‘Keep Merida Brave’

What do you make of this Pixar princess’s “makeover”?
on May 11, 2013 · 16 comments

brave_meridamakeoverWhat do you think of the graphic makeover of Princess Merida from Disney/Pixar’s Brave (2012)? (More from Yahoo.)

What’s behind such image modifications?

An online petition to restore the newly minted barely a year ago! — Pixar princess has almost 80,000 signers as of this post.

Just this morning, yes, I signed it also. Normally I don’t do things like that.

Here’s the reason I listed.

Every little bit of fun culture that we cede to ridiculous sexualization is an unloving act against children and people. We will increasingly worship sensualized icons rather than love real humans.

And of course, as a believer in Christ, it’s His love for real, human, diverse people I want to see better reflected in culture.

Sign, or at least read, the online petition here.

Edit: No, this isn’t an isolated incident. Many have argued that Disney has been Bratz-doll-ifying its classic and even contemporary princess icons. One example is here.

E. Stephen Burnett explores fantastical stories for God’s glory as publisher of Lorehaven.com and its weekly Fantastical Truth podcast. He coauthored The Pop Culture Parent and creates other resources for fans and families, serving with his wife, Lacy, in their central Texas church. Stephen's first novel, a science-fiction adventure, launches in 2025 from Enclave Publishing.
  1. Jill says:

    Yuck. Just another reason I despise Disney.

  2. D.M. Dutcher says:

    Ugh, Brave. I’d argue Merida shouldn’t even be in the pantheon; she’s a horrible role model who acts only from selfish motives under the veneer of “girl power,” and suffers no lasting consequences from it. 

    That said, I think the problem is them trying to unify all the princesses under one specific art style in order to make them not visually jar with each other. If you go through that gallery, you’ll notice that all the characters are dramatically different in style from each other. This is a problem if they interact together in secondary books or movies, which Disney seems to want to do. Merida especially is a horrible design that looks more like something out of Coraline or the Nightmare Before Christmas than cel animation, so she’d need to be revamped no matter what she did.

    However, they seem to want to go with a ridiculously glossy style, and it does hurt the characters. Something like the style they used for Disney Fairies probably would have been better. Sexualization is kind of hit or miss; the original princesses are actually just as sexualized, but in different ways. Snow White is a sexualized 30’s actress; it’s just high foreheads, a languid air, and half-lidded eyebrows aren’t in fashion. Cinderella is Grace Kelly.

    • bad_cook says:

      I…what? They made her curvier? WHY? Ariel and Jasmine might have where-are-my-floating-ribs tiny, bare midriffs, but at least that was the original character design. That’s a straw to clutch at, but it feels much more disturbing that Disney thought that little girls wouldn’t like the slightly flatter-chested, slightly larger-hip-to-waist-ratioed Merida from the movie, which actually made decent amounts of money without resorting to that.

  3. Galadriel says:

    I signed as well. Actually, I was really worried about Merida being all action-hero, but she did have consequences for her actions–her mom turned into a bear and began losing her sanity. Only when she realized that her mom had a point and wasn’t just being mean could she fix her actions.

    • D.M. Dutcher says:

      She doesn’t really do anything about that point though. The marriage gets delayed/called off, and her mom changes far more as the two of them bond. The ending has them now both engage in some of the freedom Merida refused to give up, namely riding horses around the countryside. Essentially she got all she wished for and more, and escaped it without even being grounded. It is Disney though, I guess. 

      A really good contrast is Treasure Planet. That film is underrated, and Jim Hawkins is sort of an anti-Merida in it. Both rebel against their fates, but Jim is portrayed with far more depth and in the end, changes quite a bit as he grows.

  4. Well, I haven’t seen Brave, so I’m no judge, but I guess what bothers me is the implication that this is an either/or situation. Either you’re tough and brave or you’re soft and sexy. Why not both? Capt. Kathryn Janeway comes to mind…

  5. Uy. My disappointment in this movie just refuses to die…it keeps growing, in fact. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Brave insisted on beating the “Men are Stupid” drum for the entire film, but the message of actions leading to consequences was garbled in the ways comments have already expressed.
    We really need a full hipped-and-busted Merida the movie never depicted? With an off-the-shoulder gown? Vapid and irresponsible. How about they have a wild-haired teenager play the face character instead?

  6. Kaci says:

    Umm…..am I the only one who doesn’t see much difference in the styles of those two dresses, beyond the lighter one looking more formal? Yes, she’s standing different. But, ah…I’m not really seeing it.
    Aside: I haven’t seen Brave yet. Please no spoilers whilst replying to me. 😛 

    • Galadriel says:

      Well, first of all, Merida loses  her bow in the second image. Her belt is wider and draws more attention to her hips. Her hair is wavier and her pose is less “action-girl on adventure,” and more “hiya,” if you know what i mean. She also has makeup in the second image.

  7. Zach Bartels says:

    Other than the art being crappy in the “after” picture, I see very little difference here.   Anyway, the only one of these characters who actually achieves the awesomeness they were shooting for was Mulan.

  8. Her hair is wavier and her pose is less “action-girl on adventure,” and more “hiya,” if you know what i mean.

    Instead of Hiya, I’m hearing, Hey, big boy.

    • Bainespal says:

      Instead of Hiya, I’m hearing, Hey, big boy.

      I wasn’t going to comment because this is way out of my league, but I don’t entirely see how the “makeover” is so offensive, although I don’t care about it and agree that the makeover was probably pointless.  However, I wonder if we’re being a little too paranoid.  The makeover picture is not erotic.  She’s fully clothed.  I fail to see how her posture is supposed to be suggestive.  I fail to see how children who look to this character as a role model might come away with the impression that loose sexual values are acceptable.  After all, we dress up on formal occasions in the real world, and if the beauty of the world is ultimately vain, it doesn’t necessarily follow that wearing fancy clothing and carrying yourself in a confident, attractive manner is necessarily sinful.

      • Kaci says:

        Yeah…I don’t think Merida looks like a dominatrix in that second image. She’s wearing makeup and has a fancy dress on – neither of which she’d actually wear, apparently, which is the biggest – and probably only – sin. 

  9. Timothy Stone says:

    I haven’t seen the movie, and am thoroughly confused now. One trusted friend has assured me that it is NOT the typical women better than boys crap, while the commenters here say otherwise, and I have no reason to distrust you either. So I’ll stay away from it for now.

    As for the makeover, I don’t see an issue here. Her “makeover” persona looks older and so on, but I would hardly think of her as sexed up. It looks like the same women, one in her teens and the other older. If a real-life girl looked like Merida in the movie and the first picture, you would expect her to likely resemble the second pic once she got older.

    It’s not that I don’t share the concerns about the over-saturation of sexual imagery in our culture. I do, as any friends could attest to. I just don’t think this is a case of it.

  10. From Timothy:

    I haven’t seen the movie, and am thoroughly confused now. One trusted friend has assured me that it is NOT the typical women better than boys crap

    The film could come across like that, especially in isolation. However, Pixar has already spent much time proving its love for stories of all kinds of people, men and women, with few to no sitcom-style stereotypes of one or the other. Brave does have a silly dad and silly men, but not stupid ones — there’s a big difference. And it is very clear that the film’s father loves his wife and daughter, while also loving to party and hang out with friends. If anything, there’s some fun (not negative) Scottish stereotypes at play here, including unfortunate Kilt Humor. (Ha ha! Butts.)

    From Bainespal:

    The makeover picture is not erotic.  She’s fully clothed.  I fail to see how her posture is supposed to be suggestive.

    More clarifications in this follow-up: Update: ‘Merida Makeover’ Debate Rides On.

What say you?