This is a fabulous response from Brenda Chapman (@brenda_chapman), one of the main writers behind Brave, whom I discovered when she started following me on Twitter (small world), where she answers the question of whether princesses are bad for girls:
In the past couple of decades, in an obvious effort to toughen up those princesses in filmic versions, there have been varieties to that plot. We’ve seen that in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, as well as DreamWorks’ Fiona in Shrek, to name just a few. But in the end, their adventures (and the plot still) mostly revolves around the age-old beloved prince or love interest, who invariably saves them from some foul fate in the end.
But if you look at real princesses, they were basically working girls. Pampered in their times maybe, but nonetheless, they had a job to do for their kingdoms, whether it be as a diplomat or as a bargaining “tool” to bring kingdoms together in alliance. I think there was little waiting around for true love and eternal happiness in their lives. And back in the days in which the fairy tales of old were written, marriage was one of the most important jobs of a princess. It was part of their job, not simply a romantic notion.
When I came up with the idea for Princess Merida in Brave, that was how I looked at the story. The Queen was a working mom trying to prepare her daughter for her “job” in the kingdom. I wanted to break the stereotype of the princess, as well as the princess plot. There were princesses that were trained for battle in some kingdoms. They knew how to wield a sword, knife and bow and arrow because they had to. They also had to know how to deal with the politics of a kingdom and hold their own as a royal. No romantic princes or love interests in Brave—I at least made sure of that.
My daughter, Lauca (aged 7) went and saw the film tonight with Bill, her dad. I asked her if she thought it was feminist and she said, yes, VERY. Then she gave me a long, favourable review and a discussion of the major plot developments, which involved lots of bears. Bill said, feminists are bears, or that is what I took home from this film, anyway. I punched him in the arm.