After massive protest, Disney pulls new Merida from site

Exciting news! Today, Rebecca Hains, blogger and media studies professor, reports:

“As of today, Disney has quietly pulled the 2D image of Merida from its website, replacing it with the original Pixar version. Perhaps we’ll be spared an onslaught of sexy Merida merchandise yet.”

YAY! Check out the link, it’s true! BRAVE Merida is back.

I guess Disney was right to be so terrified of creating a strong, BRAVE, female protagonist (along with Pixar studios which hadn’t had ANY female protags before “Brave.”) It looks like Merida could be turning Disney’s franchise on it’s head. That’s pretty damn heroic.

Another mistake Disney made with “Brave?” They hired a female director. They fired her, but it was too late. Brenda Chapman wrote “Brave” based on her daughter. She was furious with the character’s transformation and wrote publicly about Disney’s terrible mistake.

Of the debacle Hains writes:

That’s right: Although Merida was created by a woman as a role model for girls, the male-dominated consumer product division at Disney has ignored the character’s intended benefits for young girls, sexualizing her for profit. Compared with her film counterpart, this new Merida is slimmer and bustier. She wears makeup, and her hair’s characteristic wildness is gone: It has been volumized and restyled with a texture more traditionally “pretty.” Furthermore, she is missing her signature bow, arrow, and quiver; instead, she wears a fashionable sash around her sparkly, off-the-shoulder gown. (As Peggy Orenstein noted when she broke the news of the redesign, “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.’” I’ve heard the same from parents, as well.)

Is the sexualized  image of Merida gone for good? Has Disney learned a lesson? Or will that lesson be: No more strong female characters leading a film! No more female directors writing about their daughters! Keep the females weak and quiet!

It’s up to you. This could be a turning point. Parents, please use your voice and your wallet to keep strong, heroic females showing up in narratives and images marketed to your kids. Right now, girls are missing from children’s media and when they do appear, they’re sexualized. This is normal. Not healthy, but tragically, perfectly normal.

Yesterday, Melissa Wardy posted this image on her Pigtail Pals Facebook page, reminding us Merida’s new image was not created in a vacuum.

pigtails

Objectifying and sexualizing girls is dangerous. A first step to abuse is always dehumanizing the victim. Propaganda, in the form of images and narratives, effectively dehumanizes on a mass scale.

Images/ narratives of Jews circa 1938

nazibook

Africans circa 1931

tin_tin_in_congo11

Females circa 2013

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It’s easy to look back on history and wonder: How did people ever put up with that? I’d never buy into it, not to mention expose my child to it. But what are you participating in right now that is completely accepted, not to mention celebrated, by our culture?

Be part of the solution. Demand narratives with strong female characters for your kids.

Update: New Merida may be off Disney’s site but she’s showing up all over the place including Target. Below is Target’s web page.

meridatarget

 

 

 

Disney destroys Brave’s Merida with sexy makeover #NotBuyingIt

From the Mary Sue:

“On May 11th Brave‘s Merida will be officially crowned as the 11th Disney Princess, the impact of which is that Disney will be selling more stuff with her on it, I guess? Anyway. Along with the “coronation ceremony,” to be held at Walt Disney World, Merida’s gotten a new redesign…”

A great summary from Toward the Stars:

towardthestars

Here’s one of my favorite pre-botox, pre-makeover Merida expressions.

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Pithy analysis from Peggy Orenstein on the eventual fate of way too many of Disney’s female characters:

Because, in the end, it wasn’t about being brave after all. It was about being pretty…I’m especially creeped out by Belle who appears to have had major surgery… In addition to everything else, they’re pushing the brown girls slowly but surely to the edges…

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.

The disease of homogeneous, anorexic, botoxed, generic females has spread worldwide, through these kinds of images. Did you see the Reddit story about the Korean beauty queens: “Has plastic surgery made these beauty queens all look the same? Koreans complain about pageant clones.” Talk about creepy.

beautyqueens

One commenter wrote:

‘The surgery takes away their individuality and uniqueness and its sad. Most are beautiful without it but telling them that their Korean ethnic features are in fact lovely is as effective as screaming at a brick wall.

‘They wont believe you because they’ve been brainwashed to think westernization of their features is superior, I don’t think they want to look white, but a mix of white and Asian and definitely less Korean.’

