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.