Last summer Disney had another blockbuster hit called Brave. One of several movies last year showing confident girls with bows and arrows doing their thing. Between Brave and The Hunger Games it really piqued my daughter’s interest in archery. Sort of a lost art which I am amazed at her ability in this area because I was awful at it in school.
Merida wasn’t the most glamorous of characters. She wasn’t meant to be. That was really part of her charm. She was the tomboy of princesses. She didn’t want to be your typical princess. That was the whole story line. She fought her mother on the teachings of being a proper princess.
But Disney apparently decided for her to fit the princess look Merida needed a new look. My husband drew my attention to it over the weekend actually. I didn’t think too much of it until I saw the image myself. And I don’t like it, but not for the reason that most parents dislike it.
I don’t view her as the “feminist” of heroines. And really to me all of these characters are just that, characters. I don’t put too much stock in how a cartoon character looks or even behaves. I have three daughters and they sure love their princesses. Well, my youngest hasn’t seemed to find a favorite just yet. My oldest loved Snow White, my middle is a Tinkerbell fanatic. I don’t really look at any of these characters as life teachers for my kids. My job as their parent is to make sure they understand the difference between reality and fiction. And cartoons don’t really get much more fiction. I mean come on now, who has ever seen a talking mouse.
So I don’t make too much out of Disney movies. Sure there is a lesson to be learned in the story, but that lesson isn’t found in the drawn lines in the cartoon characters, it’s found in the story plot and the words that are said.
My issue with the makeover of Merida is it just makes her lose all meaning to the movie now. I mean sure you can be beautiful and still be strong. I mean come on people, you don’t have to be homely looking to be intelligent and strong. There are plenty of amazingly drop dead gorgeous women out there who are very intelligent and strong. So I certainly don’t think we should be giving the look of feminism a certain one size fits all look. I mean that’s really kind of silly when you think about it, right? We want equality, but beautiful women can’t be equal in the brains department to more plain women? Seems like that’s creating more stereotypes for women.
However, at the same time if we’re looking at cartoon characters to give our daughter’s a sense of womanhood and what it means to be a woman, then I think we’re seriously failing them. Merida’s change of appearance is unfortunate in that it just doesn’t fit her character’s personality not because of what it’s teaching our daughters. If we’re relying on Disney movies to teach our daughters how to be a woman and what feminism is, then we have more problems than stereotypes and the idea that women have to be beautiful to be heard. Or to be a princess you have to look a certain way.
It’s plain and simple. Merida’s makeover is disappointing because it simply does not portray that tomboy headstrong look and attitude that is Merida. It’s not because now our daughters don’t have a good strong feminist look to emulate out of a cartoon character. It’s a cartoon. It’s not like it’s possible to achieve the look of a cartoon character.
If we want to teach our young daughters to be equal, then we should lead by example. We should learn to value ourselves and treat everyone around us as equals, including men. Because we are our children’s first and most important teacher, not media and not Disney movies.
I’m all for media showing our girls what real women look like. We know Barbie’s body imagine is unattainable and the average pant size of women in America is I believe 12. So it’s nice that our daughters are understanding that women come in all shapes and sizes and we should be celebrated, but this is still our number one job as their parents to to teach them these things and instill the confidence to find beauty in their own skin.
I come from a generation where Jessica Rabbit was the unattainable body image of cartoons. I knew she was ridiculously exaggerated and women don’t look like that; can’t look like that. If I’m going to spend any time worrying about how women are portrayed it’s just not going to be through cartoons, plain and simple. Because if I’m doing my job as a parent correctly, then my children know that cartoons are not real and my 5 year old won’t be putting any dynamite in bird seed to catch a bird. And my daughters aren’t going to look at a fairy princess and think she has to look just like her.
But Disney, on the off chance you are reading this I do implore you to change back the look of Merida. Not because I think she’s a feminist icon to teach our children what headstrong women look like, but because you had it right the first time. Her original image suited her character much better.
What do you think about the makeover of Merida from Brave?