This is how one “beauty” queen describes herself:

The student revealed her plastic surgery secret after photos emerged of her looking very different at school, but she said she hadn’t misled anyone.

But she defended her crown telling the Korean media: ‘I never said I was born beautiful.’

 

So sad because this generic look has absolutely nothing to do with “beauty” and everything to do with power, Westernization, capitalism, and status. TV host Stephen Colbert explained it well when he jokingly asked teen writer/ phenom Tavi Gevinson: “But if girls feel good about themselves, how will we sell them things they don’t need?”

How indeed? I was a huge Merida fan, as were my kids, and I bought my three young daughters several figures, books, and posters featuring her because she was cool. Here’s a framed poster over my four year old daughter’s bed so she can see her when she goes to sleep at night, along with her favorite Merida book.

Mposter

Like Merida, my daughter, Rose, has wild, curly hair that she hates to have brushed.

rose

I hope my daughter never feels that she has to look generic and homogeneous in order to be “beautiful.” I hope she always knows that her beauty comes from her spirit. That’s not some meaningless cliche. There’s nothing “attractive” about frozen-faced clones. Disney’s new, madeover Merida has absolutely nothing to offer my kids. I won’t be buying ANY merchandise with this awful, new image.

Reel Girl rates the new Merida ***SSS*** for major stereotyping.

Please Tweet @Disney We want Merida brave, not botoxed. New, madeover Merida is bad for kids #NotBuyingIt

 

 

Congratulations to “Brave”

Last night, “Brave” won the Golden Globe for Best Animated film.

Brave-Merida-Wallpaper

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish director Brenda Chapman could’ve accepted the award since “Brave” was a story she created, inspired by her daughter, but I know that’s not protocol.

Brenda_Chapman

 

Still, with that wish in my heart, it annoyed me that the male on stage talked and the female didn’t say one thing. I’m assuming they were producers of “Brave.”

The biggest bummer for me was Kevin Costner. He is so arrogant and annoying. But the good news is, we didn’t have to watch three hours of arrogant men. The night belonged to women.

It was so great to see Tina Fey and Amy Poehler up there on stage.

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They were so funny. I loved how they quipped about Bill Clinton: “That’s Hillary’s husband!” And then called him Bill Rodham Clinton. Introducing some of the nominees in the audience, they joked about dieting. Fey said, “The Hunger Games…also what I call the six weeks it took me to get into this dress.” Poehler added: “Life of Pi”…which is what I’m gonna call the six weeks after I take this dress off!” Their porn jokes were funny too, and also how they said to Kathryn Bigelow: “When it comes to torture I trust the lady that spent 3 years married to James Cameron.”

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I loved the end of Jessica Chastain’s acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Drama:

I want to thank Kathryn Bigelow my director.  I can’t help but compare my character of Maya to you, two powerful fearless women that allows their expert work to stand before them.  You’ve said that filmmaking for you is not about breaking gender roles but when you make a film that allows your character to disobey the conventions of Hollywood, you’ve done more for women in cinema than you take credit for.

chastain-globes

It was excellent to see Lena Dunham win and get up on stage twice. She said: “this award is for every woman who didn’t think there was a space for her.  I found my space.”

dunham

Jennifer Lawrence won for Best Actress in a comedy. I still haven’t seen “Silver Linings Playbook,” but I’m dying to.

jennifer

Claire Danes won her excellent portrayal of the smart, complex heroine of “Homeland.”

70th Annual Golden Globe Awards Press Room [NO Germany, Austria]

The incredibly talented Adele took home an award for showcasing her kick-ass voice in “Skyfall.”

adele

Julianne Moore won for her role in “Game Change” as Sarah Palin.

Julianne

It was funny to see Fey and Moore joke about playing Palin, a character who, of course, neither woman would’ve had the chance to play if she didn’t exist in the real world.

Jodie Foster’s speech was funny and moving and strange and I was so happy to see a woman who is 50, relatively young for a lifetime achievement honor, win the Cecil B. DeMille award.

jodie

 

What did I miss? Whoever it could be, without a doubt, the 70th Golden Globes was the best ever for women, and therefore, of course, the best ever at all.

