Despite not yet having seen the movie, my entire family is quite smitten with the new Pixar film “Brave”. We purchased three books this weekend about the movie, and we’ve read them several times over. From what I can tell, there is no prince coming to the rescue, those wild red curls are never tamed, and Merida is a fearless and determined heroine who saves her family.
Merida is the princess I’ve been waiting for. Amelia is counting the days until we are able to see the full story in theater on June 22nd. Her grandmother is driving down to see it with us. Our family is of Scottish heritage, and tales like the one Merida is in are the kind of stories about girls that I grew up with. A wild, adventurous, loud, weapon wielding, and independent princess is what I’m accustomed to. It is why, thus far, I’ve had no palette for the existing crop of Disney Princesses.
Merida is who we have been waiting for.
I shock even myself as I type this, but the marketing images and merchandise coming out of Disney/Pixar for “Brave” is something I support. I literally have nothing to complain about. Has Disney been listening? Did Disney read “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” and read the “Redefine Girly“ blog?
Merida is depicted as focused, determined, daring, fierce even. A Disney Princess, shown as fierce. Who knew? Her body language is confident, strong, athletic, and many times defiant. She is a skilled archer, rider, and swordfighter. She takes up space. Mulan would be pleased. I’m sure Sleeping Beauty has no idea what to do with herself. I have poured over the website, the Disney store, the story books, and I am in love with Merida.
Sure, a parent could gripe about the commercialism surrounding this movie (and there is), but this is the larger-than-life character girls have deserved for a long, long time. Merida is our superhero. You bet I’ll be happily purchasing toys for my kids that celebrates a story of a girl who is strong and brave. Merida’s tale is epic, and I think it will sweep both boys and girls off their feet this summer. I think Merida is a game changer.
But before I get too carried away with my daydreaming, I was reminded this weekend why my family practices media literacy skills all of the time. Because certain habitual offenders force us to.
I’ve reached the point where I think Mattel cannot help itself. When I compare the grab-and-go priced Mattel dolls (and descriptions) at Target to the more substantial action figure kits (at triple the price) from the Disney store, Mattel’s version of Merida falls flat. Is Mattel not brave enough to make an unsexy doll?
Is “unsexy” even a word? Given the fact that we are discussing toys for small children, does it matter? Why are there sexy toys to begin with? Because there is Mattel.
Mattel is home of Barbie, the recharged Polly Pockets, and Monster High. All three lines are aimed square at girls, and all three solidly hold a place on the continuum of sexualization. And then Mattel tried its hand at licensed Merida dolls. The Mattel recipe: enhance bust, princessify the dresses, add make up, and add sexy “come hither” bedroom eyes.
The image on the left is almost laughable. The toy that comes out of the package looks nothing like the character on the package. The toy looks like Merida’s hot older sister, who despite living in the Scottish Highlands during Medieval times, got her hands on some serious eye liner and lipstick.
The description to Mattel’s doll reads as such:
So there is the word “adventure” in it. But the focus of the description is on Merida’s “gorgeous MagiClip fashion” and the “extra regal” look of the queen’s “elegant attire”. Comes with “additional fashion for Merida“. I’m also noticing the marketing photo from the website and the gown Merida wears on the doll held by my friend do not look the same. Also comes with a “dainty mum bear costume”. Uh, how many bears have you met that are “dainty”? And of course, the closer, the toy offers lots of imaginative playtime for “your little princess”. Not “you little archer” or “your little adventurer”. Mattel thinks all girls are princesses. The focus of this toy is on how the two females look, very little to do with what they are capable of doing.
Contrast that to Merida’s character description from Disney.com:
Merida is described as passionate and fiery. She is most at home in the outdoors “honing her impressive athletic skills as an archers and swordfighter, and racing across the Highlands on her Clydesdale. I don’t get that from the Mattel toy.
The friend who sent me the images above of the Mattel product has this to say:
“The girl loves princesses. Seeing all of the little dolls wearing high heels, makeup, and a creepy “come hither” look makes my stomach turn every time my daughter gets a new one. Where she only
sees Aurora, Snow White, or Jasmine (I hope), I can only see toy manufacturers throwing our kids and their self esteem under the bus to make a buck. She is 4 and already wants to grow her hair because
princesses have long hair (she chooses to ignore the length of Snow White’s locks) and we just had a discussion yesterday about how everybody farts (don’t ask) and she is adamant that princesses DO NOT
FART. What happens when she decides that all princesses are 5’10″ and 98 pounds soaking wet holding a brick and starts starving herself to death? One stupid little 4″ piece of plastic can be the one domino
that starts the “you’re not good enough” avalanche that could destroy my child. And what about the boy? That same doll shows him that girls are only desirable for their appearance. I can think of no other reason for such a difference in appearance from the movie Merida and the toy than “sex sells.” Even to 4 year olds.” —Tawn M, PPBB Community Member
Do we need to sell sex to four year olds? Apparently not, and again shocked as I type this, Disney got it right. Look at their toys below. I’ll be going to the Disney Store, 45 minutes away, to purchase toys that are twice as expensive as what is available locally. Why? Because what is available locally is cheap, and my daughter and I have waited too long for a heroine like Merida to settle for second best. And I’ll never settle for sexy for my little girl.