Is Disney’s Princess Makeover Of Brave‘s Merida A Downgrade For Young Girls?


The Internet is abuzz and is aflutter once more as yet another Disney scandal has erupted. This time, it’s the Disney Princess makeover that was given to Merida, teenage heroine of 2012′s Brave, for her induction into Disney’s official “Princess” collection. Many people, including myself, were so pleased when Merida’s character hit the scene, as she is a teenage princess who did not require any male savior, didn’t pine for a prince and wound up rescuing herself, and family, in the end.

As a biproduct of this admiration, thousands of fans have cried out against Disney’s updated version of Merida. The depiction in the film looks like this:



Whereas her new, “Princess” version is quite different:



The primary differences I can see, and the ones many people have pointed out, are:

  • The waist is more nipped in
  • Hair is less frizzy, more flowy
  • She looks notably older (maybe 20-something rather than a teen)
  • Lower-cut, shoulder-bearing dress
  • Eyeliner/mascara-type darkening on top lids
  • Narrower face

I understand why they could not keep Merida looking the way she did — she was a different type of animation than the other Disney Princesses, so adding her to their, uhm, “collection” was not quite so seamless as if she had been the more standard, 2-D kind. That said, why did they change her body shape, face and hair? It’s not as though she can’t be translated into a drawing quite easily; a quick Google search reveals that she can keep the same look in pencil, marker, oil paint and even watercolor). She looks cheerful, fierce and excited, just as she is in the film.

Fundamentally, I do not have a huge issue with Merida having a curvier figure. She’s supposed to be sixteen, and having big breasts and hips at sixteen is completely normal (or maybe it’s not, and I was just some sort of teenage mutant ninja curvemonster). But I was really excited to see Merida was shaped differently from the other princesses; rather than having a nipped-in waist and larger bust, she had more of a straight figure, which many young girls and women have, yet never are represented in illustrated heroines. Female comic book heroes are typically disproportionately curvacious — not dissimilar to Barbie dolls — and companies like Disney always add a little underboob curve and wider hips. It’s frustrating to those girls who aren’t shaped like that, yet grow up with images like that idealized all around them.

Honestly, I don’t care a ton about the dress, really, because I’m not on the “young women shouldn’t show their shoulders!” train. Shoulders are shoulders. I don’t care who shows them. However, it would be disingenuous of me to say I didn’t instantly notice that the outfit is seemingly “sexier,” and also would be more difficult for Merida to fire her trademark bow; plus, it just seemed altogether unnecessary to lower the dress’ top portion.

While I am not completely outraged about this makeover, I am frustrated that Disney felt it was somehow necessary or ideal to make a smaller, smoother, slightly older version of Merida with a little bit less sparkle and a more demure nature. Honestly, what was wrong with her “before”?

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    • Gina


    • Tania

      My issue with the dress is that Merida wouldn’t wear that. It’s not because I’m scandalized by her baring her shoulders.

      My issue with the whole thing overall is that they made her more sexy. She’s not portrayed as sexy in the film. Unlike most Disney princesses, she isn’t around to be an object of romance.

      And even look at how they posed her in the movie vs. the Disney Princess pictures. In the former, she looks cheeky. In the latter, she’s doing the coy head tilt. In the former, she has her bow. In the latter, she has a belt.

      It’s just dumb. Little girls will still like non-sexy Disney Merida.

      • Samantha Escobar

        Ugh, the coy head tilt — exactly what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. Thank you for the right words! That pose really, really does make a difference.

    • Matt Gross

      She also lost her bow and arrow! That’s the biggest (and worst) change for me.

    • cassie

      i dunno, i think the changes are subtle. my five year old self certainly wouldn’t have picked up on them.

      and she’s being drawn in a certain way to fit in with another group of illustrations… from an artistic perspective, i think it’s a fine adaptation. would you put grungy, frizzy, unadorned teen Merida next to ultra-thin, perfect hair, twenty-something Sleeping Beauty? that’s not gonna sell Brave DVDs.

    • Alyssa

      This is like Disney trying to pass Aurora off as a 16 year old…I know Sleeping Beauty was made AGES ago but not much has changed. I do think that some little girls expect to look like Aurora or Ariel when they’re 16 though, but Disney will never change.

    • Bill D. Cat

      What was wrong with her before? Nothing. What’s wrong with her now? Nothing. Non-issue.

    • M)

      I am sure Disney has done its homework. People are susceptible to superstimulus’. What I am surprised at is how Disney has the opportunity to show the world that they are a leader but has decided to take the follower position. For example, the Michelin Man went down a few sizes in the 90′s. Yes, Michelin followed the world’s interest in health but Michelin showed confidence to make the change. Objectifying women has been criticized for years now. The thing that will change it is some leading company and Disney is the perfect candidate in my eyes. History has shown such bold moves are rewarded. Come on Disney, surprise us and instead of shaping modern princesses to decades old ideals, modernize your decades old princesses.

    • kcmills24

      Hate it.