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Why Disney’s Merida is Like Classic Coke

My favorite Disney princess is Merida from “Brave.” She’s jaunty and interesting and independent and she’s got red hair like me — cha-ching! Her hair is never perfect and her body isn’t Barbie-dimensions. I love that about her and so does my daughter. It’s clear a lot of people feel the same way, so when a different drawing of Merida with a thinner waist, a sparklier dress and an amped up bosom was circulated recently, people were up in arms. Why’d ‘ya have to change her, Disney? Why?!

I had the fortune of being at the Disney Social Media Moms conference in Orlando last week and saw the coronation up close and personal. This is what I saw, through the lens of my own camera:

Merida

This princess was still the same jaunty, interesting girl. Her hair was every which way and her belt was askew. There were no sparkles, corsets or cleavage. And she was awesome.

I have seen an evolution in Disney’s princesses, and I’ve been glad to witness it because my daughter’s generation craves characters like Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog” or Merida from “Brave,” who represent girls with ideas, ambition, smarts and wherewithal and who don’t need a prince to come rescue them. While they appreciate the princesses of old, it’s the new ones they identify with and want more of. It didn’t surprise me when my seven-year-old daughter told me recently that the only Barbie she likes is the one of Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games.” It doesn’t surprise me that she loves Merida. And it won’t surprise me if and more likely when Disney develops more female characters that girls can look to as role models for strength, perseverance, independence and beauty on the inside.

I agree that the changes made in that drawing were unfortunate. Disney has explained that it was created for very limited use, in particular for Merida’s official coronation invitation. They’ve also said Merida is and has always been and will continue to be the Merida we recognize.

Good. That image was not who we want Merida to be, nor is it who Merida needs to be. But I also think this whole dustup represents something — Disney/Pixar got her so right. She’s like Classic Coke already, and this other version of Merida was New Coke and no one wants New Coke because they love the original. Don’t add more sugar. We don’t need more sugar.

Merida is less sugar and more spice, and that’s what makes her so nice.

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