Disney Still Has a Princess Problem

Disney's merchandising is appalling: Mary Elizabeth Williams

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted May 15, 2013 12:15 PM CDT

(Newser) – After much outrage, Disney backed down on the makeover it recently tried to give Brave's Merida—the new version, which was to be featured in the Disney Princess line, was no longer "messy, freckly, slightly overbitey," but teeny-waisted, sultry-eyed, and distinctly bow-and-arrow-less—but this is just a small victory, writes Mary Elizabeth Williams on Salon. Disney consistently takes its strong female characters and reduces them to "wide-eyed idiots" when it comes time to sell toys. (Just take a look at the Disney Princess page, where "Merida is now the one who most looks like a normal teenage girl ... a far cry from the creepily 'Hello sailor' action the other ladies are working.")

"There’s something deeply disturbing and wrongheaded about the Disney princessization of American girlhood," which has girls yearning for sparkly, skinny dolls with no heroic context, writes Williams: "Not to be a buzzkill, but you do know that Belle, in her poufy yellow dress, is a prisoner, right? And that the pink-clad Ariel lining the toy aisle has recently sacrificed her power of speech?" Williams urges parents not to forget the stories behind these dolls: the Belle who loves books, the Tiana who dreamed of running her own restaurant, and the Merida who, when crammed into the fancy gown her doll version wears, "grouses, 'Curse this dress.' And she stretches herself right out of it." Click for Williams' full column.

Original Merida (left) and the character after Disney's ill-received makeover.
Original Merida (left) and the character after Disney's ill-received makeover.   (YouTube)
This film image released by Disney/Pixar shows the character Merida in a scene from Brave.
This film image released by Disney/Pixar shows the character Merida in a scene from "Brave."   (AP Photo/Disney/Pixar)
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Even odder is the more recent deluge of baby and toddler merch, known, freakily enough, as 'My First Disney Princess' toys. Now baby Cinderella is getting married. And Baby Ariel has legs. Legs. I don’t even understand that. - Mary Elizabeth Williams

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