Female protagonists are rarely beautiful damsels in distress that require rescue from some handsome prince they’ve never met. Most
of them are remarkably intelligent, self-reliant women who do their fair share of rescuing.
Every one of Disney’s heroines has one crowning quality. We pick our top five favorites and discuss what makes these women inspirational.
But first, take a look at heroines through the years!
1. Alice from Alice in Wonderland: Curiosity
For better or for worse, this blonde youngster always wants to learn more and try new things. She loathes boredom, and prefers day dreaming while her sister reads from a history book. When she sees the infamously tardy White Rabbit, she chases him. She ‘follows him down the rabbit hole,’ a metaphor now synonymous with inquisitive behavior.
Part of what makes Alice so spectacular is that she never stops asking questions or exploring Wonderland. She’s always trying to get
to the bottom of things.
Part of what makes her especially enduring is that, while she’s generally well-mannered, she doesn’t shy away from speaking her mind, especially when she confronts the Queen of Hearts.
2. Belle from Beauty and the Beast: Open-Mindedness
Book-reading, free-thinking Beauty doesn’t want anything to do with the one-dimensional, obtuse, alpha male Gaston. She doesn’t think women are only meant to have children and take care of their husbands. She wants something more stimulating for her life, and stays friendless (and single).
That said, when it comes to uncovering the curse of a very tortured Beast, she’s intrigued. She wants to get to the bottom of his mystery, and ultimately her open-mindedness compels him to broaden his thinking, open his heart, and experience real intimacy.
3. Dory from Finding Nemo: Optimism
How many times have you had a bad day, remembered the words, “Just keep swimming,” and gotten through it? Say what you want about Dory’s lamentable short-term memory loss, but it’s served her well.
Dory is always excited to meet someone new (even if she’s met them before) and is open to taking on new challenges (even if it means crossing an ocean). She knows when to let go and trust that a giant whale won’t eat her. If that’s not optimism, nothing is.
4. Cinderella from Cinderella: Perseverance
There’s something to be said for someone maintaining a cheerful, loving disposition despite being forced to wear rags and do seemingly endless number of laborious tasks. Cinderella has lost her father and her inheritance, but she has not lost her integrity and stick-to-itiveness.
Even when her stepmother and stepsisters mistreat her, Cinderella demonstrates unshatterable poise. She does her work, sings, and even makes friends with mice.
5. Mulan from Mulan: Bravery
Based on a Chinese legend, Mulan disguises herself as a man to fight for the emperor during the Hun invasion. Her brother, who is just a child, is too young to fight, and her father is too old. Mulan fights men one-on-one and wins. She defies orders she knows to be ill-advised.
In summary, Mulan does everything she needs to in order to protect the emperor and her family. She even saves Captain Li Shang,
who later becomes her romantic interest, and declines his offer to become an adviser in the Chinese army.
6. Pocahontas from Pocahontas: Empathy
Imagine your village has some new guests from a very different world. How accepting would you be? Pocahontas meets a young Captain John Smith and befriends him despite her father’s orders. Pocahontas’ ability to understand people, animals, and nature is almost like a sixth sense. She is so intuitive that she has dreams that foretell the future. When the hostility between Powhatan and the English comes to a head, Pocahontas is there to stop everyone from losing their cool.
Remember-not all Disney female protagonists are damsels in distress, or the prettiest ladies in the land. Many of them are strong-willed, independent characters geared toward reminding you of your ability to accomplish whatever you wish.