Sorry guys, but I’m just getting frustrated with this. So I’m just going to give my honest, harsh opinions and thoughts. I definitely have a problem with the way all the princesses have been redesigned, but I have to wonder why it is Merida is being singled out for criticism and not any of the others.
First of all, I’ve got to say I don’t see some of the issues people are taking with her redesign. Well, two specifically. The first is this supposedly “sexual pose” in her redesign that is mentioned in this picture:
Here are the two poses she is commonly seen in with her new design:
In one, she leans back slightly with her arms crossed; the other, her hands are on her hips. Unless you want her standing stock-straight with her arms at her side, you really can’t get much less sexual than arms-crossed and hands-on-hips. That just seems to come out of nowhere to me.
The second thing I don’t get with her design is something Brenda Chapman herself made comments about: the “come hither” look. Am I the only one who really doesn’t see this? Here is her facial expression:
She has a slightly wry smile, the kind of expression I would imagine Merida making after making a particularly good shot. There is nothing sensual about it that I can see. Seriously, I am honestly asking you guys if you see anything that resembles a “come hither” expression on her face.
Now, my big problem is the comments coming from some of the main supporters of the petition and Merida creator Brenda Chapman herself. You can read what she has to say for youself in these articles:
Honestly, I wouldn’t have bothered writing this were it not for one of Chapman’s more, in my opinion, objectionable comments.
She opens by criticizing Disney for this skinnier, glittery, more “perfect” Merida- which is actually something I agree is irresponsible. However, after that, she discusses the “come hither” look (seriously, am I the only one who doesn’t see this?) and goes on to makes some statements which, quite frankly, make me angry.
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.
First of all, Chapman is clearly disregarding some of the excellent role models Disney has given girls- Esmeralda and Kida, for example- and even some in the form of princesses, such as Belle, Mulan, and Tiana (just to name the more OBVIOUS ones.) Also, I for one (and I know many on here agree with me) do not find Merida to be the greatest- or even one of the better- role models in the Disney Princess lineup. She lacks respect and responsibility. She takes measures to alter her mother’s will by force. Yes, she does accept and apologize for her actions, but I agree with link
who says that Merida is more a character to learn from than a true role model. However, my biggest beef with this comment is the idea that femininity is weakness, that a girl has to be a total tomboy to be strong, that any girly girl is a simpering ninny and worthless to society. Sure, it’s never directly stated, but I certainly took that from Chapman’s comment. She clearly seems to be saying that a dreamy, romantic girl is a girl of no substance. And really, isn’t that in direct contrast to the ideals of feminism? Shouldn’t we believe that women should be respected whether they want to shoot arrows or paint their nails?
Another comment that really got to me was made by a woman in the comments section of one of these articles:
I thought the whole point of the Merida charater is that she's a unique individual who shucks off the accepted social gender roles? Now she's a Barbie doll? I took my boys to see Brave three times in the theater because the story, world and characters were captivating. If Merida looked like 'new' Merida I wouldn't have bothered.
The first three sentences don’t bother me at all. But then we get to the last one, and oh, the glorious hypocrisy. Isn’t her point that she enjoyed Brave for the characters themselves, the traits they displayed, and the messages they endorse? Isn’t it undermining to this sentiment to say that the looks of a character- whether those looks be masculine, feminine, or tomboy-ish- would discourage her from seeing the film? Isn’t this exactly the kind of attitude she claims to be criticizing? If we are truly to judge a character from personality, dimension, attitude, and action, looks should not come into it AT ALL- even Barbie-like looks. For as much as we claim the need to accept those of less “perfect” looks (something I wholeheartedly agree with,) we certainly seem to be judging those who do look glamorous and beautiful.
I am also opposed to the sentiment in this comment that a feminine girl can’t be a captivating or compelling character. Luna Lovegood is by all means feminine (at least in my eyes,) but she is undoubtedly captivating and compelling. Ariel is feminine, very certainly so, but she is also a very well-rounded, dimensional character. Belle is feminine, but also strong and assertive, something so often said to be missing in female characters. Esmeralda is incredibly feminine and flaunts her sexuality- but no one denies her strength and depth. Meg, similarly to Esmeralda, is a very sensual character, but also has a backstory and complexes she must deal with, as well as being the Snape of Disney-dom. Rapunzel is girly, dreamy, and, as we see in the campfire scene, hopelessly romantic- but she also is deeply mentally effected from the years of torment and brainwashing a woman she trusted put her through. Are these characters any less compelling simply because they happen to like dressing up and sing- sometimes even about love?
Ultimately, I suppose my problem with the comments against Merida is the focus. The focus is not that her adventurous nature, her curiosity, and her daring have been removed with this redesign- it is that she doesn’t look like a tomboy anymore. And yes, you can have all the aforementioned traits while still being feminine (Ariel, anyone?) Even her changed figure and added eyeliner often takes a backseat to her glitter, dress, and lack of bow. I honestly wonder if people would be so concerned had they kept this early look without glitter and including bow:
Now, I am ultimately against these new redesigns and believe that the fact they have sucked out all the originality, personality, and soul of these wonderful, dimensional characters to be replaced with glitter is a problem. Because there IS something wrong with nipping-in and glittering-up a character that doesn’t fit at all in the name of sales. If there was one comment of Brenda Chapman’s I agreed with, it was this:
"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"
However, my question would be: what makes Merida worse than all these atrocities:
All of the other redesigns are guilty of the same crimes. The princesses are all rounded, developed characters with flaws, quirks, and some beautiful messages, and the redesigns undermine the integrity of them all. So why is Merida the only princess getting major complaint? What makes Merida without a bow so much worse than Belle without a book? What makes Merida in a dress partly influenced by one she was uncomfortable in and making her up worse than the dress they’ve given Mulan and the changes to her complexion? What makes a few nip-tucks and a bustier profile on Merida worse than the most blatantly sexualized Belle, blushing and with a true “come hither” look on her face, so woefully out of character for her? I had hoped Merida’s inclusion into the lineup would usher in a new age for the princesses, one that focused on the essence of the characters and presented the princesses as they really are, not the flat, glassy-eyed, vaguely smiling beauties we have all grown accustom to. Ultimately, I have found that Merida’s inclusion has only brought to light these problems in Merida.
And I am convinced this is because of an unhealthy view in our society that no feminine lady can be a strong woman. I find this to be a disturbing value to hold. The princesses are actually some of the greatest examples against this misguidance, but it seems no one who cares about stamping out the views of women seen in in the way the Disney Princesses are marketed disagree with the idea that femininity and strength are mutually exclusive, or at least a vast minority of them. I wish the rest of the princesses had the sort of advocates Merida has had for her character and that she would be presented in a way that reflects what she stands for, and that we actually cared about feminine characters being portrayed in and accurate light as much as those who prefer more traditionally masculine pursuits.
If you agreed with every point I made, then that’s great. If you completely disagree with everything in this article, well, I guess that’s great too, as long as it got you thinking. Seriously, feel free to leave a comment explaining your views, I’d love to read what you have to say about it. And thank you all for reading and putting up with this whole thing.