Inspired by Merida: Artist Gives Modern Female Role Models a Satirical Princess Makeover

I love that the notion that my work might ever directly or indirectly inspire another artist. The spawning of one idea from another and the relationship between artists so symbiotic in nature – it’s all kinds of wonderful. And the power that we get from that is pretty incredible as well, and can lead all artists to exposure to a much wider audience than we might often accomplish on our own. So it is with my Merida and the recently-viral “Disney Princessifying” satirical makeover given to modern female role models by artist David Trumble.

David Tumbler Illustration

Trumble’s spectacular satire, originally published on the Huffington Post back in May, was directly inspired by Disney’s ill-conceived Merida Makeover. He recently told my friend writer Rebecca Hains in a fantastic and frank Q&A on her blog that “The creation of Merida in “Brave” was a step in the right direction, to broaden the definition of what a princess could be for young girls looking for role models. So when the glossy version of her arrived, I felt it was two steps back—and then the image I created popped into my head. I imagined that if I depicted real-world female role models but then conformed them to that specific mould, through the iconic Disney template, it would better reveal how ridiculous it is to limit female characters to that one archetype.” Hear, hear David! I couldn’t agree more.

Trumble’s satirical cartoon features a “princessified” version of female role models Anne Frank (who proved to be the most controversial), Marie Curie, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Harriet Tubman, Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton, Jane Goodall, Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony. As is often the case with satire, Trumble’s piece was reviled by some who failed to get his point but celebrated by just as many who understood what he was trying to convey, namely “that greatness in women exists in our history books and before our eyes, and they do NOT fit into these [Disney Princess] moulds. Importantly, they never needed to in order to be who they became, so it’s time to take away this artifice of expectation.” Trumble then goes on to echo the message that my friends at A Mighty Girl and the Brave Girls Alliance have been shouting loudly and very visibly in recent months with this excellent statement he made to Hains: “We have to change our consumer habits in order to change what marketers sell to our daughters.” All I can say to that is, Amen!

I’m thrilled with the splash that Trumble has made with this satire. After another great site, Women You Should Know, featured his cartoon, it got over a million page views in just a few days and was quickly picked up by many other sites, including the oft-shared Jezebel. With all this buzz, Trumble’s message certainly can’t be ignored by Disney and other makers of entertainment and toys aimed at young girls. I for one can only hope they take it to heart.

What did you think of Trumble’s princess piece? Did you receive it in the spirit that he intended, or did you find it offensive? Why or why not?

Image credit : David Trumble

  • Oh wow. I love this! The words “Strong Female Lead” certainly have a wide spectrum of connotations. I love the contrast between the “Disney” extreme and the Gun-Toting-Warrior-women extreme we see these days. I recently read an article explaining that “strong” doesn’t need to mean “pretty” or even “brutish”, it just means “well-written.” like characters in Jane Austen books … and especially like THIS list of role models (a list that could go on and on) – what a well of inspiring material!

    • brendachapman

      Yes – it’s really great! I love that he took the time to make such a statement! 🙂

    • Meg

      Right, not “strong” like an action hero but more like an archway or bridge–structured with a complexity of varying peices that work together to hold up the weight of a story.

  • Meg

    I was thrilled to see his lineup! As an animation major I have already butted heads with my peers and teachers over the concept of “appealing” female characters, especially trying to design an older woman mechanic for our group thesis film. Got such quality feedback as “Men get more rugged and handsome with age but women just get ugly” “we should give some backstory about her father–who else would have taught her to work with machines?” “her cup size is too small” “the charactrr shouldn BE female anyway–boobs are too technically difficult for students to pull off and some of thr male animators could feel uncomfortable.” By the end the only way I could convince them to let me keep her in there was to add a male charachter and turn it into a love story–because what else would a woman possibly be motivated by? There were so many compromises on the project I don’t think anyone was satisfied with the final product–I know my bitterness over the outcome of what was meant to be my baby still hurts.

    I have one semester left in school and when I enter the animation industry I am determined to continue the work towards breaking the steryotypes, tropes, and blase expectations for characters of both genders–and I’m gonna have a printout of Tremmel’s peice in my workspace. 🙂

    • brendachapman

      Ack! That sounds just awful! I’m sorry you had to go through that. They should be ashamed of themselves! Well, that which does not kill us… So go get ’em when you’re working with the pros! 🙂

  • Cristian I. Fabio

    Very Good Mrs. Mood, soon, their creation, is no longer in that club. Missing the first woman astronaut, the first ….

Real Time Analytics