In another mark of ineptitude following their attempts at creating a “Skinny Minnie” and creating an anti-obesity exhibit that was stigmatizing, Disney has now given Brave‘s heroine, Merida, a significant makeover, the backlash of which caused them to remove the image on May 13 from their website. This makeover was done in order to prepare Merida for “coronation” into the Disney Princess lineup and consisted of an attempt to trim, tame, and sexualize the wild Merida that was the unkempt star of Brave.
This sexualization is the more ironic and upsetting because it goes specifically against Merida’s character and the role she played in the movie, as well as the movie’s message. The new, “improved” Merida wears makeup, has a slimmer waist, a bigger bust, and some anti-frizz treatment on her hair. Merida was one of the characters that young girls could relate to as a strong, confident girl who did not believe in conforming to societal expectations of what a princess should be.
But Disney felt that to introduce Merida as she was into the princess line would lack the standard conformity they look for: tiny waist, huge eyes, perfect makeup, and of course, a killer dress. They even removed her token bow and arrows in order to make Princess Merida appear more feminine. Again, it seems like those responsible for the makeover must have completely neglected to watch the movie or willingly chose to ignore it.
However, this makeover was not going to happen without a public outcry. A change.org petition was created and already boasts over 160,000 signatures, mostly from parents who are disheartened that such a good role model for girls has been adulterated. The petition states:
“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.“
Due to the public response, Disney quietly pulled the image from their website yesterday, May 13, and replaced it with the original Pixar image. Although it would have been nice for Disney to make a formal announcement or apology, the removal of this antithetical Merida is a concession at least.