Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Educator, Author

8 Year Old Girl: What Brave Means to Me

Brave (2012 film)

This week I went to see Brave with my 8-year-old daughter, Allie.  I liked the movie and the characters. Merida’s imperfection, both physically and in her actions, resonated with me. She struck me as an authentic character who struggled with figuring out who she was and what she wanted to become. I was getting ready to write a blog post about the movie. But as I listened to my daughter talk about what she liked about Brave, I realized that instead of writing my own thoughts, I’d love to share an 8-year-old girl’s thoughts about the movie Brave and what it meant to her. Following are some questions that I asked Allie and her responses.

As a media literacy exercise, asking your children these types of questions is a great way to get them thinking about what a piece of media means. Sometimes they may surprise you with their insights, their perspective, or things that they saw that you may have missed yourself.

What did you think of Brave?

 It was different from other princess movies. All of the Disney princesses don’t look like real people. They just don’t’ have things that ordinary people would have, they’re too perfect. Merida is like a real person. She has freckles and hair that doesn’t look perfect. Her hair acts like real hair! Her brothers have ears that stick out, all the people in the story look like real people, they’re not perfect looking. I liked that.

And, Disney princesses don’t usually do anything wrong. I liked that Merida made mistakes but then was able to fix them and learn something.

I noticed that there’s not really a boy involved in the story that goes to save the day. She’s the one who’s saving the day, with her mom. In Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, the prince saves the day. But in Brave, Merida and her mom save the day, and her dad works with them, so it’s really about the family saving the day.

What did you like about Brave?

I liked how she could shoot arrows and ride horses. Even though she was a princess, she didn’t want to act all fancy and wear fancy dresses and things like that. I liked that she didn’t want to get married because most princesses in the movies really focus their life on getting married and things. Merida was different. She wanted to be a princess but be a normal person who could do her own thing.

In most Disney movies, the girl has something bad happen to her and someone saves her. In Brave something happens but she learns a lesson and has to solve the problem. The lesson was that you have to listen to somebody to solve problems in a relationship. Before you try to change someone, you need to learn to listen to him or her.

I liked the family because Merida is brave and her brothers are crazy and funny like real little boys. Her dad is kind of silly and her mom wants everyone to act the way they’re supposed to. They aren’t a perfect family, but they’re more like a real family that fights and makes up and makes mistakes and works problems out.

Disney princesses don’t usually have weapons. Somebody else fights for them. Merida fights for herself, and her mom and family fight with her. I like that they stick together.

What didn’t you like about Brave?

 I didn’t like it when Merida and her mom were fighting. They were both not listening to each other. But, I liked that they learned that they needed to listen to each other. They learned to listen to each other and understand each other’s ideas.

So Merida learned some important things in the movie. What did you learn from watching the movie? Are there ideas that you’re taking away from it? 

For a long time people have been thinking that boys do the fighting instead of the girls. That boys are stronger than girls in lots of ways. That makes me feel like girls aren’t strong enough to fight for themselves, to stand up for themselves, to be the hero who solves the problem. Seeing Merida fight for herself and her mom made me feel like girls can be the hero. As a girl, I see that people think girls aren’t strong enough to stand up for themselves, but seeing Merida makes me feel that they can.

Brave also shows boys that girls aren’t just weak and pretty, they can smart, they can be strong. Being a girl isn’t just about being pretty. That makes me feel really nice inside, that this message is getting out into the world.

Hearing Allie’s perspective was really interesting to me. Being a go-getter kind of girl herself, I thought she would like Merida’s character because of her independence and strong will. What I didn’t expect to hear were the ideas about families working together and learning to work out difficulties in relationships. I wasn’t even sure if she would notice that there was no romance in this film, as compared to other princess movies, but she did notice, and she liked that. At her age, romance isn’t high on her list of priorities, but identifying herself with strong characters is. That’s what Brave gave her the opportunity to do: See a strong girl who isn’t perfect learn how to live and love better, and how to find herself. That’s a message that I can be glad to have my daughter learn. And the fact that she’s beginning to see that media carries messages that can inform and persuade people is a huge step toward becoming a critical media consumer. Take the opportunity to talk with your children about the messages that they’re getting from the media they consume, you may be surprised at what they share with you.

26 comments on “8 Year Old Girl: What Brave Means to Me

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  3. emp
    August 9, 2012

    Thanks so much for sharing Jennifer! What a bright, articulate, wonderful daughter you have! We need to hear and see more of girls’ and women’s opinions and the full range of what we can do –i.e. that we aren’t limited!

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  5. Kim
    July 11, 2012

    Thanks for this great post – it was awesome to hear your 8 year old affirm what grown up ladies (and gents) are talking about…that Brave is a different kind of princess story, and Pixar did a fantastic job of providing a seriously great role model for young girls.

