"Brave" Merida Doll Misses the Bullseye
Expectations for "Brave"
About a year ago, my friends and I came across a promotional poster for the upcoming Disney / Pixar movie "Brave." We were ridiculously excited and talked about how this would be the first Pixar film to star a girl. We didn't know much else at that point, but we had high hopes.
Fast forward to March 2012. An article comes out in the Pixar Times about how "Brave" will be a "fairy tale without romance" and the main character conflict will be between Princess Merida and her mother, Queen Elinor. We applauded the movie makers for this. We were and still are looking for "Brave" to showcase a strong, independent female character, one who doesn't want or need a storybook romance to save her from herself. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not about to take up a flag and march against love and marriage. I myself have been in a relationship for over two years now, and having someone there for me has been and continues to be wonderful. But as happy as he and I are together, we're both still our own individuals. And that's what I and my friends are looking forward to seeing in Merida: an individual.
Not Your Typical Princess...
Where other Disney princesses have found true love and broken spells with the power of a kiss, Merida seems like the kind of girl who will be dealing with magic without puckering her lips. Every movie trailer I've seen has sketched out a young woman hungry for personal freedom, and rebellious enough to the point where she unwittingly looses a curse while in pursuit of that liberty. She manages to make her own trouble, and it will be up to her to set things right. Not to mention the fact that she's got her mother breathing down her neck and pushing her towards marriage.
Compare this to Disney's other princesses. We've seen a few strong female characters, but every one of them has stolen a kiss from Prince Charming. Most have ended up married. I don't have an issue with this, and I'll say that I'm hoping for my own wedding someday. Maybe not someday soon, but someday. Merida, on the other hand, isn't looking for anything like that. And that's what I and my friends love about her.
Merida promises us that we're not going to watch another textbook fairytale unfold on the screen. She's not a delicate little thing that's going to need a man to come along and save the day on her behalf. She's a bit more rugged than what we're used to, and she's not afraid to tear a few skirts to keep her own individuality alive. So with all this coming through in articles and movie trailers, you'd think they'd create a toy that reflects this. Apparently not.
The Merida Doll
Let's Pick a Few Bones Here
I sat down today to watch the latest installment in Nickelodeon's "Legend of Korra." After watching a totally awesome female avatar firebend and earthbend her way out of captivity, a commercial comes on advertising the doll above.
Let's talk about bad timing. And my sense of outrage.
I've run you through what I expect from and know of Merida and "Brave." Please, take a good long look at that doll. Is it just me, or are there more than a couple of inconsistencies?
Let's start from the top and work our way down. For starters, that's some awfully nice hair she's got there. I get that it's difficult to show curls, but come on. Those are some very sleek and manageable ringlets she's got going on there. I have to wonder, what kind of conditioner does Merida use after a long day of besting her suitors in archery, arguing with her mother over marriage, and letting loose a curse that transforms her younger brothers into bear cubs? Okay, maybe the hair on the doll isn't such a bad match and I'm just nitpicking.
Then again, maybe not.
Moving on, let's discuss the makeover Merida received for her debut as a doll. Her eyebrows have been tamed, she seems to have grown long and luxurious eye lashes, and... is that lipstick?! Yeah, I'm pretty sure this isn't the Merida we're going to see onscreen. Merida seems like the girl who would put an arrow through the cosmetic bag of the first makeup artist to come within a fifty foot radius of her.
And this is the face she'll make when the arrow pins the cosmetic bag to the far wall.
A final note to make on the face of the doll is that if you look closely, she seems to have freckles on her cheeks. Those... seem to be missing in the movie stills.
I'm going to skip the tiara. The fact that Merida doesn't wear a tiara in any of the movie trailers speaks volumes on this subject.
So that brings us to the dress. Okay, now Merida does run around Scotland in dresses. Historically speaking, that is what would have been appropriate at the time, and considering the fact that most of her dresses are very plain, it makes sense that she would wear them to ride horses and explore enchanted ruins while hunting down a wisp. The dress on the doll, on the other hand, is long, elegant, and not at all suited for any of these things. In fact, this is the very dress Merida wears when she stands up and announces that she'll be competing for her own hand in the archery contest. She curses the dress for limiting her mobility, then proceeds to tear the seams so that she can use her arms and shoulders more freely. Doll Merida looks very happy to be wearing the accursed blue dress that inhibits her archery. I have a big problem with this.
They Must have Gotten SOMEthing Right, Right?
A resounding, screamed-from-the-top-of-the-highest-cliff-in-Scotland WRONG.
The accompaniments for the Merida doll include her triplet brothers. Unfortunately, they're advertised as "cute little bear cubs" that accompany Merida. The part where her brothers have been cursed is conveniently left out. Now, the triplets are supposed to be a mischievous band of troublemakers that cause havoc for the local merchants, particularly a certain bread baker. I'm not getting that vibe from the adorable little bear cubs that prance around doll Merida's skirts (and fancy slippers).
What else could the doll makers have possibly gotten wrong? Oh, I shouldn't have asked...
Not Even the Horse Sizes Up
Someone needs to sit these manufactures down and have a serious talk with them about Clydesdales. Those are massive, powerful animals. Unless Merida is ten feet tall, she shouldn't dwarf Angus and make him look like a miniature pony. And WHAT is with that long flowy mane? Does it come with ribbons for Merida to braid it with?
What Does This Say to Girls?
I have absolutely no problem with little girls who like to dress up and play with dolls. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having tea parties with dolls and stuffed animals and jelly beans in place of crumpets. There's nothing wrong with preferring Barbie to GI Joe (although the terrible proportions on Barbies has sparked another rant all on its own).
I'm taking issue with the fact that the doll that Disney has put out goes completely against the Merida we'll be seeing in their own movie. How is that supposed to be received? We're supposed to watch a film about a fiery and independent girl who trades glamour and romance for freedom and individuality, and then buy a dainty doll for young girls and tell them to play with it? Think again.
The movie promises us that it just might be okay if we face the world without a fairytale romance to keep us safe. We might be able to pull ourselves through our own troubles, and set things right on our own. Then along comes the doll to tell us that it's better to have smooth hair and wear the elegant dress. It's better to get all glamorous and ride our tiny ponies in the countryside while our cute little triplet brothers take a break from mayhem and accompany us as adorable bear cubs. It's better to go along with all that than to do what the movie Merida tells us to: fight to chart our own fates, and keep our freedom and individuality.
So way to go, Disney. You really stayed true to yourselves on that one.