Merida’s makeover sends bad message

I made my peace with Disney princesses. Or so I thought.

I fought against the princess takeover in our house for quite some time, spewing feminist ideologies and buying trucks and blocks and androgynous-looking baby dolls for my first daughter. Fast forward a few years and it’s difficult to find a non-princess item in the toy room.

But we also talk a lot about why we like princesses. They are kind. They are brave. They let small bunnies and birds land on their fingers. You know, all that good princessy stuff that I hope my daughters become. I work at focusing the attention away from the glitz and glam and putting it on the inner beauty. Then I don’t mind the backpacks and the sheets and the gazillion princess Squinkies in our house.

So I was not happy when I read that Disney was taking its latest princess and making it very clear that what is on the outside matters — a lot.

A few weeks ago, Disney rolled out the red carpet for Merida, the princess from the movie Brave. She joined the ranks as an official member of the Disney Princess lineup. Except this Merida looked nothing like the tomboyish, unkempt teenager in the Brave movie. This “new and improved” Merida wore an off-the-shoulder dress, a seductively tamed mane and didn’t even have her signature bow and arrow. She looked more like a pirate wench than the devil-may-care Scottish lass she is in the movie.

Princess Merida before and after

Apparently I was not alone in my repulsion to this revamped and newly tramped version of Merida. Mothers everywhere wrote into Disney saying they were sending a horrible message to girls that the only way Merida could be a true Disney princess is by looking 10 years older and countless times sexier.

Disney has since responded saying the new look was a “special one-time effort” for Merida’s coronation. The Merida we know and love from the movie will be unchanged.

But as I was browsing through Disney store today to see if Merida was in fact her good old self, I found this:


Off-the-shoulder dress? Check. Sultry look. Check. Anatomically impossible waistline. Check check!

So, looks like Disney is revamping Merida afterall, just in a more subtle way.

Why, Disney, why? Why does Merida have to be sexy? Why does she have to be changed at all? My daughter loves the character of Merida. She will notice her hero looks different and she will get your not-so-subtle message that pretty matters, sexy sells and conformity wins.

Guess I shouldn’t be that surprised. Just look at what has happened to the other princesses in their post-movie makeovers.

Sweet, bookish Belle has become this monstrosity of lipliner and eyelash extensions who has clearly seen one too many Kardashian reruns.


Poor Mulan went from timid cross-dresser to full-on Geisha.


So, I’m trying here, Disney. I’m trying to make princesses mean something more than glitter and glam. But you’re making it almost impossible because if you think women need a little extra sex appeal to be more valuable, then that’s exactly what my daughter will think, too.

What do you think about Merida’s makeover? What about the restyled princesses in general?

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