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Feminspire | April 18, 2014

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Disney Sexes Up Brave’s Merida Before Letting Her in the Princess Club

Disney Sexes Up Brave’s Merida Before Letting Her in the Princess Club

| On 08, May 2013

On May 11th, 2013, Merida will become Disney’s 11th ‘official’ Princess.

Well, first of all, she’s already a princess. They call her a princess about a hundred times in the movie. So, this whole ‘induction’ as a Disney Princess can be classified as only one thing – a marketing tool. Not that anyone really doubts that, since Disney is in it to make money just like any other business. We certainly can’t begrudge them their desire to make more millions as there would be little point in running a corporation if they weren’t doing it for the money.

However, we can certainly begrudge them their habit of sexualizing their characters. If you’ve taken a look at any of the current inductees, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Belle, Aurora and Ariel in particular have become something far different from their original selves. There is just something terribly wrong with their faces, their hair, their clothes and their bodies.

Now they’re doing it again. Merida is supposed to be sixteen years old, and Disney has decided to sex her up a bit. Hmm. Okay, sixteen-year-old girls often like to look sexy, and that’s their right, but when it’s a bunch of adults that are dressing and styling them people tend to look askance at that. It’s a bit like all those kiddie pageants where they try to make six-year-olds look like fully grown women.

Here’s the thing, though. Merida doesn’t want to be sexed up. Merida shows no interest in being sexy. Merida likes riding her horse and climbing mountains. She doesn’t like to brush her hair, which is usually in knots, and she wants her clothes to be comfortable so she can have fun with her archery. Her face is round and healthy, and her red hair is in tight, slightly frizzy curls. And she’s perfectly okay with that.

The last thing on Merida’s mind is attracting a man. At least, that’s what the movie tells us. The whole premise of the movie was centered on Merida wanting to avoid marriage. She went to a witch for a spell that changed her mother into a bear just to get out of marriage! Not only did Merida not want to get married, in the end her mother decided that she was right. Merida got to decide what she was going to do with her life, and by the end of the movie she still hadn’t decided on marriage.

Disney’s Brave is a movie that parents can happily give their children. One that shows them their value doesn’t lie in attracting romance, and most certainly doesn’t lie in their appearance. She is a hero to little girls and boys for something other than the way she looks, or the fact that she had managed to snag herself a man. Now that Merida will be an official Princess, however, Disney has changed all that. Suddenly Merida is no longer good enough the way she is.

disney brave merida disney princess

Merida now has lush waves of hair, rather than tight curls. Okay, yes, a woman can brush out her hair and have a different style. That’s fair.

Her dress has been changed to an off-the-shoulder confection that’s nothing like what she wore in the movies. Okay, fine, a woman can change her clothes, especially if she’s going to something more formal. That’s fair, too.

What’s not fair? Her face. The entire shape of her face has been changed. Those round, rosy, healthy cheeks have been slimmed down. Her face has been elongated and her eyes have now been narrowed into something more cat-like, with the outer corners tilting up. Sure, many would say she’s beautiful, but she was beautiful before and now it looks like she’s been given massive reconstructive surgery. She’s no longer even recognizable as Merida.

The poor girl fought for the freedom to be herself, and her mother realized she was right and decided to accept her daughter for who she was. Then she was subjugated by Disney so they could sell some dolls. And that, my friends, is not fair.

What do you think of Merida’s Disney Princess makeover? If you don’t like like, sign the petition on to keep our hero brave!

Written by Rain Stickland
Follow her blog, Torrential Rain, or her Twitter!

  • Natasha

    Her waist is also a lot smaller. Bummer.

    • Rain Stickland

      Good point.

  • Laura

    I think I will continue to cosplay the real Merida. The one who could run, ride, and shoot all over the highlands.

    • Rain Stickland


  • sabrachoso

    I was just complaining about this the other day to some friends. As a curly-haired girl, I was thrilled that Merida represented a young woman that embraced her curls and let her natural hair do its thing. But the dolls they sell in the stores have sleek, smooth curls that are in no way reminiscent of her beautifully animated hair in the film. I realize this was possibly due to difficulty creating dolls with a massive tangle of curly hair, but I was pissed.

    • Rain Stickland

      I remember having dolls that had curly hair when I was a kid – which was a pretty long time ago. If they had the technology then, they certainly have it now. I do remember that it was already in knots, though, so I couldn’t brush it. With Merida maybe that would be the point, though.

  • Sully

    What bothers me the most about it is how they changed her hair and how they took away the bow and arrow. Also, I don’t think she looks like a teenager anymore.

    • Rain Stickland

      She really looks like a woman now, instead of 16-yr-old. That bothered me a lot, too. I was going to write about the bow and arrow, but she didn’t carry it everywhere with her in the movie either. Still, it’s kind of a part of her identity isn’t it?

  • Sarah

    I’ve noticed Disney doing this white a couple other of the princesses lately as well. They have added glitter and intricate designs to the dresses. They also have new hairstyles. I suppose it is just more noticeable with Merida because she was less feminine.

    • Rain Stickland

      That, perhaps, although I don’t think I’d say ‘less feminine’, but for me it was more that the whole point to her story was that she wasn’t the least bit interested in attracting men. She was a hero to feminist parents and their children, and then they sold her out. Thankfully, though, Disney HAS taken down the new pictures.

  • Idlethoughts

    Personally the way Disney depicts Mulan was always what bothered me the most, manly because every time I see her I start hearing “reflection” in my head.
    It’s pretty impressive when a company can write an entire award winning song about something and still not get it.

    • Rain Stickland

      No kidding. I love Disney movies for a lot of the adult humour in them, but they’re still not understanding that women are strong, capable human beings. There’s a huge disconnect between their movies and their marketing department I think.

  • Cathy

    Wasn’t the whole point of the movie to be yourself?

    • Rain Stickland

      Exactly the point we want to make to Disney, and with this article.

  • AngCam

    Don’t forget they’re also marketing for people visiting Disney parks and making it so that little girls can recognize their favorite princess, get her picture and autograph. People portraying these characters are always going to be adults in wigs with loads of makeup. Can’t exactly employ 16 year olds full time at the park! Changing the image, dolls, etc makes the transition a bit easier. I don’t personally like the change, but put in that context I can see how it might be needed. I think her dress could have stayed the same, pretty sure packing a now and arrow in crowded amusement parks would be a no-go though!

  • AnonyMouse

    They changed animation style, so what? Bitch about the lower neckline and the smaller waist, but bitching about little things like her face shape and her hair is stupid. Making the official Disney Princess line all one animation style is easier on the company, but it’s the things like necklines and waist sizes and cleavage even that make this an issue of sexing up these characters.

    Also, assuming that Merida might not change her mind at a later date about attracting a man or being sexy, that’s not for you to say. Just like with any woman who fights for her independance, they have the right to change their mind about these things. Yes, she’s 16 in the film and seemingly when they induced her, but you should focus more on the sexualisation of a minor than other things.