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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Monday 13 May 2013

The Disney Goliath Strikes Again

Princess Merida before and after

"Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value -- to be recognized as true princesses -- they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty."

First, they took their scalpel to Star Wars - now, Disney is retooling Brave's Merida for standard market appeal.  They have standardised her beauty, taking some of the individuality out of her face for a more "classic" look.  The curves are slightly accentuated, a fact highlighted by the new colour contrast between the dress (now dripping with glimmer) and belt.

Yes, Disney has sexed up Merida.  As they know well, sex and standardisation sell.  To a narrowing audience, though - with other, more realistic media models to look to, how much longer will the classic, Victorian-style (and very Caucasian) princess continue to appeal to the masses?  Given the rise in Asian demographics, is Disney pitching outmoded standards to an audience weaned on different expectations?

Enter this piece on Big Media (like Disney) being something of a blip in the long annals of human communication.  Disney Spinsters may tell us that audiences want standardised, predictable, formulaic, but is that really the case?  Or is it just possible that it's positioning on their part, trying to reduce pressure to think up new, out-of-the-mouse-trap characters and stories?

Successful shows ranging from Game of Thrones to The Big Bang Theory are playing with Joseph Campbell archetypes, giving us broader ranges of characters that are more human, more fallible and yet more relatable to normal, non-standard people.  Industry might prefer the professional soldier (they're easier to manage and more predictable in terms of results) - but audiences don't.     Anne Hathaway was derided for a very professional approach to Awards Season while the awkward Jennifer Lawrence won new fans with her rough but sincere approach.  It's this same approach that has helped maintain a functioning Ford Nation despite the numerous failures of the Mayor.

Of course, this isn't a message folks like Disney want to hear.  Much like Political Parties who ignore negative reaction to attack ads as a minor factor that can be ignored,  Disney is quite comfortable doing things the way that they do - it's worked thus far and requires no structural creative thinking on their part.  The growth process is always a painful one as each generation is doomed to discover.

Oh, and to the commentators who say the changes to Merida are "no big deal" - let us know if you're still smarting that Wolverine didn't wear yellow spandex in the X-Men films, then we'll talk.

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