For Girls Who Read, Play and Dress Up… and the Mamas Who Love Them

The Trouble with Royal Portraiture


Finally.  A Disney princess who looks like me.

Ok, yes.  It was doubtlessly important for Disney to address issues of racial diversity first.  Little girls of color have finally been given princesses who, at least on the big screen, look like them.  And it was definitely time.

And then a princess who looks like me rode into town.  I mean, me me.  Except she has a bow and arrows and I have a big fish and a glove.

Merida from Disney's BraveMe Holding a Big Fish

I am not remotely princessy.  I wear sensible shoes.  I have no idea, really, how to dress myself.  And I’ve always been this way.  And what have I also always been?  A redhead.

A flaming curly-haired, clumsy, giant redhead.

It was my ticket to an epic middle school nickname (“Flame”–thank you Mike Miller) and my own theme song sung by peri-pubescent boys in the hallway (“Flame, I’m gonna burn forever…” sung to the tune of “Fame”) and a pretty big hang-up (I used to go through fashion magazines and calculate the percentage of models with red hair).

I had no interest in makeup or fashion, dolls or dresses…I spent my youth climbing trees, mucking about in creeks and loving cats.

So then I got my very own princess.

Merida is a bad ass.

Until Disney gave her boobs and a 20 inch waist.

They seem to have taken that back…kind of?  I see no evidence of skinny beauty queen Merida on the Disney Princesses website when I look today.  Look, I get it, Disney.  Royal portraiture is hard.  Remember what happened to Kate Middleton?  It is clearly not a simple endeavor.  Still.

As of this moment, Merida’s royal portrait definitely is not like the others.  I imagine at some point a replacement portrait will appear here that is somewhat more in line with the others stylistically.  But I think Disney’s in a bit of a bind.  Because if they unveil a royal portrait that’s truer to the character in the movie, then they may have to confront what they’ve done to all of the other characters in their royal portraits.  Look closely.  Merida’s not the only one who had a makeover for her coronation… Who are these people? Check out Pocahontas.  And Mulan.  Belle.  Even Rapunzel.  Remember Rapunzel’s slight overbite?  I loved that.  In this picture it’s gone.  These are not the characters I remember from the movies.  They look 27.  And waaaaaaaay too pretty.  Like Harlequin romance covers.

When you go to their pages, the new imagery is mixed with the original art from the movies and all kinds of activities and videos (“Beauty and the Beast” nail art?  Remember Belle tripping through town reading a book at the beginning of the  movie? This is not a girl who would spend hours painting claws on her fingernails).  So the real character isn’t gone, totally.  In the new art she’s just grown up, I suppose.  Into a super girly pretty delicate flowery pretty pretty pretty girly girl.

Um, Disney?  Newsflash.  Most of us are regular looking.  We have overbites or one sticky-outy ear, or two different shaped eyes or, you guessed it, a mass of unruly red hair.  And people love us for it.  And think we are beautiful.  And that’s what it took me lots of years to learn.  And what I’d like my daughter to learn a little bit more quickly.

Can you help us out here?  People listen to you.

Take a look at all the royal portraits of the gals on this page.  These movies were hits not because the characters look like they belong on “Gossip Girls.” But because they are charming and silly and sometimes brave.  They also, uniformly, sing quite beautifully. But we’ll overlook that one because it’s fun to sing.

So maybe I don’t have frogs in my pockets now.  Or arrowheads.  Or kittens.  I have my wallet.  And I have an almost six year old.  And I have, I think, a voice.  As do the thousands of other moms who responded very unfavorably to the Merida makeover–the most public of the princess makeovers that, clearly have been going on quietly for years.

So thanks Disney.  For giving us, in Merida, an un-princess.  A princess for the girl with frogs in her pockets.  A princess for red-haired geeks.  Let’s keep her that way.

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