The confetti from Merida’s Royal Coronation at Cinderella’s castle in Walt Disney World has barely been swept up and she’s already learning what it means to be a real Princess. When it was announced that the star of 2012’s Brave would be crowned Disney’s 11th Princess on the morning of May 11th, they unveiled her new look for the product line.
The makeover, which apparently happened to all the Disney princesses when no one was looking, involved dropping 20 pounds, caking on some mascara and giving Merida a Keratin hair treatment. “There’s the hot hair, the coy expression,” wrote Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter. “Also the obligatory exposed shoulders, slimmer waist, and the bow and arrow replaced by… what is that, a low-slung belt?…Because, in the end, it wasn’t about being brave after all. It was about being pretty.”
The new look has caused such an uproar with the female empowerment website, A Mighty Girl, that they started a petition on Change.org to “Keep Merida Brave!” The appeal, which has already picked up over 100,000 signatures, 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.”
The film’s original director, Brenda Chapman, has also blasted the makeover, telling the Marin Independent Journal that it is “a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money.” Chapman continued:
“There is an irresponsibility to this decision that is appalling for women and young girls. Disney marketing and the powers that be that allow them to do such things should be ashamed of themselves. I think it’s atrocious what they have done to Merida. When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”