Overall, there aren’t many Disney princesses that I like. Even for entertainment value, they are merely pleasant to pass the time with at best—but it’s the submissive, compliant natures of so many princesses that make me not like them for my daughter. Slave over your step-family rather than run off on an adventure of your own—or, heaven forbid, stand up for yourself? Give up your voice for a man? Yeah, these don’t do it for me, and neither do many of the misogynistic fairy tales preceding these films.
That said, there are a few recent princesses that I do really like, but they still have problems. Belle, for example, wants adventure and loves to read; though she refuses the town heartthrob, she considers marrying a former beast as her adventure? That and the mental abuse she endures at his hands turns me off. I like Rapunzel, too—especially how she saves the day multiple times!—but I don’t like how Disney diverted attention from her in order to “attract little boys” in order to see the movie.
That said, there are some heroines that I really love. These are my top three.
Merida. The star of Disney/Pixar’s “Brave,” Merida is the princess who is most like my daughter and I. She is goofy, even a bit clumsy when doing things that don’t suit her—like princess-y duties. She’d rather be playing with her father or brothers, spending time in nature or with animals, or eating than getting married and being a princess. The movie focuses on her relationship with her mother, which is pretty groundbreaking, too.
Tiana. I love princess Tiana, who, like a few other princesses, was not initially a princess but a waitress. She is smart, brave, funny and hardworking while still balancing that work with having a positive attitude and, later, fun. She is fierce and stands up to men who tell her she should “stay in her place.” She has friends and a good relationship with her parents as well.
Mulan. There are some issues with the film, but Mulan is one of my favorite Disney movies of all time. This woman is exceptionally brave and smart, proving herself not just “as” one of the guys but even bettering herself to surpass every man in her troop. She poses as a man to help her father escape serving in the military during his old age and saves not only her family honor, but the entire freaking country. We very rarely get a heroine of this magnitude, and the fact that she’s also funny makes the whole move enjoyable for the whole family.