So is turns out that Merida, the rebellious redhead star of Disney’s Pixar film “Brave,” is true princess material after all, and Disney is coronating her as its 11th official princess on Saturday at Walt Disney World to prove it. But wait, there’s a catch.
“My little girl has unruly curls, wants to climb trees, run with wind, and challenge stereotypes everyday AND she is only 4 years old,” writes one petition signer, Kerri Gaskin of Canada. “How can I possibly tell her that her favorite character has given in and given up to become an overly sexualized pin-up version of her former self?”
Comments like these bother me. These people are outraged that Merida is supposedly turning into a feminized tramp, who wears sparkly dresses and make-up and shows skin where she wasn’t accustomed to before. Now, as a rabid fan of Brave ready to rip out the throat of anyone who discredits my beloved Pixar film, I can agree that this design make-over is completely out of character for Merida.
Or is it?
The plot of the movie, essentially, was about Merida’s progression from girl to woman. We see in the beginning of the story that she is your classic, rambunctious youth; a rebellious teenager of the days when war loomed, waiting for the wrong word at the right time. Merida’s argument that she was not ready to marry or, more universally, that she should marry the man of her choosing, is a progressive, well-loved declaration of our modern century women. And one could even say that her defiance not only saved the kingdom, in covincing the lords that marriage was not the reason that brought them together in the first place, but also repaired her relationship with her mother, whom she is seen standing beside (as equals) at the end of the film.
However, it was also Merida’s defiance that set her on her path to becoming a woman. And when I say woman, I mean a mature adult, who reigns in her home with dignity and wise counsel. In the “before” image (seen in the article) we see Merida in her comfortable wool dress, with a bow and a slouch on her back, and curls gone wild. In the “after” image what we see, or rather what I see, is the same girl, now a woman with power and dignity and wise counsel. To simplify: the image on the left, in my eyes, is Princess Merida. The image on the left is Queen Merida, fierce and feminine and still just as awesome as fuck as when she was a girl.
“Merida was the princess that countless girls and their parents were waiting for—a strong, confident, self-rescuing princess ready to set off on her next adventure with her bow at the ready,” reads a Change.org petition, “Keep Merida Brave,” asking Disney to reconsider the character’s redesign. The petition, created Saturday by “A Mighty Girl,” a blog and online girl empowerment marketplace, had already surpassed 50,000 signatures by Friday afternoon.
“…a strong, confident, self-rescuing princess ready to set off on her next adventure…”
Not every woman is a strong, confident, self-rescuing princess ready to set off on her next adventure, and if you think they should be you’re just as small-minded as the misogynists you claim to war against. The point of a Disney princess is someone you can relate to. Some girls, and some boys, relate to different princesses. All of them are different. The fact that the older princesses (whom I’m about to list) were “rescued from a prince” or “weren’t confident in themselves” doesn’t diminish the fact that they got shit done and were awesome as fuck.
Snow White had anxiety problems, but she was one of the nicest people you could meet. She took care of seven grown men and made sure they got off to a good start every morning. Because of her, they were happy and healthy.
Cinderella was abused, but unbroken. Her strength and kindness shook a kingdom. She didn’t need money, fame, or to dress in all the latest fashions to win the heart of a prince. She just needed her heart.
Pocahontas saw the world from all angles. Her wisdom saved all those mens’ lives and protected her tribe from future generations of settlers. And if I recall, she was half-naked.
Jasmine was wealthy and suffered from depression, yet she didn’t discriminate against the poor and married a man not because she needed him, but because she wanted him. Plus, she owned a fucking tiger. A fucking tiger. As a pet.
Ariel lived for her dreams and let nothing stand in her way. With blood, sweat, and tears, she fiercely defended the life she saw for herself. She was Disney’s first red-headed, rambunctious teenage girl who never had “no” in her heart.
Belle was smart, resourceful, and brave. She traded places with her elderly father, knowing it may well mean the end of her life. Even though she was terrified, when everyone else only saw a beast she saw a man, and tamed his heart with patient love. If not for her, he would have been slaughtered by the ignorant.
You need to be careful. When you start screaming “Disney is sexist! These girls are too sexy!” it should become painfully obvious that you’re missing the point. Disney teaches girls that the beauty—or ugly—of a person is reflected from the inside. If you can’t see behind the physical appearance of Disney’s females, that is your failing—not the company’s.
Society teaches us that femininity is wrong. That women must have “masculine” qualities to be powerful and appreciated. That only princesses like Merida and Mulan should be looked up to as role models for girls because they are tomboyish and use weapons.
We need to teach our daughters that it doesn’t matter whether she’s the “before” or “after” image. That if a girl uses it, it is a girl’s thing. That if a girl doesn’t use it, she is still awesome as fuck.
I agree 100% of what you just wrote. You do not have to use weapons or act like a man to be brave. It has no gender nor race but heart and everyone has that! I’m really getting tired of the constant slut-shaming because her shoulders are showing and she is wearing makeup from both feminists and non-feminists. I actually like the makeover design because it shows that she is a mature beautiful woman but maintains her free-spirit as shown from her loose curls and her pose. as for the waist, is not as bad as Jasmine’s tho I still look up to Merida in that pose regardless of weight. I’m not that skinny to begin with but I adore the Disney princess anyway!