 

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2012

I’ve been avoiding writing this post. I knew that female characters in children’s movies were not faring well in 2012. Not in number and not in stature. But I kept hoping. Hoping that somehow, before January, something would change, a slew of movies were going to appear from nowhere, stats would magically shift.

Yes, we got “Brave” this year. Thank you director Brenda Chapman for making Pixar’s first movie ever with a female protagonist. I’m sorry that you, one of the only women to direct animated movies produced by a major studio, were fired half way through production and replaced with a male director.

But “Brave” is just one movie. The exception proves the rule. It’s December now, and sadly, it’s time for me to admit that once again, in the movies made for children in 2012, girls go missing. In staggering proportions, males are consistently front and center; females are mostly sidelined or not there at all.

If you look at the gender placement in the images on the movie posters below, the meaning of “marginalized” couldn’t be more clear. Remember, these are movie for kids. So when your children go to the movies, they are learning, time and time again, that boys are more important than girls.

For those of you who say there are alternative posters that I didn’t put in Reel Girl’s Gallery, you may find them on Google images, but these are the ones I saw all around San Francisco. Even if you find a poster on Google featuring, say, Tooth, the one female Guardian out of five (a typical gender ratio, by the way) that’s a pretty pathetic argument for her relevance.

For those of you who say the posters below do not reflect the movie, that the movie has a strong female in it, maybe even two, maybe three, you are, most likely, referring to the Minority Feisty. No matter how many Minority Feisty there are in an animated film, they are represented as a minority. The irony is, of course, that females are not a minority, not a special interest, not even a fringe group. Females are, in fact, half of the population. Girls are half of the kid population. Why aren’t they represented that way in movies made for children?

I call the Minority Feisty “Feisty” because that is, invariably, the adjective reviewers use to describe the “strong” female character in an animated film. “Feisty” is diminutive. It is what you call someone who plays at being powerful, not someone who is actually powerful. Would you ever call Superman “feisty?” How would he feel if you did?

The role of the Minority Feisty, like a cheerleader or First Lady, is to help the male star along on his important quest. Children need to see females front and center, as protagonists, as the heroes of their own stories.

Finally, even apart from the movie, these posters– and ads– are their own media. Whether or not your kid goes to the movie, she sees these posters everywhere. The movie poster is one of the reasons that I was so thrilled about “Brave.” Finally, San Francisco was papered with an image a daring girl, an image marketed to kids. Obviously, the biggest impact of a narrative is made when kids get to know the character through the movie and then see that character on clothing, food packaging, and toys.

As you look at these posters, imagine the reverse, the gender ratio and the character placement, switched; the movie’s title reflecting the female star. Would you do a double take? How many of us grown-ups don’t even notice the dominance of male characters anymore? How many of us experience the annihilation of females as totally normal, not to mention adorable and child-appropriate?

There is no good reason for the imaginary world to be sexist. Or is there?

Only 16% of protagonists in movies are female; only 16% of women make it into power positions in almost all professions across America. Children’s movie posters, and of course the movies themselves, are an effective way that we acclimate a new generation to expect and accept a world where females go missing.

Out of the 16 posters for children’s movies in 2012 pictured below, just 4 represent movies starring females: “Mirror, Mirror,” “Brave,” “Secret World of Arietty” and “Big Miracle.” The “Big Miracle” poster diminishes Drew Barrymore pretty effectively. I loved “Arrietty,” as I love every Studio Ghibli film, but was surprised to see the boy so big on the poster.

I did not include YA movies, my three daughters are ages 3, 6, and 9. I’m not including “Oogieloves” because it’s an interactive song/ dance film, though it really annoys me that out of 7 Oogieloves, just 2 are female. I did not include “Toys in the Attic,” the dubbed Czeck stop-action film from 2009, because it is really creepy, disturbing, and not recommended for young kids.

Here’s the Gallery:

 

Related posts:

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2011

The curse of the Minority Feisty in kids’ movies

Pixar’s female problem: Please stop asking ‘What about Jessie?” (Great post by Peggy Orenstein on the Minority Feisty issue)

 

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Catwoman’s ass vs Merida

I’ve had an amazing three weeks writing my Middle Grade book. The break from blogging has been productive but painful. I love to blog! What did I miss?

