Is it just me or have cartoon mice really been letting themselves go lately? A cute hairbow can go a long way, but no amount of polka dots will slim you down on the runway at Barney's, which is where the new, skinny Minnie Mouse (along with several of her Disney pals) will be this holiday season.
It's Disney, dahling.
I kid about letting themselves go, of course. Classic Disney cartoons may have given us plenty of grief in the gender, race, and consumerism departments in the past, but the size of Minnie's tail has hardly been a concern for most feminists. Not so for Barney's New York, which is partnering with Disney for its Electric Holiday collection next month. Though all of the characters in the campaign have been stretched out and whittled down (and more are reportedly on the way), Skinny Minnie has undergone the most drastic body modification. "The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress," says David Freed, Creative Director for Barneys New York. So instead of altering the dress, he altered the model. "There was a real moment of silence, because these characters don't change," Freeman continues. "I said, 'If we're going to make this work, we have to have a 5-foot-11 Minnie,' and they agreed. When you see Goofy, Minnie and Mickey, they are runway models."
To clarify: We are talking about animated dresses on animated characters. So when Freed mentions that Lanvin dress, he's actually talking about a 3D digital rendering of a Lanvin dress. One that could've been drawn to fit Minnie's fat ass.
Now there's nothing wrong with real women who are tall and thin. However, as Annie Rose-Strasser points out:
Eighty percent of 10 year-old girls in the United States say they have been on a diet. And Disney, who often uses the imagery and language associated with magic, might know that "the number one magic wish for young girls age 11-17 is to be thinner." Such a fashion campaign associated around children's play figures, then, might have further negative repercussions for these young girls.
Young girls—Minnie Mouse's traditional target demo—don't need one more pop culture figure who is tall and thin and modeling expensive clothing. They have buttloads of those already; leave the mouse out of it! Or at the very least, draw a dress that fits her instead of re-drawing her to fit the dress. You don't need to be Dr. George Huang to see how changing Minnie's body to walk the runway might send the wrong message to kids.
Besides, these characters are like Betty White: The older, the cuter!
Like Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, and Dora the Explorer before them, Minnie and Daisy are getting dolled up and cut down by the media (same goes for Goofy and apparently Mickey as well). And along with their newly shrunken waistlines, these characters are also getting a heavy dose of fashion-forward sex appeal. Because God forbid they shake their little things on the catwalk without tiny waists, coquettish poses, and painted lids! Body image issues aside, isn't it just straight up creepy that a bunch of dudes at Barney's rewrote Minnie Mouse's measurements in the first place?
Fat activist and blogger Ragen Chastain has launched a campaign protesting the thin Disney models at Change.org. She says:
Girls have enough pressure to be thin, now the beloved Disney mouse of their childhood has to add to the message that the only good body is a tall, size 0 body? Enough already. Let's give girls a chance to celebrate the actual bodies they have instead hating them for not fitting into a Lanvin dress. Then maybe enough girls will get together and demand dresses that look good on their actual, non-digitally altered bodies and designers will just have to become talented enough to design a dress that looks good on them.
Exactly. Kids already struggle with body image and self acceptance—we don't need to redraw cartoon animals to fit narrow industry standards and make it even harder. You can sign the Change.org petition here to let Barney's know that you'd like to see Minnie and her pals pack on a few pounds and lose a few inches before this campaign launches next month.