May 31, 2013


If you didn't hear about the big commotion regarding Pixar's Brave character Merida I guess I'm not that surprised.  In the grand scheme of things, it wasn't too big of deal.  But, in order for this post to make any sense to you, you need to know a few of the details.

A few weeks ago, Merida was inducted into the ever inclusive Disney Princess Club.  As part of her induction, Disney gave her a little bit of a make-over.

Obviously, the princess club Merida was much more sexy, slimmer and without her most prized possession - the bow and arrow. 

Thousands were outraged by the change, claiming that Merida was the first Disney princess that was different.  The first Disney princess that wasn't about beauty and whose only hope in life wasn't to meet her handsome prince.  The first Disney princess that was actually worth admiring.

A petition was started.  Thousands of signatures were collected.  The petition demanded Disney restore Merida to her original settings.  And, after a few days, that's exactly what happened.  The official Disney princess website was changed and Merida was once again portrayed just as she did in her feature film.

So, here's my dilemma.

I am raising a little girl that loves princesses.  She adores them all:  Rapunzel, Cinderella, Tiana, Ariel, Belle, Mulan, Sleeping Beauty, Merida, etc.  She owns many of the princess dresses and would wear them 24/7 if I let her.

As I watch my little girl prance around our house in her dresses and then think about the outrage over Merida's makeover, I find myself conflicted.  I wonder, "Am I setting my daughter up for complete and utter doom by letting her love and adore princesses?  Is she going to grow up feeling like the only thing that matters in life is how you look?"

And then I think about the stories behind some of these princesses:

Belle is an outcast in the village where she lives.  She prefers to read and seeks adventure.  She refuses a marriage proposal from the most dashing, handsome man in town.  She supports and defends her father even when everyone else makes fun of him, and, she ultimately sacrifices her freedom to save his life.  She eventually falls in love with the Beast because, despite his appearance, she has learned that he is kind and gentle and caring.

Cinderella is treated horribly by her family.  She is a slave in her own home.  Despite the cruelty she endures, she always has a positive attitude.  In the end, her dream of a better life comes true, illustrating that, despite the difficulties we may have now, things can turn out for the better.

Ariel dreams of a different life.  She has a curious nature and wants to learn everything she can about life above the sea.  She is rebellious, knows what she wants in life and makes sure she gets it.

Mulan lives in a country where tradition means everything, and where women are viewed as worthless.  Because she is not male, the only way she can bring honor to her family is by getting married.  Even though she wants to honor her father and mother, she knows she has more to offer than just being "a little wife."  Despite the risk of being killed, she disguises herself as a man and takes her father's place in the Chinese army.  After a lot of hard work and determination, she eventually becomes a great soldier and brings honor to her family all while remaining single.

Are all the princesses mentioned above beautiful?


  Does that make their stories any less meaningful?


I don't want my daughters to grow up thinking the most important thing in life is to be beautiful, but I also don't want them thinking being beautiful is bad.

I want my daughters to know that, regardless of physical appearance, everyone has strengths, weaknesses, dreams and fears.  No one is exempt from times of happiness or difficulties.  And, even though no two people are exactly alike, it is safe to assume everyone has similar, basic needs and desires.  And because of all of this, it is important to treat everyone with kindness and dignity.

When my oldest daughter finds herself feeling insecure about her appearance, will I think back on this time and say, "I never should've let her wear that Rapunzel dress everyday!"  My guess is, no.  Everyone feels "less than" at some point in their life.  It's just apart of life.

And it's not that it happens that matters.  It's how you handle it that is the most important.

Does this mean I am indifferent about Merida's makeover?  Of course not.  It was ridiculous for Disney to change her appearance.  (However, I should mention that all of the princesses on the website have been altered in some way, begging the question as to why no one has gotten all up in arms about that.  But, that's besides the point.)  All I'm trying to say is that loving princesses isn't all that bad, and that we should focus more of our concerns on why people like the cast of The Jersey Shore and the Kardashians are so popular.

In the end, I'm glad that people took a stand for something they felt strongly about and won!  It just goes to show that your voice can be heard, even when you're going up against huge corporations. I'm glad to have a daughter that loves to wear dresses, play make believe and who whole-heartedly embraces her femininity and thinks pants are for boys.

And, I'm glad that, thanks to Merida, she can't wait to get her own bow and arrow.

1 comment:

  1. Good post, Em.

    I am with you that each of the princesses is special in her own way and each has some admirable quality about her.

    Changing Merida's appearance, though, necessarily changed her character, and I think that's why the outrage.


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