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And she does it all in a dress.
"Merida is not trying to pass herself off as anything other than a girl," the producer said. "She just wants to be her own person."
Rupert Sanders, the director of "Snow White and the Huntsman" released earlier this month, said the heroic journey of his princess (played by Kristen Stewart) makes her "almost the female Luke Skywalker."
The princesses' desire to shape their own lives rather than rush into marriage reflects a real trend of women marrying later or not at all, Sternheimer said. It's also a concept familiar to teenagers today, who often think about work and college before wedding bells.
But the stories of these empowered princesses still adhere to some less-than-empowered ideas. Princesses still have to be beautiful and attractive to men, and the stories' central conflicts still pit women against each other.
"They're empowered, but they still have a nemesis and she's female," Sternheimer said. "The battle between women is so central in pop culture. Any 'Real Housewives' franchise is a battle between women."
"I think it's a challenge to feminism," she continued. "Obviously feminism can't really work because women can't get along."
But at least at the movies this summer, everyone can see they can be powerful, independent princesses.
"My hope is that it's not just a moment; It's the new phase of things that become a new reality," the "Brave" producer said. "My goal is for it not to be exceptional. Let's get to the place where it's like breathing, where we take it for granted, like women voting, and boys and girls will come to the movies for good stories, regardless of gender."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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