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What Makes Girls “Brave”?

Posted by Vincent DiCaro

Each week, we will post a review of one of the four films National Fatherhood Initiative has nominated for the 2012 Fatherhood Movie of the Year. These will not be your typical movie reviews, but will instead focus on what in particular makes the movie a good “fatherhood movie.” Our fourth and final entry is on Brave. Reminder: Vote daily through midnight, February 24th.

I can’t say that I have read a ton of articles about women in business or sports, but many of the ones that I have read have a common thread running through them – successful women in business and sports had great dads.  

brave disney

I am not sure what the conventional wisdom is on this topic, but from the various public education campaigns I have seen, and the mentoring programs that businesses run, it seems that the attitude is that women need to see other strong women in order to become strong themselves. This may very well be the case, but it appears to only be part of the story.  

Moreover, the research on the unique effects that fathers have on their children consistently shows that fathers, more than mothers, instill a sense of adventure in their children, encourage safe risk taking, and help them see beyond narrow definitions of what is “expected” of each gender.  

If you apply that research to what it takes to thrive in the business or sports worlds (or anywhere), there is a very strong case for the importance of fathers in helping their children, including girls, become successful.  

What does this have to do with the movie Brave? While Brave is a decidedly mother-daughter story, it was actually the father, Fergus, who, from the very beginning of the story, encouraged his daughter Merida’s adventurous spirit. It was mom who had to “come around” to the idea of her daughter wanting to delay marriage, ride horses, and become an expert archer. Dad “got it” all along.  

While the good folks at Pixar may not have realized it, they were tapping into the truths unearthed in the research I mentioned above (all of which can be found in our Father Facts publications).  

This is why we have nominated Brave for the Fatherhood Movie of the Year. There have certainly been criticisms of the treatment of men and boys in the film. Many of the male characters are childish, violent, immature, and stupid. Even Fergus has moments like that. But at the heart of the father’s character is his love for his daughter and the unyielding support he gives her, even as she makes “unconventional” decisions. Moreover, he has a very loving and affectionate relationship with his wife, to the point where he embarrasses Merida with his public displays of affection.

So, for depicting a loving father and husband who encourages his daughter’s adventurous spirit and unashamedly loves his wife, Brave is up for Fatherhood Movie of the Year.

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Topics: fatherhood, parenting, family, movies, kids, entertainment, oscars, teen

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