The Disney Effect

I posted this link on Facebook a few days ago:

And then I went and signed the petition because I think that what Disney is proposing to do for Princess Merida’s induction into the Princess Collection is wrong.


I am a big fan of Disney. Possibly the biggest and probably more than is normal for someone in their late twenties.
Here are some of the reasons why I love Disney:
1. People break into song in the middle of whatever they are doing for not reason other than to have a good old sing.
2. It very rarely rains in Disney, and when it does you always know that something bad is about to happen.
3. There is always a good guy and a bad guy.
4. The heroine is always lovely, charming, beautiful and feisty, and is often rebellious and endearing too.
5. The world of Disney is idealist. The sad are made happy and love is found.

I confess. I am a Disney Escapist. I love the perfection and fantasy that is at the heart of each Disney film.

All that said, however, I recognise that this isn’t solid ground on which to stand. I am not ashamed (well, maybe a little bit ashamed, but I don’t think I’m the only one…) to say that my desire to escape into the world of Disney away from the difficult and painful reality of this world has cost me no small amount of confusion and yearning for something that doesn’t exist.

And that’s where I’m learning to notice a very fine divide between enjoyment of a good story- escapism into something different and lovely, and escapism away from what may be messy and what sometimes sucks, but what is real and what is inescapable. For all that Disney Princesses are beautiful, lovely, elegant, feisty, rebellious, charming, talented, independent, exciting… they are not real people and their stories are not real either! (Nb, of course some of the stories e.g. Pocahontas are based on real people and the endings are noticeably different from the traditional fairy tale.)

And then Merida enters the world. She is feisty, more than a bit rebellious, beautiful in a kind of disheveled and hasty way, and totally endearing. And, most importantly, she is not perfect. She’s clumsy, she argues with her parents, she doesn’t quite fit in and she gets things wrong. She’s also not frighteningly skinny and she loves eating. Merida’s creator is reported to have said “Because of marketing, little girls gravitate toward princess products, so my goal was to offer up a different kind of princess — a stronger princess that both mothers and daughters could relate to, so mothers wouldn’t be pulling their hair out when their little girls were trying to dress or act like this princess. Instead they’d be like, ‘Yeah, you go girl!'”*

Tomorrow Merida is going to be coronated as the 11th Disney Princess and I think this is great. She’s the perfect princess because she’s the closest to a real person. But in the process, Disney have redesigned her. Obviously there had to be some changes to allow for the shift from 3D to 2D, but I am disappointed by the added extras. The new Merida has a sexier dress, she’s much thinner and her hair is tamer. She is no longer the wild and free spirit that she is in the film and this makes me sad. Because I saw in Merida a healthier kind of escapism. Her world didn’t finish all neatly packaged in the way we’re used to with Disney. She fought for what she wanted and the future was left open. No ‘happily ever after’, just a book of empty pages to fill.

I signed the petition to Keep Merida Brave because it meant something to me personally. As someone who easily slips into fairy tale world, Brave is a good place to end up.

* In an interview with Pixar Portal- quote can be seen on the link above.


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