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.





Is 4 year old Riley ‘brainwashed’ by her dad?

By now, you’ve probably seen the video that’s gone viral of four year old Riley complaining about the genderfication of toys.

Commenters all over the internet and Facebook are crying foul, protesting that Riley is brainwashed and being coached as she’s filmed by her father. Here’s one comment I got on SFGate:

Riley’s video would be alot more moving if her Dad wasn’t audibly coaching her from behind the lense. She’s parroting what he’s been pushing on her.

Even alternative sites like this one suspiciously speculate on the behind the scenes, manipulative influence of Riley’s father.

So often, if people witness a parent stray from social norms, buying her daughter a superhero costume or her son a toy stroller, they conclude that parent is “brainwashing,” “programming,” or “coaching” her kid away from “natural” behavior.

I won’t repeat it here, but if you think the color pink or baby dolls are “natural” for girls, please see this post.

This Christmas, my two-year-old daughter was devastated when her slightly younger two-year-old cousin received a super cool, light up, noisy truck. Oh, how she wanted that truck. What two-year-old wouldn’t? Do you think any one gave her one for Christmas? No, that would be “brainwashing.” It would be making some kind of statement.

Guess what? Parents are supposed to “brainwash” their kids. It’s called parenting. It’s our job to instill values and beliefs in our children and give our kids positive reinforcement when they show behavior we want them to practice. Obviously, kids rebel and figure out their own way, but it’s our role to give them a structure to work with. I don’t know why when it comes to toys or movies, people think we’re supposed to suddenly abdicate that responsibility. Kids learn through play. Doesn’t everyone know that by now? Everything they watch on the screen is “programming” them. That’s what a program is.

If Riley’s father is brainwashing her, if he is giving her attention, filming her for the camera, letting her be a star as she goes along on her diatribe, he’s being a good dad; he’s “brainwashing” his daughter to be open, consciously encouraging her to allow more experiences to come into her world, not less. Isn’t that the best kind of brainwashing? Isn’t it preferable to the limiting, reflex, “positive” reinforcement my daughters, and daughters all over the world, get everyday when people beam at them and say: “I love your dress, shirt, shoes, pretty girl/ princess!”

When people argue that Riley’s father, the one who is supposed to bringing her up, is manipulating her, but that standing in a chain store’s pink aisle full of dolls created and marketed by multinational companies is somehow “natural,” it shows just how backward and twisted kidworld has become.