~ Posted by Kassia St Clair, May 13th 2013

She's a princess and she's Scottish, but the main point about Merida is she's feisty. "I don’t want to get married," she says, "I want to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen firing arrows into the sunset!" "Brave" (2012) tells the story of her struggle to retain her independence against the conventions of her time and clan—as interpreted by her mother. "A princess should not have weapons in my opinion." 

For most of the film, Merida is a 16-year-old with pale celtic skin, orange brows and lashes, and a narrow figure topped with an unruly mass of curly, orange-red hair. She dresses for comfort: when a tight, formal dress chosen by her mother restricts her ability to fire her bow, she flexes until the dress rips. She favours a plain dark petrol-blue dress, cut high across the neckline but with loose joins at the shoulders and elbows to reveal a white chemise and, presumably, to give her maximum mobility. A loose leather belt secures her quiver of arrows and a bow is slung over her shoulder.

That's Merida in the movie. The Merida that has been unveiled as the latest Disney princess has undergone some changes. The bow and arrow are gone, her hair is fuller and her eyes made up. The dress is lower-cut, tighter, paler and sparkly, with a gold embroidered band around the hem and gold lacings on the sleeves. Her belt now has a large gold buckle that serves to anchor a gauzy scarf that blows in the wind. (It's similar to the dress Merida is forced to wear by her mother: “I can’t move! It’s too tight!”) Most noticeable is her figure: in the film she was proportionate and almost boyish, now her waist is far smaller with a pronounced curve to the hips and a fuller bosom.

An online petition protesting the changes has attracted over 100,000 signatures. The creator of the petition argues that Merida "speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired.” There's a Twitter hashtag too. One tweet asks: "She sure is pretty. Is she still Brave?"

Kassia St Clair is editorial assistant at Intelligent Life