The news came in a press release today, “Disney today proudly welcomed Merida from Disney∙Pixar’s Academy Award® winning film, “Brave,” into the Disney Princess royal court.”
I suppose that would have been fine but Disney went a step further – they decided to tart up Merida. “The animated character has received a head-to-toe makeover — she’s thinner, her eyes are wider,” according to the Huffington Post.
A Mighty Girl, a female empowerment website, has launched a petition on Change.org to convince Disney to leave Merida alone. Clearly, she has a loyal fanbase — the petition has almost 19,000 signatures.
The letter on Change.org reads, in part:
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.
Here’s how Slate summed up this royal mess:
To a certain extent, Disney’s attempts to democratize what it means to be a princess are admirable. But two restrictions remain. You have to be young. You have to have a very particular body type and long, perfect hair. The edits to Merida reflect those priorities. Her famous hair, which took six Pixar employees—a mix of artists and engineers—three years to design, has been smoothed out, made less kinky, less frizzy, and less alive. Her waist has been slimmed down, emphasizing her breasts, but at the expense of Merida’s solid frame, which is a real shame given the way Brave celebrated Merida’s pleasure in her body’s capacities.
If it’s important that girls of color and girls of different economic classes be able to recognize themselves and find aspirational stories in the Disney Princess line, why shouldn’t it also matter that girls with wild hair and variable body types see themselves there too?