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Many have said that "Brave" is the full actualization of the heroine lead that Disney has ever done, but they happen to skimp over Disney's previous attempts to show the adventurous woman that acted as vital stepping stones in a long learning process , like in the case of "Pocahontas". The character of Pocahontas is a "proto-Merida", as she has the free spirit, grasp of the elemental and belief in something outside her reach and grows to be a stronger person in the end, like the newer princess. But unlike Pocahontas, Merida is younger, does not have a love triangle attached to her and seemingly takes a greater role in her kingdom than just clinging to a settler before dad bashed his head in. "Pocahontas" played it safe with it's historical setting, giving the leading lady little personality beside what the musical numbers say about her. "Brave" takes the plunge to dive and expand the type of character, has more than fiery red hair with spunk and has a better story to go along with. "Pocahontas" was the first lesson. "Brave" was the success.
Pocahontas is a beautiful Disney movie, but Merida in Brave is a kick-ass.
Turning a little Indian girl into an adult love interest for the white guy is creepy and weird, sorry.