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Jenn Lantrip | Weekend

More than girl power.

Letting loose

Who was your favorite action hero when you were a kid?

If you were a “normal” guy, you can probably name three, easily. They inspired you, made some of your weaknesses seem like strengths, taught bravery and made you feel invincible. If you were a “normal” girl, you’re probably still racking your brain and only coming up with a Powerpuff Girl or two.

The first female action hero for kids in recent memory hits theaters Friday, June 22, courtesy of Pixar and Disney. Girls will get a female warrior to look up to — one who’s not just another princess.

“Brave” features Merida, a far-from-refined ginger who is better at archery than all the boys. But is this reason enough to be hopeful for the future of female heroes?

Strength, courage, individuality, invincibility and bravery are still lacking in many conventional female leads.

If women do possess these characteristics, like Pocahontas or Ariel, they end up relying on a guy to rescue them or get them out of hot water.

Female leads — and especially princesses — always end up in over their heads and have to recognize their own incompetence. Or they only show courage and tenacity when fighting for love.

As much as we pretend to have grown as a society, our pop culture is still gender biased. Even with heroines like Lara Croft and Zoe Saldana’s Colombiana, who are tough and skilled, we still see women objectified and painted as sex objects.

Why do women always have to fight crime in bras and shorts? That’s a little impractical, right?

The message is that we can only be tough if we are gorgeous at the same time, and we have to prove ourselves 10 times over just to be allowed to play with the boys. Even with this poor history of female portrayals in popular media, some are hopeful for the future.

Yes, with “Brave,” girls get their hero. One.

That doesn’t mean the industry is going to change overnight or that we’ve reached a feminist pinnacle.

Women in TV commercials are still constantly in bikinis for no apparent reason. They never seem to age over 30, except when a housewife is showing America how great Swiffers are. Lately, we’ve seen more strong female leads in movies and TV shows.

The alumnae of “Saturday Night Live” are making their mark with hits like “30 Rock,” “Parks and Rec” and “Bridesmaids,” but that can hardly be called progress.

It’s a drop in the bucket.

Lucille Ball had her own show more than 60 years ago, and mainstream women’s roles are just now changing into something more than buffoons who need Rickys to clean up their messes.

“Brave” is definitely a step in the right direction, but a tough-girl role model shouldn’t be a novelty, just like “the first Black Disney princess” shouldn’t be a token event. 

We need more female leads, more Black leads that aren’t recreations of stereotypes, more Latinos in positive roles and more examples of what female empowerment can look like in dominant culture.

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