The internet outrage was deafening, or it would have been if web chatter were measurable on the audio spectrum. When people saw this:
That’s the plucky heroine, Merida, from Disney Pixar’s Brave on both the right and the left. As part of her induction into the gang of Disney Princesses they prettied her up.
Cue internet rage:
“Egads! What hath they done to our Merida,” cried out the angry populace of Huffington Postville! I mean, it’s right there in the title of the post: Merida gets unnecessary makeover! Opinionized for you, just in case you were incapable of forming one yourself. And lo a great petition was made to combat what some called, “an unnecessary makeover!” Others, “Another sad, vapid girl concerned with a narrow waist and perfectly shaped eyebrows. Shame.”
The thing is the petitioners aren’t wrong exactly. The redesign is kind of hideous looking but since when do we hold the Disney Princess brand up to some high standard of excellence? It’s a vapid, fancy dress cotillion of airs and faces put on that white washes the bunch of them.
Look at this photo of Belle from their website:
Belle is known for one physical attribute above all others: Her widow’s peak.
Do you see a widow’s peak in that shot or in the “Let’s Play Dress Up” with Belle game on the website? No, you don’t. Because when they made her part of their princess sorority, Belle did what any good woman’s magazine would have told her to: she hid her trouble spots and accentuated the positive. That top image isn’t the plucky, well read Belle of yore it’s some plastics version of her. It’s like real life Princess, Taylor Swift. She’s stunning with low/no makeup.
But who could argue that glamming it up doesn’t work for her?
Make-up and fashion have a transformative power, sometimes to the detriment of natural beauty but… there it is. The Merida on the left is still Merida and that’s where this whole campaign and the overreaction to the changes errs. That’s still Merida but “buffed” using the same tools that women and teenaged girls use everyday to appear younger, more mature, flirty, glamorous, flawless or any of the many skins they wear.
Merida combed her hair, tossed on a pair of mom’s Spanx, slipped on a fancy dress, and went a little heavy on the makeup to cover her freckles. This isn’t her everyday look, it’s her fancy princess foo-foo tea party look. Of course she left her bow at home. People cry out, “but she hated that dress!” To which I say, did you not watch the movie? When she reconciles with her mother, she gets permission to be an untamed wild child sure, but she also sees the world from her mother’s side and opens her mind to the possibility of one day being the Queen in the fancy dress. If her mother, who is so strong can do it, why can’t she?
This smacks of us as a society trying to vicariously “live wild” through Merida. We never want her to grow up because we never wanted to and we don’t want our daughters to. It’s like Hilary Duff, you can’t tell me that once she shed the baby fat you weren’t all a little disappointed that your Lizzie McGuire was all growed up and kicking 4 inch stilettos. Playing dress up is just the next step towards yielding to a beauty obsessed culture… but is it? Or are the Disney Princesses just hanging out looking pretty, because it’s fun? Would you deny Merida the chance to sit with the popular girls? That’s not very 21st Century feminist of you.
Update: The vocal minority got their fairy tale ending and all is right with their world.