Disney and Feminism

Disney not only sprinkles our lives with the magic it is missing and takes us on mind-blowing adventures that we would otherwise never dream of, it also teaches us a number of important lessons and carries vital life messages that everyone, yes everyone, can learn from and apply to their own lives. These movies are not just for children’s entertainment, these movies open up a world of prominent and meaningful issues and lessons that may not reach us any other way. In a world of such negativity and hate, Disney is the one thing we can count on to lift our spirits and show us the light we so desperately need.

Snow White and the seven dwarves teaches us the importance of friendliness and hospitality. Beauty and the Beast shows us that it is not what is on the outside that counts, but on the inside. Tangled encourages us to follow our dreams, no matter how crazy and unreachable they might be. And Frozen teaches us to never be afraid to be yourself. Not only this, but it also highlights the importance of family and love, something that the film was highly commended for. The fact that the act of true love required to save Anna’s life was carried out by her sister, rather than any of the male characters, was seen as a feminist revelation.

Now, feminism is an issue that I myself am a firm supporter of and it warms my heart to see Disney recognising this issue and addressing it accordingly. However, I’m still unsure whether Frozen should be considered Disney’s feminist breakthrough. Was Frozen really the first Disney movie to encourage feminism and highlight the importance of female independence? Or was it just the movie’s through- the-roof success and insane popularity that made this known? Or perhaps the imminent rise of feminist in the present day that meant it was more recognisable? As much as I adore this movie, I cannot deny that there have been numerous Disney females, before the beloved Anna and Elsa, that wave the feminist flag and do not conform to stereotypical gender roles:

1) Mulan

The first Disney princess that I have to mention here is Mulan, the ultimate Disney feminist. She is the epitome of everything feminism stands for and it’s unfortunate that this isn’t recognised and that this film is so underrated. She is by far the most badass princess that Disney have ever created. When her Father is called to fight, Mulan steps up and takes his place. She puts her life and her pride on the line as she undergoes training to fight and take on the Huns. Yes, Mulan falls in love with Shang, but this is not the main focus of the plot, the focus remains on Mulan’s bravery and loyalty as she refuses to conform to stereotypical gender roles of women. In this case, it is the Princess who ultimately saves the Prince!

2) Belle

Secondly, Belle, female protagonist in Beauty and the Beast, represents feminism in a number of different ways. Belle lives in a town where she is seen as odd and unconventional because she is an intelligent young woman who likes to read. Belle does not let the remarks of these ignorant people stop her and continues to be the independent, wonderful woman that she is! Not only this, but when her Father is in grave danger at the Beast’s castle, does she call for the help of a strong, strapping brave man? No she does not, she goes out there herself and saves his life, trading his place for her own, putting her own life at risk, pretty badass, right? Not to mention that she rejects the most admired man in the whole town, she’s a strong independent woman who don’t need no man! (Until of course she finds the Beast, but that’s a whole other story).

3) Merida

Merida, the fiery Scottish Goddess that she is, is another prime example of feminism within Disney. Merida is constantly expected by her Mother to ‘act like a princess’, something it seems she is not comfortable doing, at all! All Merida wants to do is be who she is, to fire her arrow in piece without the constant pressures of being a royal. Merida does not want to be married off to a suitor of her parents choosing, she wants to be free to be a teenage girl and she is not afraid to fight for what she believes in. Her tomboyish ways are not hidden as she makes her resentment of tradition known and continues to be true to herself, proving that women certainly do not need a husband to be strong and brave, what a great lass she is!

4) Tiana

And of course, Tiana! This gorgeous princess from The Princess and the Frog is the perfect role model for young women. Unlike her best friend, who’s dream is to simply marry a Prince, Tiana has much much bigger dreams. She is an incredibly ambitious young woman who strives unbelievably hard, working ridiculous hours in order to save enough money to open her own restaurant. Forget men, her dream is to own her own business, a dream she shared with her late Father and she is determined to make him proud. Now, if that isn’t inspirational to young girls, I don’t know what is! Of course, in the end Tiana ends up marrying a Prince, but damn it she deserves to! A girl with that much ambition and determination deserves a happy Disney ending!

5) Jasmine

Princess Jasmine refused to be ordered around by the men in her life. She was adamant that she would not marry a man simply because the law stated so, she would only marry if it was for love. She bravely challenged traditional and cultural views on marriage and refused to let these control her life and happiness. Jasmine’s stubborn independence is a prominent message to young girls, proving that it is okay to disagree with men! Not only this, but Jasmine ultimately marries Aladdin, a street rat without a penny to his name, leaving her the sole provider! A woman way before her time it would seem!

And of course, there are numerous other women, both princesses and non-princesses that shine the torch of feminism onto Disney, Pocahontas, Rapunzel, Elizabeth Swann to name but a few. It is through these inspirational women, whether their feminist messages are big or small, that young girls can be subconsciously taught the importance of female empowerment and independence! Yes, Frozen has underlying feminism messages that inspired young girls all over the world, but Disney has been doing so for years, and will continue to do so for many years to come, hats off to you Disney!


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