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.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with comparing modern gender inequality with past racism or anti-Semitism. Analogies don’t have to be perfectly accurate to convey a point.
I won’t be getting my grrrl any Merida dolls at Target. The independent, woman-owned toystore downtown has an archery set that’s just her size.
I usually adore your website, but comparing the opression of blacks/jews to women in America in 2010s deeply offends me.
Asking whose oppression is worse throughout history: blacks, jews, gays women etc. is a pointless waste of time. In this blog post, I am referring to using propaganda to make bias seem okay or normal.
What makes the gendering of animal characters thing more interesting is that many animals in real life already have gender-specific characteristics to begin with.
1) In many bird species, the males have brighter, showier plumage than the females.
2) With all the deer species except reindeer and caribou, only the males have antlers
3) Only female mosquitos suck blood and carry disease to humans and only female bees and wasps have a sting
4) Both male lions and lionesses can be maneless but only male lions have manes
People can also get the real life gender-specific characteristics of a given species wrong, most notably female peacocks. Peacocks are male peafowl, female peafowl are peahens and don’t have the train that peacocks have. A more specific example is Hedwig from the Harry Potter books. She is supposed to be a female snowy owl, but she has mostly white plumage, which only male snowy owls have.
If people creating animal characters for their books, comics, cartoons, TV shows, video games, movies, e.t.c. only looked at the real life gender-specific characteristics of animals and applied them to their animal characters, they wouldn’t have to rely on giving female animals head bows, eyelashes, or other stereotypically feminine gender markers to distinguish them from the male animals.
I think 4 was reasonably well conveyed in The Lion King. To paraphrase a sentiment I once read in a book on the history of beauty/fashion, why does it seem like humans are one of the only animals where the female is responsible for attracting a mate? It’s true that many (if not all) animal species have a male that is flashier to attract a mate with colorful plumage, etc. Males are often the one who perform dances or sing to attract a mate. And females are often larger and/or stronger. But that doesn’t not agree with the societal gender norms of human societies so when we anthropomorphize animals, we don’t adhere to the norms of nature because we’re projecting our idea of gender onto these animals.
Here are some other female animal protagonists to check out.
1) Mrs. Brisby the fieldmouse (The Secret of NIMH)
2) Ginger the hen (Chicken Run)
3) Olive the dog (Olive the Other Reindeer)
4) Frances (Frances the Badger books, Frances TV show)
5) Olivia the pig (Olivia books and TV show)
6) Digger the wombat (Digger webcomic)
7) Sagwa (Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat)
8) Martha the dog (Martha Speaks)
9) Blue the puppy (Blue’s Clues)
How would you rate these female animal protagonists?
I’m a fan of Mrs. Brisby is it BRisby, that is not sounding right to me. LOVE Frances, Olivia, and Martha. I hear Ginger is good. There was recently some commentary about Sagwa on this blog, O heard she was aesome but her name means something that some people think is derogatory towards females, forget what now. I don’t know Digger or OLive, will look them up. I did not know Blue was female, i have hear of that show. That is pretty cool she is in the title role.
Aside from Ginger the hen and Mrs. Brisby the fieldmouse (The original book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, has her name in the title), all the female animal characters I listed, as well as Chi the kitten, have their names in the title.
Although Charlotte the spider is a very major supporting character not the main protagonist (Wilbur, a male pig, is the main character instead), her name is in the title of the book and movie, Charlotte’s Web.
I’m a huge fan of Charlotte’s Web and have blogged about it.
What I find embarrassing, shameful, and flat out appalling is you comparing the current state of girls in 2013 to the days that Blacks and Jews were stereotyped, discriminated, and killed in the early 20th century. Girls and women have gained so many rights in the last 40+ years and you compared its ”oppression” to Blacks and Jews in the 1930s.
That’s absolutely and utterly lazy comparison and analysis.
Years ago, the Wall Street Journal used to have a Bad Writing Contest where readers can submit writing that’s truly awful. Too bad they don’t have this contest because I would personally submit this post–and your blog–to judges of the Bad Writing Contest and you would win hands down.
Honestly, you need a new hobby because you come across really immature, out-of-touch and bitter towards the world. Once again, do yourself a favor and enroll in an English 101 class at your local community college and learn how to write. Everytime I see a new post, 1) you are embarrassing yourself and 2) you put yourself further down the cultural rabbit hole by making piss poor arguments.
*waiting for your condescending reply*
You are pretty predictable, ya know
The “new look” Merida merchandizing is in the Swedish stores anyway, I saw the 2-D image on a t-shirt today when shoppping for my daughter.
“It’s a failure of imagination,” says writer Peggy Orenstein, author of the best-selling Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.
Other than deciding her mother isn’t so bad, Merida doesn’t really grow. She’s simply extended her time as a tomboy, another archetype, less a girl than a stereotype of a kind of girl. “It wasn’t clear to me what her arc was,” Orenstein says. “What is it that we are imagining girls moving toward here? ‘I get to ride around on a horse all day’ isn’t really enough. That isn’t going to take her anywhere. There wasn’t a desire to do something.”
I did wonder if Pixar went with the princess concept in Brave with an eye toward subverting the tired (ahem, Disney) genre by attacking it head on, making this princess so defiantly different that all the other princesses would pale in comparison. If so, the studio hasn’t carried it off. Merida has red hair. She can shoot like Hawkeye in The Avengers. But Mulan accomplished more. Susan in Monsters vs. Aliens grew more (literally and figuratively), even if, as Orenstein points out, she could have used “a few more pixels in her waist.” Tiana in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, the first black female lead for the studio, had a job and an ambition.
Speaking of strong female characters and protagonists, have you heard of Chi the kitten from the Chi’s Sweet Home manga and anime and the Chi’s New Address anime?
She is not sexualized or stereotypically girly, she doesn’t wear bows or other things that TVTropes calls Tertiary Sexual Characteristics, and she is one of the very few female animal protagonists.
I haven’t heard of Chi. I’ll check her out.