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Does Merida need a makeover?

Have you ever done one of those quick tests where they give you a load of words and you pick out your favourites among them? The idea is that what you choose says a lot about who you are and what your values are.

I always end up choosing words like COURAGE, BRAVE, INITIATIVE, RISK, INNOVATE, STRONG, EMPOWER… and more of the same genre. I LOVE words like that. They make me feel alive and full of anticipation. Not for me words like ‘pretty, beautiful, sweet, lovely, gentle, peaceful, joy…’. It’s not that I don’t like those words per se; I have nothing against them at all and even use them occasionally, but they’re not the words that make my heart beat faster.

I’ve got an unusual middle name. It’s Clyde. I was named for my dad when they had finally given up on the idea that they’d ever have a son. The first time I disappointed my parents was when I was born; it was a portend of the future because it wasn’t going to be the last time. I didn’t get a name at first; for three months they called me ‘the baby’, and then I went through the next 19 years with Beverley Clyde Bunyan as my moniker. This was at a time when other girls had names like Lisa Marie, Sharon, Julianne, Lynette and Janelle… but even then I had a deep seated sense that I would rather be different than pretty.  I really liked that no one else had a name like mine (!) but maybe you guessed that.

Despite attending an all girl school, being dressed for a decade in identical dresses with my two older sisters, (you can imagine how they felt about that!) and loving my toy tiger passionately, I didn’t play with dolls all that much or do many of the girlie things that belonging to a family suffering with oestrogen overload would imply.

I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be different. I didn’t want girls to be lower on the totem pole. I wanted to make an impact. (Actually, I was making an impact, but it wasn’t necessarily the one my parents had in mind.)

So, I can really identify with Merida, the heroine of the Disney/Pixar animation. As the daughter of the King she’s supposed to be waiting for a handsome prince to come along and marry her, but the truth is, she’s not the type of gal to play the Passive Princess ploy. She’s the best archer of all and she wins her own hand! That is so cool.

Last year I took two of the lovely little girls in my life to see the movie BRAVE, and they loved it. We all especially loved that she was so … well… normal. Her figure wasn’t an hourglass, she wasn’t drop dead gorgeous and her wonderful hair had a mind of its own. In short, she was just like us.

Or at least, she was when we last saw her.

Disney’s been working on her since then; it seems they want to put her in their Princess Hall of  Fame. But of course, she can’t enter that fairy tale place in her natural state. Oh no, feisty, funny Merida needs a makeover before she can enter those hallowed halls. (Has anyone asked her if she even wants to? The future they have planned for her sounds exactly like the future she was fighting to escape from.)

The furor created by the intended changes has had such an impact on bloggers, feminists and just about any mum and dad who’ve seen the publicity that Disney has been forced to renege on their decision. Good thing too. They may have lost some real bucks there, because we all know that the almighty dollar is the big bottom line. They’ve been working on the creation of the princess culture for so long that they hadn’t realised that the world has moved on and we don’t want placid, vacuous beauties as role models any more … if indeed, anyone ever did.

Official Disney Princess

Despite living in an age obsessed with appearance, Botox, boob jobs, tummy tucks, nose reconstruction, lip inflation and liposuction, teeth so white you risk snow blindness from a smile, and all the other accessories that allow people to be just passably acceptable to the Beautiful People, many of us fiercely hold onto our individuality, our stand-out-from-the-crowd normalness. Why? Because ordinary is where the uniqueness that makes us so compelling resides. Those less-than-perfect looks, worn with such ease by so many of us, is what makes me me.

I’m getting really bored with the odd looking faces that stare out from my television. Improbable looking women and men whose unlined faces starched bizarrely into place betray the deeply carved signs of fear of aging, of no longer being the person they once were. They have no idea that the very desperation to freeze time and copyright their beauty is actually the undoing of the thing that made them beautiful in the first place.

I’m glad Disney has backed off from redesigning Merida. How fantastic it would be if everyone whose fear goads them to redesign themselves to attain public acceptance and approval could take a leaf from their book and just let the smile lines show the beauty of laughter on a face that has earned its stripes.

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