Princess Brea's Journey in Age of Resistance

The Jim Henson Company is no stranger to princesses. There have been a number of fairy tale specials featuring princesses alongside his famous Muppet characters. However, the princesses in these specials are usually human women interacting with puppets. The reason for this is probably that princesses are generally perceived as elegant graceful women, while puppets tend to be used for comic relief. That was not the case, however, in Jim Henson's 1982 classic film The Dark Crystal. This movie created a much darker and more serious take on the original puppetry style of storytelling he became famous for in an epic fantasy setting. This weekend, Netflix premiered its Dark Crystal spin-off series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, which marks the first time that I have ever seen the Jim Henson Company use puppets to portray fantasy princess characters.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance contains three princess sisters named Seladon, Tavra, and Brea. Each one wears a different colored circlet around her long blonde hair to signify her rank. I loved Brea's braids and netted ponytails that looked more regal than many hairstyles I've seen on real-life princesses or princess actresses. Brea and her sisters belong to a race that originated in the theatrical version of The Dark Crystal known as the Gelfling. Gelfling appear to be human-like in nature with smaller noses and large pointy ears reminiscent of elves. The series portrays the power struggle between the Gelfling and the Skeksis, a larger bird-like race that manipulates the Gelfling for power. Instead of a queen, the three princesses are daughters of a Gelfling who is referred to as the All-Maudra, a political figure who is really a pawn of the Skeksis' maniacal schemes. Though Seladon, Tavra, and Brea all have their own roles to play in Age of Resistance, Princess Brea is the one whose story we follow the closest. Brea shares the role of the series protagonist with fellow heroes Rian and Deet.

What I loved about Brea was that she reminded me of the classic Disney Princess tropes while not being shoehorned in as a love interest or a fighter. It was a breath of fresh air after so many recent attempts to apologize for the gentle nature of princesses in the media. Brea is unapologetically kind and intelligent. Like Snow White, she has a natural instinct around animals that cause them to feel comfortable around her. She often gets chastised for spending too much time in the castle library, which reminded me of Belle. When she discovers a magical symbol in one of her books that she feels could be important to the future of Thra, her curiosity gets the better of her like Ariel, and she insists on investigating. Her journey leads her into slavery as punishment, but like all princesses, she values her freedom above all else and runs away. It is then that she discovers a powerful secret underneath the castle that she brings to her mother's attention in spite of dire risks. Even though she carries all of these wonderful princess personality traits, she still managed to surprise me by not falling in love when she met the hero Rian. Instead, Rian fell for another heroine named Deet, and Brea carries herself solely by her own self-worth instead of by her importance to another character.

Brea stands out from her two sisters because of her innocence and generosity, traits that fantasy princesses are uniquely prone to. She discovers that the Skeksis are using her family for their own selfish desires because she actually takes the time to get to know them instead of just listening to what other people tell her like her sisters do. Princess Tavra is a strong warrior, but she lacks Brea's ingenuity and compassion, which is probably why the series never focuses on her efforts. Princess Seladon, on the other hand, is a power-hungry misguided pawn to the Skeksis just like her mother until Brea helps her see the light. Seladon sees herself as superior to Brea because she never questions their authority no matter how much she should. That is why Brea is the true heroine of the Age of Resistance. Her unwavering moral compass allows her to see right through the Skeksis' wicked schemes and carry Thra into a new age of benevolence not through strength and dominance, but through love and understanding.

I saw the original Dark Crystal a long time ago and remember very little of it except that the Gelfling race is a matriarchy in which the dominant females possess wings and the ability to fly. I'm very happy for fans of the movie that were able to experience Age of Resistance on Netflix this weekend because it contains a great deal of valuable exposition that they might have been wondering about for a long time. For me personally, I felt that the backstory was a little too heavy-handed and that the series was often trying too hard to be an over-the-top fantasy epic like Lord of the Rings. However, Princess Brea made this ten-episode season well worth watching for me. She is everything that I believe a modern princess should be while still possessing the same flaws as any other human or Gelfling. Brea is my favorite princess that the Jim Henson Company has created thus far.


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