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Keep Merida Brave! Media Perspectives on the Disney Princess Makeover

brave-chapman-quoteKatherine Handcock, A Mighty Girl Senior Research Intern

Campaign Announcement: A Mighty Girl has launched a special Keep Merida Brave campaign page!

A Mighty Girl's petition to Disney on the redesign of the character of Merida from the film Brave as part of her induction into the Disney Princess collection has attracted over 180,000 signers and a huge amount of media attention.

To help keep our supporters abreast of compelling articles and commentary on our campaign to Keep Merida Brave, we've compiled a collection of articles that address the redesign from a variety of perspectives. All of them effectively point out why many people object to the changes and why the appearance of an animated character has meaning far beyond disappointing fans.

Recommended News Coverage

Merida redesigned - What message is the new look Princess Merida from Disney's Brave sending out?Jenni Murray, BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour

The BBC Women's Hour provides an in-depth look at the Merida Makeover. This 10-minute radio segment features A Mighty Girl's co-founder Carolyn Danckaert, Pink Stinks co-founder Emma Moore, and two girls Jasmine and Amber, who discuss their opinions of the redesign.

Merida’s Disney Princess Controversial Makeover - Is ‘Brave’ Heroine Really Bad for Little Girls?Leslie Gorenstein, Yahoo! Movies

Gorenstein speaks to child development experts to ask whether changes to Merida really affect girls. As one child development expert, Dr. Robyn Silverman explains, "This one character may not do any damage to a girl's psychological development, per se. But Merida joins a barrage of thin, sultry characters for girls, making her yet another facet of our sexed-up, thinned down messaging."

Disney Princess Merida makeover: A 7-year-old’s verdict on the 'Brave' heroine, Lisa Suhay, Christian Science Monitor

Suhay explores the impact of the redesign on a young girl in her life. She writes, "The newest, most feminist-forward Disney princess, Merida of the animated film "Brave" asks, “If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?” Disney corporate answered with a resounding “No!” when it stuck to gender-typed tradition and converted the disheveled, feisty, normally-proportioned, self-reliant archer to a slimmer, glitzy, doe-eyed version, sparking a petition by outraged fans. Worse, it disappointed a chunky little red-haired girl I babysit for because it put her princess dream back out of reach."

Why Is Brave’s Princess Merida Suddenly Sexy?Chris Heller, The Atlantic

Heller argues that the best part of Brave was how it subverted the princess stereotype, and in the process became more accessible, familiar, and real to girls. The changes, he says, tell girls that “sexuality, beauty, and body type are inseparable from what it means to be a princess.”

Sex Sells: Disney’s Misguided Redesign of Merida From ‘Brave’Women You Should Know

This editorial site which focuses on dynamic women describes, head to toe, how Merida’s appearance was altered to make her fit the homogeneous princess ideal. Her “glamazon makeover,” they say, “is truly gag inducing, especially in today’s day and age.”

Disney’s Makeover of its Brave Princess is CowardlyRhiannon Lucy Cosslett, The Guardian

Cosslett argues that strong female role models in media are critical for both boys and girls -- and speaks to her own mother’s balancing her love of all things princess with strong, confident role models. Cosslett says, “It's unsurprising that those parents who initially praised Disney for its creation of a princess who looked like a real girl are dismayed... It's a shame that Disney couldn't be [that] brave.”

The Problem with Merida’s Princess MakeoverAlyssa Rosenburg, Slate Magazine

Rosenburg asks, "If it's important that girls of color and girls of different economic classes be able to recognize themselves and find aspirational stories in the Disney Princess line, why shouldn't it also matter that girls with wild hair and variable body types see themselves there too?"

Brave New World: Petition Tells Disney to Leave Merida AloneKaren E. Dill-Shackleford, Psychology Today

Dill-Shackleford attacks the idea that the changes to a cartoon don’t have a real-life effect: “Research in my lab has shown that when men are exposed to sexualized, objectified images of women, they become more tolerant of real-life sexual harassment compared to controls who saw professional images of women.... The stories we tell about women and girls do matter. And the pictures we put in our daughter’s minds matter as well.”

The Brave and the Bold, Matthew Bogarts

Bogarts, a cartoonist, talks about the controversy from the perspective of character design. He demonstrates how character design also informs us about character qualities, and uses an interesting example featuring Batman and Bruce Wayne to demonstrate how the choice of image has an impact on marketing.

‘Brave’ creator blasts Disney for ‘blatant sexism’ in princess makeoverPaul Liberatore, Marin Independent Journal

A common question as the petition grew was what Brenda Chapman, creator and co-director of Brave, thought of the makeover. On May 11, she spoke to the Marin Independent Journal first, saying, “I think it's atrocious what they have done to Merida.” Quotations from this article have since spread throughout media coverage of the issue.

Disney Princess Makeover Sparks Outrage: Merida Petition Goes ViralBeth Greenfield, Yahoo! Shine

As the petition topped 50,000 signatures on May 10, Yahoo! Shine featured a discussion of how it had captured the attention of Brave fans. A Mighty Girl founder Carolyn Danckaert contributed to the article, including this quote about why Merida matters: “[The redesign] is sending a message,” which is one that puts forth a very narrow definition of beauty. “This is how children pick up cultural messages about what is important. Young children don’t really distinguish between reality and fantasy, and these characters are their role models.”

Merida from ‘Brave’ Gets an Unnecessary Makeover, Sparks PetitionJessica Samakow, Huffington Post

One of the first articles about the makeover to circulate, Samakow talks about the confusion and disappointment prompted by the initial redesign reveal and directs readers to the petition, which at that point (May 8) had 19,000 signatures.

As this is only a small sample of the articles about our campaign, A Mighty Girl would like to thank all of the journalists and authors who took the time to discuss these issues in thoughtful, powerful ways.  We would also like to thank our incredible community for all of their support in signing and sharing this petition far and wide.

Merida wanted to change her fate; together, we can change hers.


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