25 Disney characters that are actually good role models

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1. Merida (Brave)

Not only does Merida defy the social and gender norms of medieval Scotland, but she’s got some pretty substantial archery skills. Plus, her journey with her mother is genuinely touching and inspiring without becoming entirely saccharine.

But things don’t start out well for Merida and her mother, Queen Elinor. Merida is firmly a tomboy, or at least as much as she can be as a princess in rural medieval Scotland. She gallops about on her gigantic horse and shoots at stuff with her arrows. However, her mom says that Merida is growing too old for such things. Now, she says, is the time for uncomfortable dresses and finding a suitable husband.

Merida is having none of that naturally, and thus begins her adventure in the nearby forest, where she meets a witch and eventually turns her mother and young triplet brothers into bears. Things start to get complicated when she realizes that having a bear mother is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Brave beautifully tells the story of a complicated relationship between mother and daughter, and how both people involved can come to a deeper and more compassionate understanding of one another. It’s a powerful message for a kids’ movie, and delivered by not one, but two powerful heroines.