Cut off all my hair and look like a boy? No way! Mulan has gumption only a woman can understand.
Miss Bianca, The Rescuers. The term "timid as a mouse" does not apply to Miss Bianca, a sophisticated and fearless agent of the Rescue Aid Society. She unflinchingly stands up to alligators, guns and a crazy pawnshop owner named Medusa, all to help a stranger in need.
Chihiro/Sen, Spirited Away. In a moment of gluttony, Chihiro’s parents are turned into pigs. The 10-year old is no match for the frightening monsters and witches, so the clever girl uses her brain to save herself and her family from the spirit world.
Susan Murphy/Ginormica, Monsters v. Aliens. Many girls shirk at the idea of dating a guy an inch shorter than them, much less 44 feet shorter. However, Susan finds the positive aspects of wearing XXXXXXXXXL clothing and saves the world and her friends, even when it means she’ll have to stay ginormous forever.
All are great movies to own, but here are three films to see in theaters this weekend with your family.
Brave. Don’t get me wrong, Brave is a PHENOMENAL movie to see alone or with your kids. The film does have a secret plot point so try and see it opening weekend before the surprise gets out.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. Alex the Lion is a showman and watching him and the rest of the Bronx Zoo trying to return home from Africa is pure popcorn entertainment and, just like Alex, a real crowd pleaser.
The Avengers. The super superhero movie is still showing in theaters. There’s a reason. It’s time to assemble your family to find out what the buzz is about.
To see what kids think about these movies, go to www.KidsPickFlicks.com, where all kids are movie critics.