Saturday, May 11, 2013

Home of the Cowardly

The House of Mouse is emphatically not the Home of the Brave this week.  It is, instead, chickening out on one of its best and most thoughtful character designs, in a way that is almost guaranteed to harm its fan base and annoy their parents.

Pictured up top are two versions of Merida, the heroine of Disney's medieval adventure cartoon Brave. On the right is Merida as she appeared in the movie itself; on the left is her revised "official" look, as Disney announced it in advance of what their press release called her "coronation" -- official recognition as the 11th of the fabulously overmarketed Disney Princesses.

This, in other words, is the version that will appear on cups and t-shirts and lunchboxes, if little girls still carry lunchboxes.  It is the one you will see at Disneyland and in advertisements and in a million other places.

Notice that New Merida's hair is less frizzy.  Her dress is more heavily decorated.  Her expression seems a bit more knowing.  And, critically, her waist is smaller and her little adolescent breasts are proportionally bigger.  (Although this picture excludes her bow and arrow, they are still part of the official look -- thank heaven.)

Slate gives Disney credit for "democratizing" its recent princesses, at least up to a point.  To be a Disney princess, you don't need to be born in a castle; you can be poor and black (like Tiana); a crossdressing warrior (like Mulan).  But, as Slate goes on to observe:

... two restrictions remain. You have to be young. You have to have a very particular body type and long, perfect hair. The edits to Merida reflect those priorities. Her famous hair, which took six Pixar employees—a mix of artists and engineers—three years to design, has been smoothed out, made less kinky, less frizzy, and less alive. Her waist has been slimmed down, emphasizing her breasts, but at the expense of Merida's solid frame, which is a real shame given the way Brave celebrated Merida's pleasure in her body's capacities.

We hope we need not point out how unfair this makeover is to girls whose bodies (and wardrobes) don't conform to the type, which is itself just a shade less barbarically unrealistic that Barbie's.  We have already signed a petition at, and encourage readers to do likewise.

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