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Penkava: A brave animated extreme makeover

Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

I am a big fan of animated films. I got my start with the movie “Bambi” and haven’t looked back.

Last year, when I saw the movie trailer on television for Pixar’s animated “Brave,” I couldn’t wait to see it. With the background of traditional Celtic music, and in the melodious lilt of Scottish brogue, I was invited to the land of adventure and danger by a youthful lass named Merida. She asked me, “If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?”

Before I could contemplate my answer, I was swept through panoramas of breath-taking mountains and lakes, sequences of battles and conflicts, and a slow-motion scene of an arrow finding its mark into a target’s bull’s-eye with the resounding thump of a tympanic drum.

I cried out to my wife in my finest Scottish accent, “Mi love…we’ll be a-seeing that movie tis sure as your heart is mine!” My wife rolled her eyes as if to say, “Aye, mi love, mi heart is yours, but tis best you be a-spending more time a-cutting the lawn and less time with your frivolous movie plans.”

The movie “Brave” went on to gross over $500 million worldwide. Of course, the most captivating character was Merida, the impetuous, quick-witted 16-year-old daughter of Queen Elinor and King Fergus. As for her appearance, she was different from the other princess-like characters of Disney. Far from being strikingly beautiful and physically perfect, she sported untamed fiery red hair with a rosy complexion becoming more of windburn from horseback riding than a spa facial treatment, along with a figure that revealed that she wasn’t afraid of a giant turkey leg or two. Kind of like what your typical rebellious medieval teenager would look like.

Her appearance matched her personality: strong, confident and, well, brave. I guess technically she was a princess, but she sure looked different … kind of like a real person. Maybe that’s why her character was so appealing. But, sad to say, all of this has changed.

Recently, Disney has announced that Merida has become their 11th princess, joining such strikingly perfect beauties as Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pocahontas and Rapunzel. But with Merida there was a problem. Her appearance didn’t measure up to that of the other princesses. Therefore, Disney decided to do something drastic: They gave her an extreme makeover.

Suddenly Merida’s kinky, curly hair became voluminous, sleek and styled. Her eyes appeared a bit closer together, framed with eyeliner and mascara and with longer lashes. Her lips were fuller and highlighted by glossy red lipstick. It would appear she has a thinner waist and has lost a few pounds.

Instead of wearing her green sporting clothes and carrying her bow and arrows, she now wears the fancy off-the-shoulder dress she hated in the movie and carries a sultry look on her face. Yep, it would seem that our normal-looking Merida has made some visits to Mario Tricoci and Weight Watchers and Garnet Hill. Geesh, they have turned her into a Scottish Barbie Doll. (Google “Merida makeover” to see these changes)

And so it goes, with the swipe of an artist’s brush we have a new Merida. Forget the bravery, we want the beauty. Forget the empowered spirit, just give us the enhancements. And forget about saving the day, just save the calories. Yep, that’s the kind of role model we want for our daughters.

OK, I know what you’re thinking … it’s just an animated cartoon character. And you’re probably right. Maybe Merida will be happier as just another trophy princess. I can just hear her new, improved invitation to us all, in perfect English elocution … “If you had a chance to change your entire image with a professional makeover, would you?” Aye, mi lass, t’would be nice to have a bit more of the muscles and a wee bit less of the grey upstairs, mind you, but not at the expense of a-losin’ the twinkle in mi eyes.

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. Since the writing of this article, Disney has suddenly done a very merry unmakeover of Merida due to public outcry. So never mind what he just wrote. He can be reached at mikepenkava@comcast.net.

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