Last year, on my birthday, we visited Lakeside Shopping Centre for a spot of retail therapy and some dinner. It was the first time Sausage had been to a big shopping centre and this particular one has a Disney Store, so I wanted to treat her too. As we walked in, we saw their range of ‘animator dolls’, which are Disney characters made to look like toddler version of themselves. One in particular caught our eye as it has long, curly red hair, just like Sausage. Being fairly up on Disney, Husband and I were suprised that we didn’t recognise the character and immediately did some Googling to find out who ‘Merida’ was. As soon as we read a synopsis of the film, we were hooked and couldn’t wait to take Sausage to see it when it got its UK release a month or so later.
Needless to say, we adored the film. Aside from the beautiful animation and stellar cast of voices we know and love, Merida was the kind of female character that the whole family could get on board with. Merida, for those not in the know, is a willful, fiery, horse-riding, skillful archer who’s afraid of nothing. She resists pretty dresses and royal tradition in favour of feeling the wind in her hair and exploring the Scottish Highlands. She exudes strength and character and has more personality, in my humble opinion, than all of the other Disney character rolled into one (with the exception of Mulan).
So, last week, when news broke that Merida was inducted into the official Disney Priness roster and given a makeover, the whole family was feeling less than impressed. As you can see from the photo, Merida’s waist has been slimmed, her dress ‘glammed’ up, her face is suddenly refined and overly made-up, her hair is a lustrous mane rather than a wild mop and, most notably, her bow and arrow is missing.
I’m genuinely gutted, not just for Sausage but for a whole generation of girls, that Disney felt that Merida needed to be changed in this way before she could be a ‘princess’. The appeal of Merida was her difference from the other female Disney characters who, let’s face it, are largely weak and pathetic and demeaning her by sexing her up is wrong on so many levels.
Why are we not allowing our children to aspire to be something different? Letting them know that it’s about more than looks, more than being the slimmest or the prettiest? What kind of message are we giving them by behaving in this way? I want my daughter to value her brain and her talents before her hair and make up, but I fear I’m in a declining majority with this attitude, given that more young girls than ever state modelling or simply ‘being famous’ as their adult ambition. I read a statistic recently that said that 53% of US girls aged 13 don’t like their bodies and that number goes up to 78% by the time they’re 17. Scary stuff.
There’s a petition on Change.org at the moment, calling for Disney to leave Merida as she is and keep her BRAVE. I’d love it if you could go over and sign it and take a stand for women and girls everywhere, females who don’t fit the Disney mould and are proud not to.
I’d love to know your thoughts on all of this, leave me a comment below.