Disney unveiled the newest of the Disney Princesses, Princess Merida from the Academy Award winning animated film Brave, and as part of translating her from screen to full merchandise character they tweaked her appearance a bit, as you can see in the image below:
First off, you can see that the style of illustration is different, Merida from the original film looks almost like claymation or some other stop motion animation figure (especially in the rounded face) while the more traditional hand-drawn illustration on the right — the “new improved” Merida — has a slimmer waist and more mature facial features. She’s also traded her practical leather belt that holds her quiver of arrows for a more fanciful belt that looks a bit like a prize from the County Fair.
Is she more buxom in the new illustration? Maybe, or maybe not. Is she slimmer? Definitely. But not by much.
But otherwise, what do you see that’s so different that over 110,000 people have been inspired to sign a change.org petition asking Disney to “restore Merida” to her original Brave appearance? Original Brave writer Brenda Chapman (who was fired from the production before it made it to the theaters) claims the makeover is “blatant sexism”. She explains, in florid rhetoric:
“I think it’s atrocious what they have done to Merida. When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”
That would be all well and good if the original Merida in the animated feature had been overtly heavy and dressed as a tomboy, but if you look at the image above, Merida was always a pretty young woman dressed in the romanticized period garb of a peasant woman. Yes, perhaps Disney might not have needed to give the new Merida a slimmer waist, but otherwise when I look at the two images above, I don’t see that dramatic a difference, and as a father to two girls, one 16, one 9, I am very sensitized to the sexualization of women in our culture and especially those presented as “role models” by companies.
My take: If I were Disney I’d quietly let the new Merida snarf a few bacon cheeseburgers and milk shakes to end up with a princess whose waist line and bust line are a bit more similar, but otherwise the eyes really aren’t “big and sultry” and the hair looks about as wild as it does in the original film. In other words, much ado about precious little.
What’s your opinion on this brouhaha?