Burning Question: Will the redesign of Disney's Merida negatively affect my daughter's development? Will the sudden appearance of a thinner, sexier version of a cartoon hurt a girl's self-esteem? -- Clara K.
Short answer: Yep.
In case you've been living at the bottom of a loch, the heroine of the animated film "Brave" got a wee bit of a makeover recently. The feisty Scottish archer lass, who debuted at a healthy fighting weight last year, now, inexplicably, has a a sultrier pout, a skinnier waist and a more revealing décolleté. (Stay classy, imagineers.)
The change was unveiled this month, to coordinate with Merida's official crowning as Disney's 11th-ever princess. Or something.
Whatever. Child development experts are not amused, and neither am I.
"This one character may not do any damage to a girl's psychological development, per se," child development expert Dr. Robyn Silverman tells me. "But Merida joins a barrage of thin, sultry characters for girls, making her yet another facet of our sexed-up, thinned down messaging."
Silverman points out that the original Merida "was beloved for her adventurous spirit, her unique look and her disinterest in romance as her 'goal' in life. Her allure was not physical--which sent a strong message to girls that they could be who they are-- and still be beautiful, brave and confident.
"This redesign seems to stick a square peg into a round hole."
Or just a skinnier body into a size-2 gown.
However, just because your daughter's psychological development -- say, the evolution of her conscience at around age 4 -- won't be affected, doesn't mean that Merida's redesign isn't dangerous. It is -- to a girl's self-esteem. Experts see those as two different things. But both are crucial.
"I would say that Brave is aimed at kids ages 5 to 10," mulls Betsy Brown Braun, also a childhood behavior and development specialist. "That's prime territory for being affected in terms of body image. I don't think this one makeover is going to be earth shattering all by itself, but it's an element that contributes to the overall picture.
"We're seeing body image issues with children as young as 7 years old -- young children who say they're on a diet or that they think they're fat. There's a lot of data showing that children that age already identify with a saucy, sexy image."
Such as, say, the new, hot-cha-cha Merida? Let's hope not.
Watch the trailer for 'Brave':