Last week Disney inducted Merida, the princess from Brave, into their official Disney Princesses line. In doing so they made some... changes. Gone was the bow and arrow, tamed was the unruly hair and plunging was the neckline on her dress. The strong-headed tomboy had been sexed up, redone as surely as Ally Sheedy was ruined at the end of The Breakfast Club. But Brenda Chapman, the (Oscar winning) director who Disney fired off Brave, wasn't taking it lying down:
There is an irresponsibility to this decision that is appalling for women and young girls... Disney marketing and the powers that be that allow them to do such things should be ashamed of themselves... 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 — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.
Hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition on Change.org asking Disney to de-glam the character, and today it seems like it worked. Quietly the company replaced the 'new' Merida on the Disney Princesses home page with the original version of the character.
I think it's kind of neat that this worked. I get that Disney wants to redesign the character a little bit for the Princesses line; there's no reason we can't have a version of Merida done up her best, just like any little girl would be done up when going to a fancy party. But the version they had took away the elements of Merida that made her unique and special; even her facial features were homogenized in a way that made her more of a standard beauty and less of a relateable girl.
Now to see what Disney opts to do with the character moving forward. In the meantime, this is a victory for people looking for better female representations in the media.
UPDATE: an unnamed Disney source tells Deadline that the studio is not backing down from the new version of Merida, which is intended to be used only in certain marketing. They claim that the new version was never on the Disney Princesses page. They also say we have always been at war with Eastasia.