Well Being

Surprise! The 11th Disney Princess, Merida, To Join Ranks of Other Homogenized Princesses

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Merida from Brave before and after

Left: The new Merida. Right: The movie Merida. Boo.

I'm sad. I'm really just sad, and I know I shouldn't be, because Disney is Disney, and in order for you to be a certified, real Disney Princess, you have look a certain way. So, why, why would Disney falter in its consistency? Why would I think, after all this time and all the voices that have spoken out about Barbie and body image and all the protests surrounding Disney's message to girls—get married, long for romance—that some tiny spark of goodness would barrel through those money-making doors and change the empire?

Well, Merida—the certified badass from Brave—is being named the 11th official Disney princess on May 11. And that's awesome, because she's amazing. But obviously before they do so, they they have to give her quite the makeover. I mean, girls the world over who loved the movie MUST be phoning in to complain about Merida's looks, I assume—right? No. Well, I'm pissed, and so are plenty of others, who decided to start a protest.

A Mighty Girl, an awesome female empowerment site, initiated a petition on Change.org in order to sway Disney to stop with the redesign and let Merida be. The petition has 57,367 signatures as of today.

A Mighty Girl writes: “The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls' capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value — to be recognized as true princesses — they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.”

I proudly admit: I've seen the movie about three times. Brave boasts an awesome moral tale that largely focuses on women's strength. And, Merida, like Mulan, is a fierce woman. She's great with a bow an arrow, revolts against the idea of becoming a princess and marrying off, and loves the great outdoors. Her character is nuanced and quirky and lovable. Then, there are the people call her a “tomboy,” which annoys me, of course, because you must be a tomboy if you don't feel like getting married and would rather spend your youth doing what makes you happy, right? I just don't get it.

One of my favorite scenes in the film depicts the miserable pain of being corsetted. Merida is having none of it. So, why, after emphasizing her dislike for the corset did Disney decide to discard a couple of ribs and give her an impossible waistline? I mean, it's true—Disney princesses are big-time homegenized. They're young, and they have to be thin with perfect hair. Here I am, naively thinking we were on to the start of something. I really did believe this could have been one of the first ever feminist princess films. So, even if the Princess advertising campaign wants to soil that, at least we have the movie to compare it to:

Did you see that bouncing, playful, out-of-control hair that really separated Merida from the pack? It apparently took six Pixar folks over six years to design. Well, now it's smooth and under control, because obviously a young girl that likes to play outside, ride horses and shoot bows and arrows needs to have perfect hair? Why take what made Merida such a wonderful, special character and polish her into something sort of laughably unremarkable?

I'm not saying there aren't people with slim waists and big eyes and lovely hair. I'm just saying that to change something so drastically sends all sorts of the wrong message. Can we not make beauty ideals so obvious for the sake of money? Can we not let our women just be?

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