movie poster for Disney's 2012 movie Brave
So, Brave. Pretty darn good Pixar/Disney/Pixney flick, about a Scottish princess who kicks ass, takes names, and gets herself both into and out of trouble quite effectively. Like many out there, I greatly appreciate the trend of having the protagonists of the traditionally female-centered animated children's movies be a lot more active in their own lives. Far from waiting around for the heroic prince to rescue her and make her life have meaning, Merida has her own shit going on and is quite busy, thank you very much. She also doesn't lack for personality in the slightest.
Overall, this is a fantastic direction. Congratulations, Disney!
So it seems that the Disney entertainment megaconglomerate has a theme park ceremony for 'crowning' their princess characters, so that they are then Official Disney Princesses, and presumably are awarded their very own bag of Magical Princess Sparkles. Then when little kids go to the parks, they can have tea with all the Princesses. Okay, cool, fine, whatever. But Disney decided that the young, spunky, kick-ass protagonist of their very successful and money-making movie wasn't... sexy enough. So they did this to her:
I feel ways about this.
Left: Merida. Right: some unrecognizable skin-bleached chick with a sexy come-hither and improbable curves.
I feel ways about this.
1) That person is unrecognizable as Merida. Isn't marketing all about recognizable brands? WTF.
2) There was a whole plot point in the movie about her hating that dress. THEY PUT HER IN THE HATE-DRESS. Why?
3) Yes, it's a fictional character, and not a real person who underwent a real makeover. But the very act of Disney taking an extremely successful (as measured by making them many dollars) character and transforming her into an unrecognizable sex-kitten is a huge statement about priorities. It's not like nobody's going to notice, and what message is being sent here? That what's important is to be sexy and beautiful and have bleached skin and perfect hair and wear sexy clothing. This is being marketed to children. CHILDREN! We finally get a genuine self-rescuing princess (which is itself a ginormous opportunity for Disney to get way cooler and send progressive messages about gender issues) who actually looks and acts like the young-teenager she's supposed to be instead of being inexplicably busty and grown-up sexy, and then they blatantly ignore the actual character in favor of entrenching the cultural your-worth-is-measured-solely-by-your-sexiness trope. Fuck that. And the horse it rode in on.
4) They took away her bow. HER BOW. One of Merida's major characteristics is her kick-ass bow-shooting. She's a super excellent archer, and has to defend herself and advance the plot with it a lot. THEY TOOK AWAY HER BOW. I am not okay with this.
Okay. So, when I was poking around for a picture of Merida to put at the top of this article, I first searched wikipedia for Merida, figuring that they'd have a canonical screencap that would be reasonable to use for analysis purposes. Because, like, wikipedia tends to have that sort of super-basic stuff. Instead, as the ONLY image on the page, I found this*:
the parallel universe, sex-kitten Merida
There is not enough rage. Really. REALLY? The only image you're going to show on THE WIKIPEDIA page for this character looks nothing like how she looks throughout the entire movie.
From the talk page of said wikipedia entry:
The article originally had a CG artwork of Merida's; it was recently replaced, without explanation, with her redesign for the Disney Princess franchise. I don't see why her design in something that can be regarded as a minor merchandise-driven spin-off should prevail over her look in the film itself. To give a random, extreme example, it would be like replacing Jack Sparrow by a picture of his LEGO minifigure. Brave was a computer-animated film, and I don't think a 2D image is representative of the character. Note my comment has nothing to do with the recent controversy around her redesign (I personnaly find the Disney Princess design more faithful than I was expecting). But I think the image should be changed.--Gray Catbird (talk) 21:27, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
So apparently the actual picture of Merida was just inexplicably replaced by the sex kitten. Gray Catbird there makes very good points, to which I would add only about a metric fuckton of THIS IS NOT OKAY!!!!!
And in Even More Ridiculous Princess-Washing, we have the official Disney Princess Merida costume:
um... it's a dress
All I can say about this is that it looks like a sparkly dress. If I saw a little kid wearing this, I'd wonder idly and maybe question as to whether it's supposed to be a fairy, a generic party dress, or that sleeping beauty princess whose name I can never remember.
And it's not like I have a single thing against sparkly dresses. I love shiny, sparkly, fun dress-up clothes. Being girly is awesome sometimes. But WTF does this dress have to do with Merida? I... guess it's blue? And thus kinda like the dress she hated? Because all blue dresses are the same? I genuinely don't understand what's going on here.
Hmm. Okay, at least you get the signature Merida weaponry along with the dress. I guess that makes some sense... it's not really something that Merida wore or would wear, but it's an example of being able to kick some ass even though you're wearing a sparkly dress, and I can totally see some gender assumption twisting potential in there. I can get behind that. I can be girly and still be a badass.
Oh... right. Apparently it's an accessories-sold-separately kind of deal. I still don't see how a generic dress can qualify as a Merida costume sans bow, but okay.
You can buy a sword, axe, and mace set, presumably to give to your boy-children so they can pretend to be Brave defenders of castles and go bear-hunting, while your girl-children sit around in boring sparkly dresses, learning to internalize the values of the patriarchy.
*These statements about the wikipedia page were true as of May 21, 2013. They may change in the future, and I sincerely hope they do.
Edit: Oh, that image on wikipedia? Yeah, it has no revision history whatsoever, so it's impossible to revert it to the original CG one. Disney sort of rewrote wiki history. Goddammit, Disney.