Merida, Disney-Pixar’s first female lead, is my spirit animal. Or at least, her hair is.
Where was this character when I was a little girl? Despite graduating college wearing Mickey Mouse ears (no, really), I never really related to most of the Disney Princesses. Belle was a book nerd and I coveted her library and still to this day dream of swinging on a ladder in a bookshop. Ariel and Jasmine both dreamed of far off lives. Mulan fought the Huns (the real Mulan’s story is much more awful than the Disney version would have you believe). Sleeping Beauty is kind of creepy, but I remain taken by the Russian folk art style. Even the princesses who did nothing except be princesses were still compassionate and kind and generally lovely people.
But in the end, they found love, and all stopped dreaming or fighting.
Anyone who says they don’t love a good sappy love story is a liar, but it was time for a change. Enter Merida, the fiery Scottish warrior princess. She rides horses and climbs waterfalls. She fights bears and shoots arrows. But she does it all while looking awesome. She’s also the first curly girl princess. Curly hair is typically only for villains or awkward nerds who get a makeover, but Merida’s red fiery locks can’t be tamed. They don’t try to make Merida one of the boys, which I appreciate. She’s still an adolescent girl who fights with her mom and is stubborn and sometimes selfish and emotional. Pixar nailed the relationships with both her parents – graceful mom and dorky dad.
There have been lots of other princesses who fight getting betrothed against their will, but they always eventually end up with their true love. Merida just decides she’s not ready to get married to anyone because she’s young and still has stuff to do.
Admittedly, though, it’s not Pixar’s best. It’s not terribly original except in that Merida doesn’t have a love interest. It’s no Up or WALL-E. It’s still a fairytale, with all the magic and adventure, but none of the romance. Of course, none of that stops it from being awesome and beautiful or stopped me from crying my eyes out.
Watching Merida was like watching 14 year old me, curly hair and everything. Except that I was always really, really bad at archery (which apparently is cool now, thanks Katniss!) and I’ve never gotten above a trot while horseback riding. And if we’re being totally honest, I’ve never fought a bear in Scotland.
She’s wild in a way we haven’t seen in even the most badass of princesses, in a way that all of us travelers, adventurers, and free spirits can relate to. I’m thrilled Disney has written a character like her, for girls like me.
Now, where’s my red curly wig? Do they make princess costumes in adult sizes?