Update: The fabulous A Mighty Girl has put a petition up on Change.org asking Disney to keep Merida BRAVE. You can sign it here.
So, I was about to commend Disney for doing something right. Yes, I was. The front page story in today's New York Times reported that the company stopped production of branded merchandise in Bangladesh in March, after the last disaster there: a fire that killed 112 people. To wit:
A Disney official told The New York Times on Wednesday that the company had sent a letter to thousands of licensees and vendors on March 4 setting out new rules for overseas production.
Less than 1 percent of the factories used by Disney’s contractors are in Bangladesh, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The company’s efforts had accelerated because of the November fire at a factory that labor advocates asserted had made Disney apparel. The Disney ban also extends to other countries, including Pakistan, where a fire last September killed 262 garment workers.
So good for them. Good for Disney for trying to show some leadership and ethics regarding how its products are made. I respect that.
Now back to discussing the depressing results.
Rebecca Pahle over at The Mary Sue alerted me to the news that on May 11 Merida from Brave will to be crowned the 11th Disney princess. You remember Merida, right? The one with the bow and arrow? The one who looked like this?
Well, not any more. As with the other Princesses, she has gotten a redesign, a pretty-sexy-skinny makeover to boost revenues. Voila, the new Merida:
There's the hot hair, the coy expression. Also the obligatory exposed shoulders (moms tell me all the time that their preschool daughters are pitching fits and destroying their t-shirts because "princesses don't cover their shoulders), slimmer waist, and the bow and arrow replaced by...what is that, a low-slung belt? And she has what appear to be high-heeled shoes. Or at least slimmer, pointier feet.
Inside the Magic, a blog promoting Disney and theme park events, says that Merida's official royal ceremony will be well attended:
She will be joining existing Disney Princesses Snow White, Mulan, Aurora, Belle, Tiana, Ariel, Cinderella, Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Rapunzel in the line, all of whom are likely to make an appearance at the coronation. New hairstyles, makeup, and dresses were recently given to the princesses in a modern update to their looks, which are also now reflected at Disney’s theme parks .
Because, in the end, it wasn't about being brave after all. It was about being pretty.
In case you've missed it, by the way, here's the updated look of the other ten princesses:
I'm especially creeped out by Belle who appears to have had major surgery. Compare this new chickabiddy to the actual movie:
Or, wait, maybe I'm more creeped out by the way they've changed Aurora (who used to be called Briar Rose).
Or, wait, what about what about the apparent lobotomy that Rapunzel has had? OrAnd Cinderella looking like Taylor Swift? And Pocahontas? Tiana looks like she's not getting enough to eat at that restaurant of hers. And Mulan, poor, poor Mulan. And here's what Jasmine used to look like:
Snow White and Ariel were always especially vapid so I don't have much to say there.
I hate to be in the position of defending the "old days" when the princesses looked "normal" (because, really, it's all relative and it's not like I was happy with them before this). Still, check out this pic, also from Inside the Magic, of the latest princess lineup including the new Merida:
Look at that head position on poor, exposed-shouldered Merida! In addition to everything else, they're pushing the brown girls slowly but surely to the edges. Tiana is thinking, "Wait, I only got one year up front? One lousy year to make up for nearly a century of racism (though to be fair, the ugliness extended well beyond Disney's depiction of African Americans)? Meanwhile, Mulan looks WEIRDER THAN EVER. She doesn't even look human she's been so Orientalized and botoxed.
This is what she used to look like:
I've always said that it's not about the movies. It's about the bait-and-switch that happens in the merchandise, and the way the characters have evolved and proliferated off-screen. Maybe the problem is partly that these characters are designed in Hollywood, where real women are altering their appearance so regularly that animators, and certainly studio execs, think it's normal.
Ok, you know what? I'm so tired. Someone else take over here and make some pithy, salient points about the impact on girls of being bombarded with skinny, pretty, sexy messages and endless consumer products that tell them from the earliest ages that how they look is who they are, ok?
I'll just leave you with that moment of promise, the trailer from Brave when we thought maybe Disney was showing some leadership and ethics not only in how they made their products, but the actual products they made.