Lots! I could blog for hours, but because I’m still in Fairyland mode (and need to stay there) I’m going to cut it down to a low point and a high point:

Have you seen DC Comic’s new Catwoman cover? (Via GeekMom)

How can Catwoman fight anyone with her ass in the air like that?

This Catwoman cover is reminiscent of artist Kevin Bolk’s spoof on “The Avengers” if the males posed like the female. Notice the plural and singular nouns there. I posted Bolk’s art on my blog a few weeks ago. Here’s the picture again:

The good news is my post of Bolk’s art got about 400 shares. Maybe the sexism is becoming more obvious to people? Though how could it not?

What fascinates me about the ass-female-superhero-obsession is that that unlike breasts, every human has an ass. Therefore the argument– ridiculous anyway– that men’s and women’s bodies are different and that’s the only reason why women get so sexualized– doesn’t hold here.

It’s pathetically ironic too that these heroes are supposed to be fighting for justice. I guess, as with so many advocates for freedom– including Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and JFK– gender equality isn’t high on the list.

On a positive note, I LOVE seeing the pictures of Merida all over San Francisco! I have bought several “Brave” books already, and to those of you who think kids aren’t influenced by media imagery, I found my eight year old making a series of drawings. Here’s one of my favorites:

Remember, art creates reality and reality creates art in an endless loop. Phases aren’t outgrown, they mutate. So, please take your kids to this movie starring a powerful female. Take your sons and daughters! See it twice. I hope this film makes money. I’ll be out of the country when it comes out but it’s first on my to do list when I get back.

One more blog coming on Erica Jong’s book Sugar in My Bowl.

Hope you are having a great summer and please keep using my FB page to post and comment.


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Pixar’s “Brave” features cliched corset metaphor

Honestly, I am so excited for “Brave.” As you’ve probably heard, the animated film coming out this summer will star Pixar’s first ever (FIRST EVER!!) female protagonist. I also suspect that the movie is based on the book Brave Margaret which I love. But I had to laugh when I saw this by Claire Hummel/ Shoomlah on the blog Animation Anomaly.

Hummel is so right, this scene is so old, so done. I just blogged about the Jean Paul Gaultier show which was all about corsets. Not only is the corset-image tired to see AGAIN in a movie, but Hummel makes another great point: corsets didn’t exist in Medieval times.

I really, really hope that “Brave” is a movie where we can just see a female heroine being brave and powerful, not one who is mainly rebelling and struggling within the confines of the patriarchy (get it? “the corset”) Disney princess style i.e. Jasmine, Mulan, and Belle. I am so starved to see a female being heroic as in “The Hunger Games” where gender is not the main issue. This is fantasy movie; this is animation. Anything is possible, even, yes, gender equality!

I hope that the protag’s main rebellion in “Brave” is not that she actually wants to pick who she marries. (Whoo-hoo! Can you imagine that being the main plot of movie starring a male?) Or that the protag has to pretend to be male in order to have adventures. Why do little girls have to see that so much?  “Girls can do anything boys can do!” That is so patronizing. Ugh. Girls don’t even know about sexism yet for God’s sake. When my daughter was four and saw “Mulan,” she was confused and asked me: “Why can’t girls fight?” I had to explain sexism so she could understand the plot of the movie.

Please Pixar, show much more imagination than this tired corset metaphor suggests. I know you will, I know you will, I know you will.

Female protag as rare as a rat who can cook

From the LA Times on Pixar’s first female protagonist in the history of the studio:

The film brought Pixar’s artists some new technical challenges — it took two years to achieve the precise degree of frizz in Merida’s hair, for instance. But “Brave’s” biggest mark of distinction is its female protagonist, a first for the animation studio behind the “Toy Story” and “Cars” movies.

Andrews said that Merida’s trail-blazing places “Brave” squarely in the Pixar storytelling canon.

“Pixar made the first old-person-centered animated film with ‘Up’ and the first rat-that-wants-to-be-a-chef film with ‘Ratatouille,’” Andrews said.”Pixar is not one to shy away from firsts.”

Wow, a female hero is as rare and remarkable as a rat who can cook.

She’s coming to a theater near you in June 2012. And she’s a Scot. I can’t wait!