My take on the 'Merida scandal'

As a huge Disney Princess fan, as well as a huge Brave fan, I deeply agree with the anger surrounding what’s happened to Merida. But why is it only now being brought up?

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1. My take on the Merida scandal

I’m sure it comes as a surprise to no-one that I’m putting in my two cents on this one. If you read my Movellas, you know I love all things Disney, and that the film Brave is one of my favourites. So, naturally, I was just as shocked as the rest of the world to see what the Disney Princess franchise has done to the design of Merida.

For those who don’t know, Merida was inaugurated into the official Disney Princess line-up at the weekend, and given a new design for merchandising purposes. The result…good buttery God.

Talk about taking away everything that made the character good and showing complete disregard for the animators’ vision. Gone were the modest dress, bow and arrows, wild hair and normal physique, replaced by a low-cut sparkly dress, perfectly coiffed hair, tiny waist and long-lashed ‘come-to-bed’ eyes. Looking at the two designs next to one another, you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing. It just doesn’t seem real.

As a result, a feminist petition to Disney has gone viral, asking them to scrap the new design. Brenda Chapman herself, the director of the film, even came out with a stinging diatribe against the ‘princessification’ of her beloved character, saying: “They have been handed an opportunity on a silver platter to give their consumers something of more substance and quality — THAT WILL STILL SELL — and they have a total disregard for it in the name of their narrow minded view of what will make money. I forget that Disney’s goal is to make money without concern for integrity. Silly me.”

Ouch! Get some ice on that burn.

Don’t get me wrong – I totally and utterly agree with everything she and the petition are saying. More power to them. If they hadn’t beaten me to it, I probably would have started the petition myself. I hate this rampant sexualisation of such a unique – and outwardly feminist – character. It’s the complete opposite of what the artists intended and it is, to use Chapman’s own words, “atrocious”.

But…are people only just noticing? Disney has been drastically altering the designs of our favourite princesses for years, and only now do people start noticing it.

I suppose it started after the release of Tangled starring Rapunzel, Disney’s first CGI princess. I suppose CG images don’t translate well to merchandise or something, so they had to think of a 2D design for that. It was odd, awkward and looked nothing like Rapunzel, but people must have lapped it up because Disney’s next move was to say “Hey! We can make all the princesses look like this! That’ll make money!”

So we got…this.

Look at them! Do they look anything like their original designs? Mulan, that brave warrior who hid her gender identity to go and fight an invading enemy…is given hair extensions and a sparkly dress. Pocahontas, a free-spirited Native American who doesn’t let anything stop her adventures…is given the most dangerous (not to mention ludicrous) dangly earrings ever. And Belle…good God, don’t even get me started. This design of her is on my pencil case – yep, that pencil case – and sometimes people don’t even know who it’s meant to be. Doesn’t that just tell you all you need to know? This is my favourite princess – scrap that, my biggest childhood role model, and they’ve turned her into a sexualised Barbie doll wannabe. The artfully tousled hair, the long lashes, the full lips and what appears to be a sneer on her face. Newsflash: Belle does not sneer. No princess sneers. That’s what school bullies do. I hope you’re happy, Disney, you’ve made me compare Disney Princesses to school bullies!

Bottom line: what they’ve done to Merida is bad, but the point is that this is happening to all the Princesses. I suppose people noticed it more with Merida because she was supposed to be the one that changed everything, and I get that. But, if this were my petition, I’d say show all the princesses as they appeared in their films. No added sparkle, no weird sexual facial expressions, no wrong dress designs. These were the designs that got people to love the characters in the first place – somehow, I think they’ll still earn money.

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