October 12th finally marked the entrance of Princess Merida (from Disney/Pixar’s Brave) in Sofia the First: “The Secret Library.” Sofia the First, Disney Junior’s princess escapade show for kiddies, has the same fanfiction-y pleasure as ABC’s Once Upon a Time, with Disney Princesses often cameoing to impart advice, songs, and general royal screen presence. Interestingly, Sofia the First has been known to change the well-known costumes of its Disney Princess guests; Cinderella gets more sparkly, Aurora gets very sparkly, and Belle gets flowered jewels. Merida recently appeared in Once Upon a Time in her original costume, so I was curious to see how Sofia the First would treat Merida, feminist icon extraordinaire.
Especially since in 2013, Disney caught a lot of flak when they presented an image of Merida with a makeover. This Merida had noticeably present makeup, a maturer hairstyle (styling wand, anyone?), and a tighter, slinkier dress. It was the sexiness of this look that caused alarm among fans, as Merida was the first Disney Princess without the corresponding Disney Prince. Before even Elsa, Merida proved that this Prom Queen didn’t need a Prom King.
Merida’s fans rose in uproar; they appreciated her original appearance, with her freckles and natural-looking hair; “attainable” is the word I’ve seen some fans use in reference to Merida being a good role model for young girls. And with Merida standing alone among her sparkly Disney Princess sisters (even warrior Mulan did not escape the corporate makeover), this makeover struck a deep blow.
Disney eventually removed the “makeover Merida” image from their main page, but many of the Merida dolls retain her made-over look.
However, I held out hope that Sofia the First would resist the urge to add sparkle to Merida. After all, when Mulan appeared to Sofia, she was fully-suited in armor, not glitter. And boy, when “The Secret Library” aired, I was so pleasantly surprised! This was the bow-slinging, wild-haired wild-child that I know and love. Granted, this Merida’s hair is still calmer than her Pixar counterpart, but I’ll chalk that up to it being notoriously hard to computer-animate. Still, her hair is wild, and her dress is rich in color but simple in nature which gives Merida plenty of freedom to shoot arrow after arrow. And really, isn’t that what fans want for Merida in the end? Freedom to be her raw, untamed self?