|Left: Merida as she appeared in Brave (2012) and |
Right: a promotional image from Merida's induction
into the Disney Princess range.
|Merida merchandise in the Disney store, |
While Brave was not quite a Disney production, in that it was produced by Pixar Animation Studios, Disney has owned Pixar since 2006. Though Pixar may have found a way to present a heroine who breaks convention (although in some fairly typical ways, such as through her fiery red hair, the signifier of "different" yet beautiful girl heroines since Anne of Green Gables), it is unthinkable that the homogenising force of the Disney Princess entity would not take some steps to make Merida conform to its brand.
|Merida as a baby-face doll for young girls and sparkly |
gold sandals from the range
|Merida dolls in two styles of dress.|
It is still clear that a Disney princess means one particular model or ideal of being feminine, which originated with Snow White in 1937. Individual characters in recent films may break convention in some ways, such as The Princess and the Frog's Tiana, who aspires to own her own restaurant, yet the Disney princess- as an object to be consumed- minimises difference and unique qualities as an integral part of maintaining a brand.
While Disney has clearly been taken by surprise by this social media campaign, it is hard to imagine that the world of Disney princesses will ever expand to fully embrace a natural-faced girl heroine with a drab dress and messy hair. An average appearance and focus on skill rather than beauty is not the dream that Disney sells to small girls and, presumably, their mothers. While the campaign to keep Merida as she appears in Brave shows strong public support for different fictional role models for girls, the ongoing popularity of the generic Disney princess shows that she will be hard to dislodge from her throne.