[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ollowing widespread criticism and a petition with over 200,000 signatories, Disney has removed a new and apparently ‘sexualised’ version of Princess Merida from their official website. The new version of the strong-willed, red-headed character from Disney-Pixar’s Brave appeared on the website ahead of her induction into the official Disney Princess collection.
In this new version, Merida appears far less childlike; she looks slimmer, older and more womanly. Her dress is also tighter, more sparkly and more revealing. A petition which was launched on the Change.org website justifies the anger of Brave fans:
“Merida was the princess that countless girls and their parents were waiting for – a strong, confident, self-rescuing princess ready to set off on her next adventure with her bow at the ready. She was a princess who looked like a real girl, complete with the ‘imperfections’ that all people have.
“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 recognised as true princesses – they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.”
More than 200,000 people have signed this petition, which also has the support of Merida’s creator Brenda Chapman, who has described Merida’s makeover as ‘horrible’. Disney released a statement which danced around the issue, saying “Merida exemplifies what it means to be a Disney Princess through being brave, passionate, and confident and she remains the same strong and determined Merida from the movie whose inner qualities have inspired moms and daughters around the world.”
Although Disney has not released any further statements concerning the issue, the new Merida seems to have disappeared from their website. This suggests that they have listened to the concerns of Merida fans, even if they haven’t yet apologised for their mistake. The Guardian’s Ben Child has posited that the combination of Disney and Pixar (Disney bought Pixar in 2006) might be partly to blame: “…the Merida furore suggests there remains a disconnect between the two studios that makes integration of Pixar characters into the Disney universe a troublesome proposition.”