I received a petition in my inbox last week, asking me to save Merida. For those who don’t know, Merida is the princess in Pixar’s Brave and the latest princess to be included in Disney’s official Princess Set (like some awful exclusive club!).
I haven’t seen the whole movie, but I’ve seen enough to know that Merida is awesome. She’s natural, with uncontrollable hair and normal features (no giant scary eyes for her). She’s a proper teenager who fights with her mum and thinks the world Is. Not. Fair. She wants to ride and shoot arrows and carve out her own future. She does not want to marry a prince. From the minute I learned of her existence I thought she was amazing and Pixar were brilliant for going even further than the great Rapunzel who, despite being a kick-ass Princess, still has unnatural features and the biggest eyes in the world.
So why did Merida need saving, and why did it warrant a petition? Normally the petitions I sign online are to do with Saving the NHS, or Saving Our Forests. Big causes. You wouldn’t think saving a cartoon princess – a bunch of colour pixels – would fall in the same category. But it does. Because this is what they wanted to do to Merida: They wanted to make her sexy and feminine in order to include her in the set of ‘official’ Disney Princesses. Her already fairly curvy figure was enhanced and her waist narrowed. They tamed her hair, made her dress off-the-shoulder and dropped the bow and arrow.
Okay, maybe I get the bit about losing the bow and arrow. My father used to make bows for us as kids, with real arrows carved from ash trees. The neighbours were not impressed and many an argument was had over the inappropriate nature of a toy that could take a child’s eye out. I thought they were overly protective until I had my own kids, and now I know I wouldn’t welcome a bow and arrow as a toy. Although it’s no worse than a plastic sword! And at least it was the girl wielding it – so one to right the sexist imbalance in children’s toys.
My daughter loves dressing up as a Disney Princess, although I haven’t let her watch Cinderella, Snow White or Beauty and the Beast, partly because she isn’t interested, and partly because the women are a bit pathetic. I love the way the newer princesses have gone. And I don’t mind about the merchandising. My daughter looks fab in a Snow White dress, with her modern accessories of a mobile phone and laptop. Just as my son looks rather fetching as Spiderman in heels. But really, Disney, why go to the effort of creating the best Disney Princess ever only to ruin her for the sake of making her fit?
As I researched this post, it seems the old Merida is back and it was never intended to be a permanent change, only for some merchandising. In some images the changes aren’t as extreme, and maybe it was a storm in a tea cup: it’s hard to get a straight answer with Disney staying quiet.
Maybe Disney bowed to pressure, maybe it was a cynical marketing ploy to generate publicity, maybe it was an innocent mistake. Who knows? In the end it doesn’t much matter. What is important is the level of outrage it created (although, reading some of the comments as I researched this post, it seems many people think us mothers are going nutty over nothing. Deep breath. Count to ten.)
Hopefully, eventually, big companies like Disney will learn that it is not cool to take their duty so lightly. Millions of little girls look to Disney princesses as role models and, finally with Merida, they have someone who lives up to that responsibility. Use it wisely, Disney, use it well.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
“You have reached your destination.”
The satnav’s prim voice startled Claire out of her reverie. She looked out the window, not sure what to expect. She hadn’t studied the website for this hostel and so was arriving blind. Her heart pattered anxiously, remembering her arrival at Sheringham.
“Alright, Thurlby, let’s see what you have to offer. Please be nice.”
It seemed strange pulling up outside the hostel, alone in the Skoda. There had been too much time for thought, driving north with all the Sunday commuter traffic. There wasn’t even the novelty of new, as the area was close to where she had grown up. Signs for Burghley House and Rutland Water only reminded her of rare family trips out, sibling bickering and a desire to hide.
Claire climbed out of her car and gazed up at the building. Her soul soared like a Red Kite riding a thermal. Tall Georgian sash windows beamed from deep red brick as tree branches in early bud danced over her head. Two weeks of tension drained from her shoulders as she took in the idyllic surroundings.
I don’t know what surprises me more; that these places exist as hostels, where you can stay for a tenner a night, or that I never knew they existed before I started this assignment. It felt a betrayal to be glad of anything Carl had done to her, but at that moment she was conscious of a deep sense of gratitude that she could come and stay in a Georgian Manor. By myself, for free. I’ll take it. Even if it does mean I’ll have to cycle round Rutland Water and oo-ah at Burghley. Again.
Curled up on the sofa, once more immersed in the adventures of Katniss, Claire felt like something was missing. She glanced up at the empty room, and wondered where the strange sensation was coming from. Maybe I’m hungry. Dry cereal isn’t really dinner. That will teach me not to check whether it was a catering hostel or not. Her tummy gurgled in agreement, but still that didn’t seem to be it. She glanced round the room again, and then she knew. She missed Sky. How is that possible? This is the first time I’ve felt free in a fortnight. And it was good to be alone, without the endless worry and chatter. But still, the room seemed too silent, the night stretching out before her too long.
“Ah well,” she said, her voice echoing in the quiet. “It’ll wear off.”
- Disney’s Brave Merida Sexy Makeover Sparks Angry Petition (Huffingtonpost.co.uk)
- Disney Pulls Redesigned Princess Merida After Backlash (news.moviefone.com)
- Film: Newswire: Disney quietly kills its gussied up version of Merida, the Brave princess (avclub.com)
- Be Brave Little Merida! (littlemisswordy.wordpress.com)
- Brave’s Princess Merida’s New Sexy Look Pulled by Disney (jedimouseketeer.com)
- Disney Pulls Sexy Merida Makeover After Public Backlash (jezebel.com)