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“Brave” fans fight back against Disney’s Merida makeover

The "Keep Merida Brave" campaign argues that Merida doesn't need to be skinnier or wear sparkles to be a princess.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on May 13, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 4:04 pm CDT

Merida, from the animated movie Brave, has just been inducted into the pantheon of Disney Princesses. As the daughter of a king and the star of a Disney/Pixar movie, she does seem like an obvious choice. The only problem is that prior to being officially crowned as a Disney Princess, she was given a makeover.

In Brave, Merida has messy, curly hair to match her rebellious personality. She wears a long, plain dress, looks like normal girl in her early teens, and is seldom seen without her bow and arrow. Disney’s “Princess” Merida tells a different story: flowing hair, a more “adult” figure and facial features, and an off-the-shoulder dress with sparkly details. Instead of having a quiver full of arrows slung around her hips, she accessorizes with a stylish belt.

Photo via therotoscopers

Brave fans are far from happy about this new development, but few are as annoyed as Merida’s original co-creator, Oscar-winning director Brenda Chapman. Since she based Merida on her own daughter and intended the character to be a role model to young girls, it’s not surprising that she’s angry about Disney’s alterations. In fact, these are not the only changes that were made to her original vision, as Chapman was fired halfway through filming and replaced by a male director.

In an email to the Marin Independent Journal, she described the makeover as “a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money,” continuing:

“When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold.”

Significantly, there is even a scene in Brave where Merida turns up her nose at being forced to wear a sparkly gown rather than her more practical everyday outfit.

Girls’ toy, book and media website A Mighty Girl has already set up a petition to protest against this new version of Merida. In a request for Disney to “keep Merida Brave”, they write:

“Merida was the princess that countless girls and their parents were waiting for—a strong, confident, self-rescuing princess ready to set off on her next adventure with her bow at the ready… by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value—to be recognized as true princesses—they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.”

With the traditionally “girly” princess demographic already covered by old favorites like Cinderella, Belle, and Snow White, it seems strange that Disney would feel the need to homogenize the group further. Characters like Merida and Mulan widen the audience for Disney Princesses, and it doesn’t make sense to alienate fans who were introduced to the franchise by the tough, independent heroine of Brave.

Just ask the people who signed A Mighty Girl’s petition. There are already more than 100,000 of them.

Photo via Tumblr / aclashofcaps

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*First Published: May 13, 2013, 11:37 am CDT