In the face of a tsunami of criticism, Disney has abandoned its sexy makeover of Merida, the feisty heroine of its Oscar-winning animated feature “Brave,” on its official princess website. But the character’s creator, Marin filmmaker Brenda Chapman, says she “will stay dubious until they give an official statement about changing the image to match the original version of Merida.”
Chapman won an Academy Award for writing and co-directing “Brave.” She modeled the headstrong, red-haired Merida on her 13-year-old daughter, Emma, creating her as a role model for little girls.
When Disney rolled out a glamourized version of Merida before the character was crowned an official Disney Princess on Saturday, Chapman leveled a stinging rebuke, accusing the entertainment giant of “a blatantly sexist marketing move based on money.”
On Wednesday, Disney quietly restored the original Merida artwork to the character’s profile on its official princess website, but made no announcement about the switch or whether the future Merida would look like Chapman’s tomboy original, or the glamour girl Disney rolled out for its princess promotion. Disney has not responded to the Independent Journal’s requests for comment.
In an email to the Independent Journal on Wednesday afternoon, Chapman said, “I think it’s great that they’ve taken that image off of their Princess site, but I believe it is still on their other sites world wide. And I will stay dubious until they give an official statement about changing the image to match the original version of Merida. All that said, the move to remove the sexed up Merida from their U.S. site gives me some hope.”
In what an Orlando Sentinel columnist called “the Kardashian-ization of Merida,” Disney set off a firestorm of outrage when it gave Merida a Barbie doll waist, sultrier eyes and transformed her wild red locks into glamorous flowing tresses. In an apparent contradiction of Chapman’s original characterization, Disney took away her trusty bow and arrow, a symbol of her strength and independence, and dressed her in an off-the-shoulder version of the glitzy gown she hated in the movie.
“I think it’s atrocious what they have done to Merida,” Chapman fumed in an email to the Independent Journal on Saturday. “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.”
Chapman signed a petition protesting the character’s sexualization, initiated by the site A Mighty Girl and posted at www.change.org. It had more than 203,000 supporters as of Wednesday afternoon.
The company has said nothing beyond a statement on Saturday, saying, “Merida exemplifies what it means to be a Disney Princess through being brave, passionate, and confident and she remains the same strong and determined Merida from the movie whose inner qualities have inspired moms and daughters around the world.”