Like most girls, I grew up watching Disney films, especially the princess movies. Growing up we are taught to want to be like those beautiful princesses, and for a Latina watching Disney princess films, I felt a lost identity; I didn’t look like these white princesses. Actually, I dressed up like Jasmine from Aladdin one Halloween because she was the only princess of color. Beyond wanting to be white and a princess, I wanted to be beautiful. These princesses were beautiful and from what I understood, they were the "ideal woman". They were princesses, beautiful, and they always got the prince. Growing up that’s all I thought was important and was my goal as a girl.
When I heard last year that Pixar was releasing a film starring a female, I was intrigued. After Brave came out I heard great things about it. I heard that Merida wasn’t you typical princess. After watching the film, it’s apparent that Merida isn’t your “average” princess. She explains that she doesn’t really want to be a princess that she just wants to be a normal girl and explore. Merida complains about the standards she has to meet to be a princess and how that’s not who she is. The story, although does involve her getting married, is actually a story about a relationship with her mother. Merida is never sexualized, never falls in love, and has little to no interaction with men other than her father and brothers. Overall, it’s a tale about her journey and how she is a strong independent woman.
So when Disney decided to make Merida a princess, I was a bit hesitant. It seems as if those at Disney didn’t watch the movie. Merida really doesn’t want to be your stereotypical princess. Even the dress that Disney displays her in, is a dress that Merida protests to in the film and even rips when trying to shoot a bow and arrow (I thought the dress tearing as she stretched was to symbolize it’s constrictive nature). While I already thought what Disney was doing was a bit odd, I was caught off guard by how they did a complete make over of Merida. In the make over version, she’s more pale, her hair is less messy, her dress is now off the shoulder and more low cut, she has lipstick, and she has wider hips and more busty. Let’s just say, she looks definitely like a princess, she has been become sexier and skinnier.
But what’s the problem? She’s merely a cartoon?
Well, when little girls are being exposed to this, it isn’t exactly harmless. My experience as a little girl includes a longing to be white, stay skinny, be pretty, and even be sexy. The creator of “Brave”, Brenda Chapman had it right, saying,
"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."
Merida isn’t any princess that is passive and waits for her prince; she was the hero of her own story. Making her into this shows that girls are just another product to consume and another object to be looked at. By making Merida into another object, Disney isn’t helping the shocking self esteem issues that girls develop.
I'm not saying that I hate Disney princesses, no, I loved them as a little girl. But Merida was suppose to break the mold of the classic Disney princess, and in her film she does, but Disney giving her this make-over will overshadow her story and just make her into another stereotypical princess. What a shame.