Brave feminists


May 8, 2013 by Julia

This is absurd.  Here is the text of a petition to Disney to prevent a “redesign” of Merida, the heroine from Brave:

Merida was the princess that countless girls and their parents were waiting for — a strong, confident, self-rescuing princess ready to set off on her next adventure with her bow at the ready. She was a princess who looked like a real girl, complete with the ‘imperfections’ that all people have.

The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value — to be recognized as true princesses — they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.

In an interview with Pixar Portal, “Brave” writer and co-director Brenda Chapman stated, “Because of marketing, little girls gravitate toward princess products, so my goal was to offer up a different kind of princess — a stronger princess that both mothers and daughters could relate to, so mothers wouldn’t be pulling their hair out when their little girls were trying to dress or act like this princess. Instead they’d be like, ‘Yeah, you go girl!’”

This new Merida is a paler reflection of her former self without the spark and the ‘you go girl’ quality that her creator intended.

We write to you on behalf of all the young girls who embraced Merida as a role model, who learned from her that they too could go off on an adventure and save the day; that it’s not how you look that matters but who you are. For them and for all the children — both girls and boys — who benefit from seeing depictions of strong, courageous, and independent-minded girls and women that are so scarce in animated movies, we ask you to return to the original Merida that we all know and love. We ask you to keep Merida Brave!

In case you’re wondering, this is the actual doll that was produced from the “redesign.”  As you can see, the doll is not some sexy seductress.  Indeed, here is a Merida with a bow and arrow and a different dress.  Being a collector of dolls meant for young girls (I just put my Fuu, Sakura [that is the costume I have, but I can’t find the doll anywhere–it’s the original Bandai-release fashion doll], and Mulan dolls in our new curio last week), I feel justified in pronouncing that these angry feminists are nuts.  Their response to the new artwork (not the doll) makes no sense.  It’s not like Merida was fat or had a noticeable deformity or something before; rather, I look at that art and see . . . a different artist’s 2D interpretation of an earlier artist’s 3D art.  It’s not sinister misogyny, it’s two different art styles.  Geez, calm down, angry feminists.  Plus, if they don’t like the doll based on the new art, they can just buy last year’s doll, problem solved.  It’s not like a “redesign” changes the content of the movie, or dolls already in existence that you can go out and buy because capitalism.

Incidentally, I was going to be like, my Mulan doll doesn’t have a sword and I’m not bitching about it, but then when I was looking for the specific doll I have, I found this Mulan doll!  I think I might need it–that doll is just plain awesome.  But, I’m not going to discard my fashion Mulan.  She’s pretty, and I fail to see how presenting beauty and poise to my daughter is somehow a bad thing.  I suspect my daughter will, much like me, appreciate women who are pretty and women who kick ass.

In closing, I’m not even invested in this issue; I just watched Brave last week for the first time, and was not particularly impressed.  In fact, it was kind of slow and boring.  It was nowhere near as good as Tangled (which I loved).  My main problem is with over-reacting feminists . . . they kind of make us all look bad.


9 thoughts on “Brave feminists

  1. Stuart the Viking says:

    This is one of those rare occasions where I kinda see the feminists point of view. Not that I totally AGREE with it, but at least I can see where they are coming from.

    My reaction when I clicked the link was “Hey, Isn’t this what the Merida character in the story was trying NOT to become?” You know… “Change meh stars” and all of that? (please excuse the poor attempt to phonetically write the accent)

    The feminist group getting all indignant and circulating a petition is vast over-reaction though. Duh… if they don’t like the doll, DON’T BUY IT. See how easy that is?


    • Julia says:

      My point is that the art is very likely not an attempt to “change” Merida in the first place–it’s just a different artist’s style. But even if WERE an attempt at change, how in the world does that affect anyone? They really think some little girl is going to stop being inspired by the movie character because the doll is pretty? Then buy her the doll that comes with the bow and arrows and can stand in fighting poses! Seriously, asking Disney to pull a whole line of dolls is ridiculous when you can just go buy a different doll in the first place. All women will not suddenly become oppressed little victims because there is a pretty doll in the toy aisle; just buy the doll you want, and if you don’t want any of them for whatever reason, don’t buy one. Easy solution.

