In preparation for her "coronation ceremony" last Saturday, Disney gave the Brave heroine Merida a makeover, redesigning the character as thinner with a bigger bust, more revealing dress, a face full of makeup, less wild hair, and replacing her signature bow and arrows with a sassy sash. People were pissed and turned to the internet to voice their protests—which seems to have worked.
As a response to the public outcry, Disney has quietly pulled the redesigned Merida from its Princesses website and replaced it with the original Pixar version. It seems like petitions actually are useful sometimes!
In an effort to let Disney know how uncool it was for them to sexualize a character—the first (and only) female lead in a Pixar movie—that was originally intended to be a role model for little girls, a petition on Change.org (now at nearly 200,000 signatures) was started to appeal to CEO Bob Iger to revert her image:
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.
Filmmaker Brenda Chapman, who won an Oscar for writing and co-directing Brave, called Merida's redesign "a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money." In an email to the Marin Independent Journal she blasted Disney for the decision:
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.
[Disney] 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.
And while it's good news that integrity of the Merida character has been saved, the same can't be said for the other 10 ladies in the Disney Princess lineup, who have all been victims of the same kind of redesign involving lots of makeup, hair extensions, plumped-up lips, breast implants, Restylane cheek injections, and an inordinate amount of glitter. In short: they look like Real Housewives.
But perhaps the most egregious is Tiana from The Princess and the Frog—the first (and only) African American princess in Disney history—whose makeover included a nose job.