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The Movie “Brave”: Has Disney Gifted Us with a Princess Who Is Single at Heart?

“I don’t want to get married. I want to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen firing arrows into the sunset.”

That line was actually not spoken by the brave star of the movie “Brave,” Princess Merida. But it so beautifully captured how Merida really does feel. Her father (King Fergus), who is as big and oafish as she is tiny and trim, gets it.

Early in the movie, King daddy gives Merida the present that will be the symbol of her bravery and talent and lust for the path less chosen. It is a bow from which she can shoot all of those arrows that will skewer beasts and monsters and myths about poor miserable single people who want nothing more than to become un-single.

When Merida puts her bow down for a moment, her mother admonishes her: “A lady does not place her weapon on the table.”

That was one of the most delicious conversational nuggets exchanged between mom (Queen Elinor) and Merida as the Queen tries to shape Merida into a proper young woman and boring, conventional prince-addled princess. Merida is having none of it. If she knew the lingo, she would no doubt tell her mother and the rest of the kingdom that she is single at heart.

When the Queen was at wit’s end in her quest to tame her red-headed daughter, her husband suggested that they practice what the Queen could say in a little role play exercise. That’s when he gifted us with his great quip about wanting to stay single, riding through the glen and into the sunset.

In a review of “Brave” in the New York Times, Manohla Dargis beautifully captures Merida’s love of her single life:

“When she takes a breather, surveying the land (this is her land, you sense) while Angus [her horse] rolls on the grass like a puppy, you see her at peace with herself. It’s a welcome, unusually introspective interlude that slips into the ecstatic when she scrambles up a rock wall and twirls on its summit, laughing, happy, free and alone…You see what she sees and loves, and later, when she rebels against the queen, you understand what’s at stake for her: pleasure, independence, transcendence.”

Before I go to a movie, I read only enough about it to know whether I want to see it. Then later, if the movie was sufficiently interesting to keep pondering, I read a bunch of reviews. With “Brave,” I was a bit perplexed by the middle of the movie. It had too much of an action-adventure feel to it, and not enough of that wonderful repartee about marriage and conventions and single life that I loved so much in the first part.

Some reviewers liked the middle. Others implied that all of that breathless chasing around of beasts was a way of persuading the little boys that this princess movie was for them, too.

I’ll say a bit about the end of the movie in the next paragraph. It is not a full-out spoiler, but you can stop reading after this paragraph if you don’t even want to see a hint. Do post your own comments about the movie, though. I’m eager to hear what others thought of it.

The friend with whom I went to see “Brave” said she thought it was odd that in a tale about a daughter aspiring for independence, Merida would have her mother right there alongside her (though not exactly in human form) all through the adventurous middle of the movie. I thought the ending was surprising in its relevance to a hot issue of the day – young adults’ decisions about whether to stay in the family home (or return to it) rather than head out on their own.

Photo by Soren Niedziella, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.

The Movie “Brave”: Has Disney Gifted Us with a Princess Who Is Single at Heart?

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single." Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2012). The Movie “Brave”: Has Disney Gifted Us with a Princess Who Is Single at Heart?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 6, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Jul 2012
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