Disney is getting a lot of attention for their princessification of Merida from Pixar’s “Brave”. In the movie, Merida’s mother wants her to change – to become more like a normal princess. Merida steadfastly refuses. She doesn’t want to give up her bow and she fights against the brushing out of her curls. She rebels against the corset and pretty dresses. These battles define her for the audience.
And yet, Disney doesn’t appear to have watched the movie. They’ve taken away her bow and her curls. They’ve cinched her waist and given her a pretty dress. They’ve taken away her appeal as a character.
This Merida controversy follows on the heels of a t-shirt misstep from their Marvel brand. A shirt for girls proclaims, “I need a hero”. Luckily for the girl, the Avengers are on the job. However, the only female Avenger is missing. Black Widow isn’t capable of helping a girl apparently. Compare it with a boy’s shirt that says, “Be a hero”.
As you can imagine, this sentiment is particularly annoying to me. Anyone can be hero, but girls have a harder time believing it because of things like this. I spend a lot of time encouraging kids to be heroic, I don’t need a megacorporation contradicting me.
It is particularly frustrating because many of the movies being produced by these Disney brands are competently showing female heroism. Pepper Potts has been a decent role model in the hugely successful Iron Man trilogy. Merida and Black Widow were presented as strong. I worry about what’s going to happen with the Star Wars franchise now that Disney owns it. Will we be provided with a strong character in the movies only to have it undermined by merchandising? What would Princess Leia look like under Disney’s control?