  6. Brenda Chapman
    July 11, 2012

    Hi, Jennifer. I just wanted to respond on your page, too. Allie’s insights actually made me cry in happiness. She got everything I was trying to do for girls in the film…. and moms… and the whole family! It was hard getting the movie made – but finally… success!!! Thank you, Allie!
    Brenda Chapman

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 11, 2012

      Thanks so much, Brenda! I’m going to share this with her. I imagine that is so gratifying as an artist. We’re in bear country right now, and she’s hoping to see one (from afar):)

  7. Heather Sutherlin
    July 6, 2012

    Wonderful blog post. My children (8, 10, and 12) all enjoyed the movie. I thought my son’s perspective was interesting, though. He was sad that all the men seemed dumb and not able to protect their family. Although the movie makes it look good to be a brave little girl, he walked away hurt that all the boys were either bad, disobedient, “dumb”, selfish, or all of the above. I know we have plenty of movies with boy heroes, but you would think they could have added at least one part of her family that wasn’t a bad example of what a boy/man should be.

    I was worried, too, that this movie would be anti-marriage, but my oldest daughter who always has an eye out for the romance level of any film/book, mentioned that the parents seemed really in love. Also, the movie ended with her getting to choose her spouse, not rejecting marriage altogether. I was glad for that, especially in this day and age when marriage is so often portrayed as a waste of time or a burden that holds women back from reaching their true potential.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and your daughter’s as well. We should all be encouraging our children to think through the things we place in front of them.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 6, 2012

      Hi Heather, thanks for your comment. Crystal Smith, who blogs at The Achilles Effect, noticed the same thing that you did about the male characters. Wouldn’t it be amazing if media makers could find a way to make strong, interesting characters for both sexes? My girls really liked that there were two parents who supported and loved each others, and the way the family worked together and worked out their differences. And I agree, let’s get those kids thinking about the media they consume!

  8. camille
    July 5, 2012

    So proud of Miss Allie…and her mama. Well done, you two!

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 6, 2012

      Thanks, Camille 🙂

  9. Jennifer Shewmaker
    July 5, 2012

    I just had to share this with you all, today on Twitter, Brenda Chapman, the original writer and director of Brave, told me that she had read Allie’s review, loved it and shared it on her Tubmlr. Allie is thrilled!

  10. Rubi-kun
    July 5, 2012

    I’m wondering has she seen Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind? You should show it to her. Great movie from the master animator Hayao Miyazaki. If she thought Princess Merida was cool, she’s going to love Princess Nausicaa (one warning: the monster in the film’s climax is scary even by adult standards, so definitely be there with her to hold her hand during the film).

    More good feminist-friendly cartoons: Avatar: The Last Airbender (NOT the horrid M. Night Shyamalan movie I’m trying to forget the existence of) and especially its follow-up series The Legend of Korra.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 5, 2012

      Thanks for the suggestions! Allie loves the Avatar series and Legend of Korra. ! We haven’t seen the movie, because we heard it wasn’t true to the series.We’ll have to check to the other out.

  11. Suddenly Jamie (@suddenlyjamie)
    July 2, 2012

    What a wonderful post. That’s one smart girl you’ve got there. I agree with Kitty – she may have a future as a movie critic! Very nicely done! 🙂

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 5, 2012

      Thanks for the comment, Jamie! She’s already thinking about what movie she can review next 🙂

  12. lacheshirechat
    July 1, 2012

    You have a very perspicacious daughter! I look forward to seeing her write her own Blog, maybe “Allie on Movies”. Roger Ebert needs a replacement.
    Kind regards, Kitty x

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 1, 2012

      Kitty, Allie loves that idea! I’ll have to see if I can keep her blogging with me 🙂

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  14. maggiemoosetracks
    June 29, 2012

    I love your daughter’s reflection on the movie. I too, as an adult felt the same way she answered her questions. I grew up with a brother. I was a Merida as a kid. I watched this movie with one of my 22yr old twin girls & her boyfriend. Re: triplets; I know how zany “multiples” can get… Anyway, we all loved the movie BRAVE!
    By the way, I heard dads laughing, I heard little boys laughing & talking about how “cool” the movie was as they exited the theater. This movie has something for everyone! 🙂
    My dog Maggie liked BRAVE when I told her about the Irish Wolfhounds. woof woof

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 6, 2012

      Thanks for your comment. We also noticed that little boys were enjoying the movie just as much as little girls.

  15. I had not heard of this movie but it sounds like my boys would like it. I love films with a great moral or several running through them. It was great to hear what your daughter thought.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 6, 2012

      It may not be out in the UK just yet. Let me know when it does come out there and what you all think of it. I’d love to hear your boys’ perspective 🙂

  16. Beth
    June 29, 2012

    Thaks for sharing, Allie! I am glad you saw the importance of family members supporting the unique qualities in each other!

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      July 6, 2012

      Thanks for your comment, Beth. The family theme was really important to Allie 🙂

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This entry was posted on June 29, 2012 by in Talking.
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