Look, you guys know I care a WHOLE DAMN LOT about body image. A whole damn lot. But this crazy hullabaloo over Merida getting a makeover? I’m not on board.
To summarize, if your twitter feed hasn’t been as aggravated by this as mine: This past week Merida of BRAVE fame had her official Coronation as an official Disney Princess, and to celebrate, the Imagineers (or whichever the correct department in charge of Princess merchandise is) gave her a little bit of a makeover. Yes, I love the fact that her story doesn’t revolve around her love of a boy as much as the next raging Feminist. Sure, she’s a little painted up for a sixteen year old. True, they made her waist smaller which is lame and sucks. And yes, they took away her weaponry. Rabble rabble rabble because our children need more weapons to play with. I’m not saying I’m going to throw a party over Merida’s new look, but let’s be serious. She’s a cartoon character who was tweaked to match the other cartoon characters in the line of merchandise in to which she is being inducted.
Women of Earth. If we are going to make this big of a deal about an imaginary woman being redrawn to more “womanly” proportions, then we sure as hell better be ready to make a whole lot bigger of a deal when they do it to actual women and pretend it’s not happening.
Here’s another before and after shot that made the rounds on the Internet:
That’s Kim Kardashian, of Supermarket tabloid fame, in case you live under a rock or only shop at Farmer’s Markets. While she’s not exactly the poster child for natural beauty (where by beauty I mean routine and application, not underlying facial structure) she IS a living breathing human being. Y’know, one who we and our daughters are a lot more likely to see in that airbrushed photograph, one of many which are not disclosed as such, and think that that is what we are supposed to look like. As opposed to a CG character who has been cartoonized to aesthetically match the rest of the line of which she is a part.
As of this morning Disney capitulated to the heat and changed the photo on their Princess landing page back to the original Merida. The one who blatantly doesn’t match the makeovers that were already given to the ten Princesses that came before her, that I don’t remember there being such a huge stink about.
(Because if you think Mulan or Pocahontas looked even REMOTELY like that in their respective films you are drunk. And Rapunzel may seem wide eyed and sweet, but lest ye forget she is technically holding her love interest hostage for the better part of the film.)
I worry that there’s been a missed opportunity here to make this about something more than a cartoon character (albeit a beloved one). Instead of connecting the issue to the greater societal problems surrounding body image in general, there’s a false sense of victory now surrounding the Merida Makeover.
Where is the daily outrage and we’re not gonna take it attitude towards this happening to real women? Why aren’t we banding our platforms together across the Internet pushing a petition via Change.org to shut down the practice of photoshopping REAL LIVE HUMANS beyond recognition and then showing THOSE pictures to children as if they’re real?
My daughter is three and obsessed with Princess culture. I know some of my fellow feminist Moms balk at that, but I don’t. It’s such a small part of the world she lives in, I don’t see the problem with a little fantasy based pretend play. And for Delilah, it’s hardly about the movies or the stories or the underlying messages at all. She doesn’t actually like the movie Beauty and The Beast because it’s “too scary” but the moment she saw a real-life person dressed in a Belle costume at Disneyland, Belle became her favorite princess, and the one she dresses up as daily. She doesn’t like Belle because Disney added tendrils or longer lashes when they inducted her in to the Princess line. She likes Belle because she is a three year old girl and that big yellow dress was the most frilly, sparkly, elegant thing she’s ever seen. So no, I’m not worried about what Merida’s makeover might do to her sense of self or body image. Not nearly as much as I’m worried about the images she’s bombarded by during the rest of her day of REAL women being held to unattainable ideals.
[Full Disclosure: I'm a regular contributor at Babble, which is owned by Disney. While I appreciate the paycheck, it has no bearing on my opinions here. In fact, I published this post here instead of on Babble Voices where I really could have used it towards my monthly post quota so that it might have a chance at not being dismissed as having been paid for by Disney. Did it work?]