Will Pixar's "Brave" Have a Cool Curly-Haired Heroine at Last?

What Women Really Think
June 28 2011 10:38 AM

Will Pixar's "Brave" Have a Cool Curly-Haired Heroine at Last?

I was 10 when I began to despise my mane of curly brown hair. "You know," remarked Karen, a classmate, one day as we were waiting for our moms to grab us after school, "You would be the prettiest girl in the fifth grade if you didn’t have braces or glasses and your hair was straight." Wow, thanks Karen! I remember gushing enthusiastically. And then her words sunk in. Eventually, my braces would come off. And a couple years later, I’d spend at least an hour each morning furiously poking my eyeballs with new contacts. But that still left my hair.

If only Pixar’s new movie, Brave , had come out back then. The trailer, which premiered in theaters with Cars 2 on June 24, tells the story of a princess (Merida) who shuns her royal roots and attempts to become an archer. Her hair-an effervescent mess of red curls -appears to be an asset, not a hindrance, to her character. But the tantalizing trailer left me wondering what part the curls might play in her identity. How important will they be?  It certainly looks like the animators intended them to stand out against the sepulchral, hazy grayness of the Highlands of Scotland, the story’s backdrop:

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Growing up, curly-haired heroines (and dolls) seemed scarce. I had very few, if any, voluminous role models. And movies exacerbated my plight: Generally, a heroine cast with naturally curly hair was a bookish nerd with about as much control over her life as she had over frizz on a humid day in August.  I was told by more than one person that I looked like Anne Hathaway in the Princess Diaries before the makeover. Like Hathaway’s fake locks, my real ones snapped combs and brushes, ensnared hair ties and sent my stylist into a cold sweat. Eventually, Hathaway is transformed into a sleek, glossy goddess. She emanates confidence, standing up to a malicious Mandy Moore and eventually snagging the cute guy.

I fear that Pixar may follow the formula of the Princess Diaries : Will they straighten Princess Merida’s hair in the final scene to depict her ultimate triumph over the unruliness of her world, as Disney did with Hathaway? Or will the unruliness of her hair be part of that triumph?

If it’s the latter, perhaps Brave will help the next generation of curly-girls to feel less like outcasts, as I did, and more like part of an exclusive club. At least, it may be the next best thing to triumphant return of 80s hair, a day that every curly girl secretly dreams about.

Elizabeth Weingarten is the associate editor at New America and the associate director of its Global Gender Parity Initiative.

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