I’m a little late to this princess party, but this was something I took personally. I was a bit of a feisty tomboy with a princess streak growing up, and it’s been interesting to watch where each of my six daughters has fallen on the spectrum. But like me, they weren’t as concerned about how a heroine looked. It was about her character. We admired that each Disney princess was a strong, independent woman, even if she did end up falling for her Prince Charming.
Then along came Merida in the Oscar-winning Brave. She was head and shoulders above the others in her determination no to be put on the typical princess track — so much like my daughter, Deirdre. (Though she is not a fellow ginger, Deirdre even has the long, curly — often tameless — locks that Merida has.)
Now I was not a mom who shunned Barbie dolls or princess parties — I’m teaching my girls that a woman can be smart and beautiful, rugged and feminine — but it was disappointing to discover that Disney had given Merida a glam makeover.
The creator and co-director of Brave — who memorably thanked her daughter for being an inspiration when accepting the Academy Award for animated feature film — called the makeover “atrocious.” The new image also seemed in direct contrast to the promotional video that Disney put out at the same time entitled “I Am a Princess” that celebrates being “normal” while still doing great things.
Sure, you could argue that the new image was simply Merida a few years older. But how could you argue that a young girl who couldn’t be bothered with the constraints of fashion would suddenly look like a runway model? She sprouted luxurious eyelashes, lost her normal-sized waistline — and where were her bow, quiver, and arrows?!
Now, being the strong, independent girl that she is, Deirdre rolled her eyes at this development and didn’t let it bother her. But she agreed that we should still speak up and let Pixar and co. know that we feel they have betrayed the very essence of Merida’s story. That the heroine of Brave is all about breaking the mold, not conforming to it.
And it seems Disney has responded to the backlash. If you go to her page on their website now, there is no sign of the made-over Merida. The original may look a little out of place in the line-up of doe-eyed princesses, but that’s the way we like her. Power to the “normal” princesses.
UPDATE: Apparently the success of the petition regarding Merida by change.org has prompted them to take on another Disney princess. They are now asking that Mulan be returned to her normal appearance.