Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: Glamorized Disney princesses may not be affecting girls the way parents believe

Published: Wednesday, May 29 2013 11:35 a.m. MDT

Ariel, the princess from "The Little Mermaid."

Disney

Little girls love princesses.

Growing up, my favorite was Ariel. I thought she had the prettiest voice I’d ever heard. On the ride home after seeing "The Little Mermaid” in the movie theater, I decided I wanted to be a singer.

I was 4.

I honestly didn’t think much about her little seashell bra at the time, either, nor did it really bother me as I grew older. She is a mermaid, after all!

Now, I’m a little more aware of what girls (Disney princesses included) are wearing in movies. I appreciate and root for “realness” and modesty just as much as the next person.

But I’ve been a little surprised at the controversy surrounding Disney Pixar’s other redheaded princess, the feisty Merida.

In preparation for her official induction into the Disney Princess Collection, the fiery “Brave” princess received a 2-D makeover that included more eyeliner, a smaller waistline, tamer hair and a slightly off-the-shoulder gown.

She was changed, parents worried, to look more “sexy.”

For the record, I disagree with that description. She looked a little different, yes, and perhaps more grown-up with character makeup, but I think “sexy” is a bit of a stretch. (But, while we’re on the subject, how come none of these parent’s have an issue with Jasmine’s belly-baring gown? Or Tiana’s completely strapless dress?)

Anyway, the Merida image circled the Internet and received a huge online backlash, including protests for Disney to change the picture and “Keep Merida Brave.”

Meaning, non-glamorous.

Even creator Brenda Chapman was appalled at the new look, telling the Marin Independent Journal that she created Merida to “break the mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance."

Chapman went on to tell CNN, “Merida wouldn’t be caught dead looking like that and I think that’s what’s angering everyone. They’ve (Disney) totally lost sight of the character in this new design.”

But, Disney disagrees.

“The artwork used on Merida’s official social media sites has always been the imagery from the movie — there have been no changes,” read a statement from Disney on www.today.com. “We routinely use different art styles with our characters and this rendition of Merida in her party dress was a special one-time effort to commemorate her coronation.”

And a source familiar with the product line said, “For a wedding or prom, even a tomboy is going to dress up for a special occasion. That doesn’t change who she is or who she will continue to be or who she remains on the Disney websites or in most of the products.”

Well, we know parents are sure up in arms about the new, “fake” version of Merida. I can understand that. They don’t want their daughters to think of Disney princesses as overly glamorized, sultry beauties whose sole purpose in life is to win over Prince Charming and live in a castle.

But hold on a minute. What do girls REALLY think?

I decided to call on some of my favorite little princesses and find out.

I interviewed some of my nieces and their friends privately over the phone without any prompts or help from either myself or their parents.

Here are some of their answers. They’re really quite fascinating!

Question: What makes a princess?

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