      Besides, realistically, if the movie had continued . . . Merida would have grown up to wear nicer dresses and clean herself up, because that’s what royalty has to do. Mulan II did a really good job addressing that concept, actually, in the context of arranged marriages. I was all ready to scream at the tv if they turned it into a modern commentary on medieval China, but Mulan acted consistently with her character. Another reason why Mulan is superior to Brave >_>

      • Ish says:

        Also, unless I am very much mistaken, that is a gown she wore in the film… Unlike a lot of the other characters that have been shifted over into the “Princesses” line with a radical redesign in their costuming or characterization.

        As the parent of an soon-to-be-seven-year old who got bit HARD by the Fairy Ballerina Princess bug, I’ve become something of an expert in the Disney Princess line. Little girls don’t look at these characters and see “trophies to be admired.” They see characters with cool costumes that have neat adventures.

      • Julia says:

        Do your girls have a preference between costume choices? Do you think a doll that is pretty is a bad influence on them?

        I feel like if I were still that young, I would want the dolls with the weapons because you can do more with them, but I can’t recall ever getting depressed because I didn’t look like my Barbie. I couldn’t care less what she looked like, as long as I could put her in cool clothes and act out little scenes with my friends. Now, though, I have graduated into “trophy” territory. Hell, I have anime fashion dolls in a curio . . . on the shelf under Gundams.

  2. Ish says:

    The not-quite-seven-year old has the biggest case of Princessitius, and seems to gravitate towards dolls with the neatest costumes… regardless of what that costume might be. She does seem to prefer faeries to other options, so all things being equal she’d opt for a faerie Barbie over a ballerina or astronaut Barbie. Having said that, she’s also big into pretending she’s a faerie _secret agent_. I don’t remember Tinker Bell ever fighting ninjas, but hey.

    The three year old is, well, three. She likes whatever big sister likes, but left to her own initiative seems to gravitate towards horses, ponies, and giant robots. So, yeah, I’m going to have to track down a Fuunsaiki action figure by Hanukkah. ^_^,

    • Julia says:

      Sounds to me like you are teaching them well.

      I think my daughter will be able to rattle off the Japanese names of the Sailor Senshi AND the Shuffle Alliance by kindergarten. That’s my plan, anyway. As some friends and I were discussing tonight, though, it’s maybe just as likely that she will grow up and be a cheerleader or something normal like that. (the goth sister of my goth friend has a son who is a popular jock, it’s kind of funny)

      • Ish says:

        I’m hoping this upcoming Sailormoon remake gets a good English dub, as the original series DiC dub probably counts as child abuse… and subtitles are a bit much for a kindergartener.

      • Julia says:

        This is a struggle for me, as a confirmed anti-dub fan. I don’t want my child judging anime by terrible American voice-acting, but young kids can’t read subtitles. Like, I own all of Card Captor Sakura, and I love it . . . but unless I go out and buy Cardcaptors (oh, hell no), I can only ever have the Geneon sub-only release. I don’t know who will dub the Sailor Moon remake, but in case they only do one or two seasons, I want a re-release of the original five seasons so I can show my daughter the whole thing. I would PREFER they re-dub seasons 1 and 2, but I guess I can wait and show them to her when she is older and can read, because that sub is baaaaaad. (although, it still made both of us fans…)

  3. Ish says:

    Well, in my case (and yours too if I’m not mistaken) the original DIC dubbed Sailormoon was not our first exposure to anime. I knew the dub was bad when I first watched it, but pit up with it anyway and then hit the comic shops and BBSes for Bong Kong dubbed VHSes of later seasons.

    I generally prefer to watch any film or TV series in its original language, ratio, color/black-and-white, etc. This is both due to my latent film snobbery and the simple assumption that it was made in the way the makers wanted it made. Having said that, a small-but-not-insignifigant number of anime have received top notch dubs, notably the Studio Ghibli films that were my daughters’ first anime…

    I doubt new Sailormoon will receive the lavishly done dubs Ghibli gets, but if its done closer to the quality of, say, Ghost in the Shell SAC or Cow ot BeBop than…. well, Sailormoon, I’m happy.

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