Disney recently gave Merida, the protagonist of Brave, a makeover in preparation for her “coronation” as a Disney princess. Merida was made thinner with a bigger chest and a more “princess-worthy” dress. She was painted up and had her wild red hair tamed, and her bow and arrow was replaced with a sash around her waist.
Fans were outraged by Disney’s attempt to sexualize Merida, and a petition was started on Change.org to revert Merida back to her original design. As the first, and only, female lead in a Pixar film, Merida was supposed to be a role model for little girls. Instead, she became just another pretty princess — all sparkle and no substance.
“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,” the Change petition reads. “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.”
At the time of this writing, the petition had received 197,036 signatures — 2,964 short of its 200,000 signature goal. But that number was enough to change Disney’s mind about Merida’s makeover. Even though Merida was a princess, she broke tradition and caused chaos in her kingdom by refusing to be defined by her nobility. It was something that hadn’t been done before in a Disney/Pixar film, and it was in danger of being erased in the stroke of a makeup artist’s brush.
When the first trailer for Brave was revealed in 2011, co-director Mark Andrews said of Merida, “She isn’t your typical princess. She’s your anti-princess … She wants to get out in the outdoors of the Highlands, escaping from castle life and exploring the woods.”
It appears that Disney is done messing with Merida. Now if only we could say the same about the other princesses.
What did you think of Merida’s makeover?