Last week I wrote about my adventure with Bean at Disney Princesses on Ice. Despite my initial hesitation, we had a great time and enjoyed one-on-one time together.
Well, less than a week later Disney was in the news for the controversial makeover of Merida, the unconventional princess from Pixar’s animated film Brave.
All I can say is WTF, Disney.
If you missed the news, Merida was recently crowned Disney’s 11th princess, becoming the first Pixar character to join Disney’s elite princess ranks.
The coronation itself wasn’t cause for uproar. What really ticked people off, including the film’s director, was the way Disney ‘sexed up’ Merida’s look while simultaneously de-emphasizing her strength.
Oscar winning director, Brenda Chapman, had this reaction in an interview with The Washington Post:
I thought ‘typical,’ when I first saw the artwork. So wrong-minded, [especially] when the Pixar crew and myself worked so hard to give them a completely different kind of princess — one that kids and parents today can relate to in many different ways. And Disney turned her back into the same old thing, taking away her symbol of strength and individuality, her bow and arrow, and sexing her up. Not cool.
~ Brenda Chapman
At the time the article was published, more than 220,000 supporters had agreed with her, signing the online petition Disney: Say No to the Merida Makeover, Keep Our Hero Brave.
Despite the media backlash and huge response to the petition, Disney responded by saying that Merida simply wanted to ‘dress up’ for her coronation ceremony. As you can imagine, that statement did nothing to appease fans or protestors.
There are so many things I could say, but Rebecca Hains does a great job summing it up in Disney misses the point in response to Merida petition.
The Princess Problem
All of the Merida coverage, including a hilarious segment on The Daily Show, got me thinking about the proliferation of princess propaganda today. (Points for alliteration, please!)
Despite the fact that Bean has never seen any of the full-length Disney movies, she still knows about the princesses. And, like most girls her age, she’s drawn to the pretty gowns and sparkly tiaras. We went to a wedding in January, and she’s still talking about how the bride looked like a princess.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel beautiful. The real issue is how we define beauty. Do we let society’s idea of beauty define us?
Looking at the original Merida, we see a strong, confident, beautiful young woman. The reason so many people are outraged by her makeover is not the image itself, but the message being sent.
For Merida to join the Disney princesses, she had to slim down, tame her locks, get a glamorous gown, and ditch her bow & arrow.
The message: being yourself is not enough.
That’s certainly not a message I want to send my girls.
Time to Think & React
Jon Stewart’s satirical remarks about the Merida Makeover should make us all pause:
…the point is this, Disney, you need to reconsider this makeover because you have an arrangement with the parents of America of which I am one.
Our job is to make sure the children are sitting in front of the screen.
Your job is to raise them right.
And if you keep teaching them the wrong lessons, then we’re going to have to start doing it ourselves and that’s not cool.
~ Jon Stewart
Are we letting movies and corporations teach our kids what’s right and wrong? The Bloggess echoed the same sentiment last week; if you haven’t read her response yet, check it out.
To some extent, we can’t control everything our children see and hear, and we should be realistic about the things they’ll be exposed to outside of the home.
So, what can we do? We can do our best to combat the negative messages they’re bombarded with and engage them in meaningful conversations so they understand what they see in movies and magazines is not real.
We can expose them to more positive messages and continually reinforce those lessons. We can teach them to believe in their own self worth, to never doubt it based on what someone else says.
We can lead by example and show them that real beauty lies within.
Last week I talked about indulging my inner princess. I still think it’s ok to do this every once in a while. But maybe our inner princesses should take a page from Merida’s book and embrace our individuality and strength. Because that’s what makes us truly beautiful.
Merida images by Disney 2013-
How do you define beauty? Parents, how do you talk to your children about the images they see in the media?