The article hits hard right from the first sentence. Catie Carlin writes: "Praised for her brains, brawn and refusal to wait for a man to save the day, Merida was embraced as a role model for little girls around the world, but the star of Pixar's Brave has had a very unwelcome makeover."
The frizzy, fiery red head was crowned the 11th Disney princess in May and she underwent a drastic transformation in preparation for that big day. While the real Merida would never go on a diet, it seems Disney thought the princess, who once looked like a real teenage girl, needed some trimming down to make the cut.
As Katie Carlin noted, her waist circumference is not the only thing that has changed. Her wide, youthful eyes have been slicked with black eyeliner and taken on a more almond shape, her cheekbones are higher and rosier, her dress is now off her shoulders, and her frizzy locks have been smoothed into a flowing mane of red curls.
There is more. More horrible than that listed above. Merida is missing her bow and arrow – the very thing that set her apart from the slew of princesses that came before her. It appears she has put down her weapon and fighting spirit in pursuit of a more demure image.
Quoted is Brave writer and co-director Brenda Chapman who previously stated that her specific aim in creating Merida was to deliver a princess that parents would be proud to let their daughters watch. "... My goal was to offer up a different kind of princess â€" a stronger princess that both mothers and daughters could relate to," she said in an interview with Pixar Portal.
A petition to reverse this redesign of Merida states: "... does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls' capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired." One commenter wrote: "I do not want to see Brave turned into a "Babe". Leave something for a girl to aspire to besides being arm candy," and another, "The redesign loses everything that was great about Merida."
There you have it. First the sexualisation of little girls through fashion promotion and now the last great bastion of princess freedom to roam and rescue those in desperate need in the wilds, Merida!
Moreover its not religious institutions and groups shouting from the roof top, but the community itself leading a grass roots campaign.
The Women's Forum Australia has already come out strongly against the former. On their web site they are deeply concerned that the pressure on children to adopt sexualised appearance and behaviour at an early age has increased dramatically over recent years. There is a saturation of sexualised representations of adults, teenagers and even children in advertising and popular culture... (www.womensforumaustralia.com)
Deborah Snow writing in The Age recently stated that many health professionals argue that a sex-soaked culture is taking an insidious toll on the emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing of children and young adolescents.
Her article titled "Stealing the Innocence of Children" cites Dr Steve Hambleton, President of the Australian Medical Association who stated that there is unanimous concern over the premature sexualisation of children. (www.theage.com.au)
Child psychologist and author Steve Biddulph weighed into the debate with a tirade against a society that has conditioned people, particularly women and girls, to see themselves primarily as ''product''.
Herein lies the issue with Merida. A product.
A professor of developmental psychiatry at Monash University, Louise Newman, finds five-year-old girls telling her they are ''ugly and fat''. Some parents are not helping. ''I see pre-teens coming in in PVC trench coats and high heels - and you ask, what's going on?''
Sydney Children's Hospital psychiatrist Jennifer Harris says it's also about what the parent is doing by placing their child in a sexualised space. ''I think there is a desire these days to want to make children happy; time-pressed parents think maybe that's the fashion and I should just go along with it.''
Deborah Snow cites ethicist Dr Emma Rush of Charles Sturt University: ''all the research shows that warm but firm parenting has the best outcome for kids, and often what parents are doing is the warm but not the firm''.
Is anyone listening?
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html