Rating: PG
Released: 2012
Run Time: 93 minutes
Directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell

Cultural Rating: pawpawpawpaw

Overall, this film does an excellent job of challenging traditional roles regarding femininity.


Princess Merida and her mother, the Queen, don’t always agree on the ways princesses should behave, but when Merida seeks out a witch to change her mother, changes occur that she never expected.


Language: 0 poo(s)

Violence: poo

  • No gore
  • Slapstick violence
  • Punching
  • Body slamming
  • Shooting arrows at one another
  • Fistfights
  • Sword fight
  • Someone throws an axe and shoots an arrow at a taxidermy bear
  • Arrows are shot at an actual bear
  • Bear fight
  • Threat that involves skinning and decapitation

Sex: poo

  • Minimal sexual content- kissing
  • Briefly see grown men’s buttocks and babies’ buttocks

Drugs and Alcohol: 0 poo(s)

  • No blatant drug or alcohol use

Cultural Analysis



  • Merida challenges gender roles regarding femininity even as a little girl as she is active and playful. For example, Merida learns to use a bow and arrow at a young age. Additionally, Merida challenges gender roles regarding femininity as a young woman. For example, Merida has unruly hair, does not like studying, rides horses, rock climbs, says “I’m starving,” likes food, is skilled at the bow and arrow, hunts, and knows how to fight.
  • Also, Merida rips her restrictive dress (representative of her mother’s attempt to contain and feminize Merida) to win her own hand in marriage by proving she is more skilled at the bow and arrow than her male suitors.
  • Merida’s father, Fergus, is progressive in terms gender expectations regarding his daughter. For example, Fergus encourages Merida to be active by giving her a bow and arrow when she is a child.
  • Although Fergus may be the King, it is really the Queen, Elinor, who runs the kingdom. For example, the Queen orchestrates the competition for her daughter’s hand in marriage and also regularly disciplines the different clans when they become unruly.
  • As the movie progresses, Elinor challenges traditional gender roles regarding femininity as she becomes more active (hunting, protecting her daughter). Further, Elinor ultimately allows her daughter to have agency by not forcing Merida to marry.


  • Even though every character is white, we see a culture (Scottish) not usually represented in Disney movies.

Sexual Orientation: N/A


  • Fergus had his leg bitten off by a bear and has to use a wooden leg. He is still able to fight, be King, and appear masculine. This is important because oftentimes in the media people with disabilities are depicted as powerless, evil, less attractive or as overcoming a disability.


  • Merida’s body does not conform to the typical Disney princess’s ideal body type. For example, Merida has unruly hair and does not have an exaggerated, overly sexualized body.
  • Fergus is depicted as fat-bodied yet he is powerful and caring. For example, Fergus is regularly shown to have a voracious appetite in the film. This is important because it challenges the common stereotypes surrounding fat-bodied individuals in the media such as those that suggest fat-bodied people are lazy, powerless, and evil.



  • Elinor regularly attempts to force Merida into a rigid gender role regarding femininity. The Queen is constantly reminding Merida what it means to be a princess and how Merida does not fit into that role because of her unruly behavior and appearance. For example, when Fergus gives Merida a bow, Elinor says “a bow, Fergus, she’s a lady.” Further, every time Merida is adventurous (doesn’t conform to gender roles) she gets into trouble or Elinor reacts in a negative way.
  • In addition, masculinity is associated with muscles and active feats (battles at war, killing), and the men perform masculine feats to prove their worth (tug-of-war, bow and arrow, fighting).


  • No racial or ethnic diversity.

Sexual Orientation:

Disability: N/A


  • All of Merida’s suitors are grotesque in some way (tall and gangly, fat-bodied, and depicted as unintelligent), and thus unworthy of her hand in marriage.
  • The witch Merida consults is grotesque (old, has hairs on her chin, missing teeth, very short, hunchback, knobby hands) and is depicted as neglectful and kooky.
  • The evil bear is grotesque (scarred, appears blind in one eye, has arrows stuck in his back) and is depicted as a villain.

Suggested talking points

  • A common theme in Disney films is romantic love between a man and a woman. Merida resists this idea and shows that happiness is possible without having to fall in love.
  • Elinor gets mad at Merida when Merida doesn’t adhere to stereotypical gender roles. Even though Elinor is strict with Merida in the beginning of the film, Elinor eventually realizes that it is ok to deviate from expected gender roles. It is important to note that women do not have to adhere to strict gender roles and can participate in activities that are typically reserved for men.
  • This film suggests that family relationships are just as important, if not more important, than romantic relationships.
  • Some cultures still practice pre-arranged marriage, where daughters and sons have very little, or no, say in who they marry. This is an excellent starting point to talk about differences that are not common to Western culture. Just because men and women in Western countries can generally choose whom they marry, it does not mean that people who have different practices are bad or wrong.

Keywords: Disney, brave, movie, gender, progressive, four paws, 4 paws, animated, family, merida, princess, princess merida

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