Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tanned Merida and Disney Confession

I saw this - new to me - Merida the other day. No, I don't memorize all of the Disney Princess dolls. I haven't yet seen the movie Brave yet, but I recognized - just - Merida. She is one of the recent Disney Princesses. She has the shorter Disney body, a Twilight Barbie pale complexion, and lots of bright red curly hair. Her original coloring reminds me of a younger Amy Pond from Dr. Who. Spunky, blunt, and straightforward. But this Merida has a light suntan. Uh oh. Oh my. Merida, what happened?

Now I won't go as far as one article that complains that Merida looks just like the other Disney Princesses: she does not. In spite of the wavy rather than curly hair, I could differentiate her from the others. Her head shape remains round. But that light golden tan does smack of Barbie-fication. And the way she is drawn in the box illustration, she does look "tarted up." Like Merida's slutty aunt sauntered across the movie set. Of course, I have not seen the movie yet. Maybe Merida grows up to love make up and form-fitting velvet gowns.

Speaking of seeing Disney movies, I have a confession to make. I had thought  Disney movies were too saccharine for me. Thought? No, I damned them as being too mushy. Well, I recant. What? Yes, I, Dana Cooper, being in a relatively sane mind, do confess that I have recently enjoyed a Disney movie. I watched it THREE times in one week.

Which Disney movie? The Princess and the Frog. Guess what? Yes, you have it - I LOVED the movie.The soundtrack didn't completely win me over, but I loved the story of hard-working, dream-focused Tiana. I liked her loud but lovable friend Charlotte, party playboy Naveen, the evil Dr. Facilier, Mama Odie, and even ... gulp ... Ray. I've taken your advice and now I'll follow this movie up with Brave and The Little Mermaid - the former, because I like spunky heroines and the latter because I want to see how the Ariel character appears.

So if you have been longing for a suntanned Merida, she's ahem available. 


limbe dolls said...

Hi D7ana,

I have purchased three Princess Meridas on sale in recent months because I liked her gowns and accessories. I have not kept any of the dolls, however because they all have stiff arms and legs and because she is so pale I haven't found any articulated bodies that would be a good complexion match for her. I'm not fond of her pumpkin head either but the movie is excellent.

As for "The Princess and the Frog," it derives from a 1937 MGM cartoon short entitled "Swing Wedding." You can view it on You Tube here:

After you've seen it, my question is "what is the half-life of racist iconography? Do you think the Disney animators succeeded in redeeming the jazzy frog trope from its origins as a derogatory racial stereotype?"

I have Prince Naveen and three Princess Tiana dolls but I would rather Disney had done an animated version of Verdi's opera, "Aida" to include a black princess in their court.

Marta said...

Hello from Spain: I saw the movie and I really enjoyed Merida. I have the doll. I bought a Merida in the Disney Store and she has articulated body and long red hair and curl. I love it. Keep in touch

D7ana said...

Hi Limbe Dolls and Marta!

@LimbeDolls - thanks for that additional information about the origin of the Princess and the Frog. I have to watch that movie and get back to you. I had not seen or heard of it before. I would be happy to write back about it. Will send you a note, too ;-)

I like Merida's face, but the pumpkin head has given me pause. Can I really live with that big and round a doll head? There might be an Obitsu or Volks doll body that would give Merida better articulation ... and match her complexion.

I think that Disney went with the story they did to provide an African American perspective. To tap into AA funds? Hmmm, I don't know. Something to consider though.

Hi Marta and congratulations on your poseable Merida. I remember Vanessa writing that the Disney store playscale dolls came with articulated bodies.

Muff said...

LOL, "Tarted up." Yes, the Merida on the box does seem quite busty and rouged up.

I have never seen Merida's or Tiana's movies. I fell out of vogue with Disney movies after Aladdin was released - so twenty years ago, I guess. When they switched from hand drawn to more computer animation it turned me off. I also got tired of the constant singing. I love a good musical, but it got to the point where they were just singing filler nonsense.

D7ana said...

Hi Muff!

I don't usually criticize fashion dolls wearing make-up - that's expected, right - but in this instance "tarted up" just fits the bill. I haven't seen the movie, and she looks "off" to me so I can sympathize with fans finding a problem with that illustration.

The constant singing is in the Tiana movie, too, lol. I had not thought about it consciously, but I can understand how basic conversation or narrative would be nice.

D7ana said...

@LimbeDolls - wow. Just finished watching Swing Wedding on YouTube. Made me blink in horror. From the first shot where we see the Black sambo face under the MGM opening credit to the emphasized largeness of the frogs' lips to the frog "shooting up" drugs, that was a grotesque piece. Technically and musically sound, yes, but I found the images gratuitously offensive.

"What is the half-life of racist iconography?" Possibly forever. When I see images from the 19th century as well as imagines before then and after that time - images that depict Blacks or any people in a negative manner, I cringe. It doesn't physically hurt, of course, but there seems such malice in that kind of work, that causes me to recoil.

But do I think that Disney has redeemed the jazzy froggy trope? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that I think The Princess and the Frog is NOT racist. The frogs in the Disney story are not caricatured Black people. No, in the sense that the Disney movie does not redeem the older movies. The original slant of the older movies remains in them.

So should the older, offensive movies be burned or destroyed? No. They represent our history - our American history which is composed of positive and negative images. Recognize that yes, that too, was America. Then move on to more positive images for all of us to follow.

Thanks for asking these thought-provoking questions, LimbeDolls! I enjoyed thinking about them and responding to them. I'll be doing a follow-up post about The Princess and the Frog.

Vanessa said...

I'm happy to hear that you enjoyed a Disney movie. Does that mean you haven't seen Toy Story?

I loved your answer to limbe dolls thought provoking questions.

D7ana said...

Hi Vanessa!

Oh, yes, I saw Toy Story and Toy Story 2, lol. I suppose I should have written Disney cartoons.

The Swing Wedding cartoon made me grimace, but seeing that cartoon enriched my experience of Disney's The Princess and the Frog.

Miss_Lola_77 said...

Watch Tangled. It's pretty awesome as far as Disney movies go.

D7ana said...

Hi Miss_Lola_77! Thanks for the recommendation. I'll put Tangled on my list of Disney movies to watch. I have Brave out now, and I am looking forward to watching it.