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.


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


Africans circa 1931


Females circa 2013



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.





New biography of Herge, NYT review mentions racism but not misogyny

Here’s what reviewer Cullen Murphy writes in today’s New York Times about the new book Herge, Son of Tintin by Benoit Peters:

Yet Peeters squarely faces two issues that hang over Hergé’s career: his resort to ethnic and racial stereotypes, mainly in the early stories, and his record of accommodation in German-occupied Belgium.

The issues can’t be avoided. In both word and picture, the depiction of Africans in “Tintin in the Congo” makes your jaw drop. (“It’s very nice of these blacks to bear us triumphantly to our hotel!”) The villainous financier in “The Shooting Star” has a hooked nose and has been given the name Blumenstein. Some of this work was later revised, imperfectly. And “Tintin in the Congo” has been gingerly treated by publishers and libraries. As for accommodation, Hergé published “Tintin” throughout the war in the collaborationist newspaper Le Soir. Peeters doesn’t excuse any of this (who would?), though he does try to put it in context. He observes that Hergé’s prejudices were those of his time and place, and notes that the cartoonist, as he matured, acquired a more enlightened sensibility. In “The Blue Lotus,” Chinese ideograms on signs in the background say things like “Abolish unfair treaties!” and “Down with imperialism!” (These were drawn by an influential assistant, a French-speaking native of Shanghai named Zhang Chong Ren.) Hergé was not in essence a political man, publishing in Le Soir because collaborationist newspapers were the only ones allowed to exist.

I haven’t read the book, and I hope Peeters explores Herge’s misogyny in it, but if he does, why would Cullen leave that out of his review? Why does Peeters “squarely face two issues” but not that one? If Herge’s sexism is indeed left out, why doesn’t the reviewer ask the reason for the omission? Are women as unimportant in this story to the reviewer and biographer as they were to Herge?

Read more about the creator of Tintin’s disturbing thought on women.

Sexism in Tintin Part IV

I’ve gotten hundreds of comments on Tintin at Reel Girl and SFGate, two I find really interesting. One is an interview with Herge I can’t find right now, but when I have time to sort through the comments, I’ll post for you (Or if you come across it, resend!) The one below is kind of fascinating about how extremely male Tintin’s world truly is– the part about Tintin “graduating from housekeeper to a male butler.” Wow. But the point Lucas makes about “going even further” with my argument into exploring heteronormativity in Tintin as more interesting than “Tintin is sexist” is funny to me. That’s not a more interesting argument to me, Lucas.

Hey there –

Yeah, the early Tintin is amazingly racist. (But at the same time, “The Blue Lotus,” despite its structural racism and the racist/colonial project that drove Hergé to do albums in Africa, in India, in South America, in China, etc., actually allowed Hergé to work through his racist bias and produce what has been describe as a – for its time – very culturally-sensitive and even subversive piece of work.)

More importantly, the entire Tintin opus is intensely homosocial: all men and boys. Tintin even “graduates” from his female housekeeper to sharing a male butler with Captain Haddock when they move in together. The entire economy of the books is male-centered enough to become a little queer, actually. A more interesting argument than “Tintin is sexist” might be “Tintin is sexist to the point that it subverts itself, and starts to push heteronormativity into different patterns of gender and sexuality.” You don’t have to make that argument, of course, but it would be more surprising.

One of the key exceptions to the rule of Tintin’s masculine universe is Bianca Castafiore. Catherine Clément gives a wonderful reading of Castafiore in her famous and important feminist text “Opera, or the Undoing of Women.” In the comics, Castafiore is portrayed as an almost entirely negative figure. Her signature aria, which she performs at every opportunity, is presented as shrill and unpleasant; Captain Haddock, in particular, is constantly pained by her singing.

It’s a shame you were in the bathroom during the Castafiore scene in Spielberg’s movie. That’s where you get to see the adaptation really, well, adapting. The new film actually portrays Castafiore as a magnetic, powerful, and happy woman – not a “beautiful” one, not a “thin” one, not even an accessible one, but as a talented woman whose voice (and the film gives itself fully over to her aria, allowing Renée Fleming to sing without interruption) charms and enchants all who hear it. It’s quite a turn-around from the albums, and portrays her character as something that, according to the sexist logic surrounding the diva, should not exist – an ambitious, successful, and self-defined woman.

Without any consideration of this scene, your argument about the movie and its relationship to its source-text is undeveloped. You don’t have to agree with me, but it’s worth thinking about a moment like this because it would make your overall argument more complex and powerful. There’s also a worthwhile recent volume on the political/social implications of Tintin published last year (“Tintin aux pays des philosophes”), which includes several surprising essays about race and gender in Tintin. This all by way of suggestion, if you would like to make your arguments about this subject more nuanced or compelling.

Click here for more on sexism in Tintin

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it

I am reposting with art for those who argue “Tintin in the Congo” is not racist. Also, one more time: the point is that the lack of female roles in the Tintin movie’s cast is consistent with most of the movies made for kids today. Girls have gone missing in kids’ movies and that means that both genders learn that boys are more important than girls. Parents, this is not okay. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

Commenters are defending the Tintin movie, writing that creator Herge’s sexism was simply a product of his times.

Margot, you are aware that Hergé wrote most of his comic books (including the three on which the film is based) before WWII, at a time when women in his home country of Belgium as in many others didn’t even have the right to vote? Of course his work reflects the prejudices of that era, not only towards women but towards just about everyone who wasn’t a white Christian male (the most egregious example being Tintin in the Congo)!

Would Steven Spielberg adapt Herge’s racist views (“of his times”) expressed in Tintin in the Congoto make a movie in 2012 and market that movie to kids?

Of course not. No one would see it. People would be horrified. Herge’s racist views are universally recognized as the aberration that they are. Why is Herge’s “dated” sexism celebrated in a loyal adaptation from one of our most acclaimed directors?

There are two answers, both are true. The first one is that in 2012 sexism is, in many ways, just as accepted and “normal” as it was in 1932. Women are humiliated and degraded all the time, but while racism is seen as a political issue, sexism is still seen as a “cultural” one.

The second, less controversial explanation is that in Herge’s comics, he directly degrades and humiliates Africans whereas his sexism mostly manifests as an omission. His racism is worse. Herge believes women have no place in his imaginary world. Is that offensive? Is it even sexist?

It’s an annihilation.

What is remarkable about this annihilation, and what I was writing about, is that it’s consistent with the casts of most animated movies made today. A story originally created by an artist who spoke openly of how he didn’t think females should be included in his imaginary world is almost indistinguishable from the majority of films made for kids right now. Steven Spielberg probably didn’t even notice.

What does that say about how important we think girls are?

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing from Kids Films in 2011.

See statistics on the lack of females in animated films from the Geena Davis Insititute on Gender and Media.