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Top 10 Most Feminist Disney Ladies

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Savannah Sher
These are the most feminist Disney ladies! For this list, we’re ranking characters from Disney and Pixar movies who display a variety of feminist traits. We’re excluding live-action films, so unfortunately characters like Mrs. Banks won’t make the cut. We’ve included characters like Rapunzel from “Tangled”, Pocahontas from “Pocahontas”, Elsa from “Frozen” and more!
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Top 10 Most Feminist Disney Ladies


These women certainly aren’t damsels in distress. Welcome to MsMojo and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Feminist Disney Ladies.


For this list, we’re ranking characters from Disney and Pixar movies who display a variety of feminist traits. We’re excluding live-action films, so unfortunately characters like Mrs. Banks won’t make the cut.



#10: Rapunzel

“Tangled” (2010)




It pretty much goes without saying that as the years have gone on, Disney has created more and more independent female characters. While the iconic princesses of the House of Mouse’s early years may have been waiting for a man to come save them, their modern heroines are much more self-sufficient. Case in point: Rapunzel from “Tangled.” You know how the story goes, a beautiful girl is trapped in a tower and needs a dude to come set her free. In this contemporary adaptation of the classic tale, though, Rapunzel can really hold her own with a strong head of hair on her shoulders.



#9: Pocahontas

“Pocahontas” (1995)




While this film’s depiction of the titular Native American icon is far from historically accurate, no one can fault Disney for the compelling character that they created. While the love story between Pocahontas and John Smith is central to this film, it doesn’t end with the happily ever after that we were expecting. Not only does Pocahontas defy the men in her life time and time again, insisting that she be able to choose her own path, but she also chooses her community over romance in the end.



#8: Tiana

“The Princess and the Frog” (2009)




Tiana is definitely best known for being the first African American Disney princess, but it’s important to remember that she is also a great representation of a feminist woman. Rather than dreaming of the day her prince will come, Tiana dreams of starting her own business. She is a great example for young girls who are used to seeing women portrayed on screen as only hoping to find love. She helped to usher in an era of female Disney characters who were so much more than their romantic subplots.


#7: Elsa

“Frozen” (2013)




Unlike most other Disney princesses, Elsa from “Frozen” has no romantic plotline at all. She’s focused on much bigger problems, like avoiding turning her entire kingdom to ice. She also helps her sister Anna avoid the typical trappings of a romance gone wrong. Her signature song of “Let It Go” is one of the most successful Disney tunes in recent memory and is all about ditching people’s expectations of you and just being yourself - no matter what that looks like. What’s more feminist than that?


#6: Officer Judy Hopps

“Zootopia” (2016)




Whoever heard of a bunny being a police officer? “Zootopia” can be interpreted in many ways, as it’s clearly a social commentary veiled as a fun kids’ movie. Judy Hopps attempts to climb the ladder in a career path dominated by species who are more physically imposing than her, but the thing that goes unsaid is that she’s also one of the few women in her field. In fact, the whole story could be representative of women in the workplace. If you replace “prey” with “women,” this seems like a pretty feminist movie. Ironic, right?





#5: Belle

“Beauty and the Beast” (1991)




If you’ve been part of the dialogue about Belle that was stirred up with the release of the live-action adaptation of this Disney classic, you know that she can be a bit of a polarizing character. Whether she’s a feminist has been called into question because of the way she reacted to the Beast’s treatment of her. She is clearly meant to be portrayed as a woman who is unusually intelligent and is discriminated against for being different than those around her. She is also one of the earliest female Disney characters who really held their own and was shown standing up to a man who was pursuing her.


#4: Merida

“Brave” (2012)




In creating Merida, it was clear that Disney and Pixar were attempting to write a feminist princess. The basis of her story is one we’ve heard countless times before: a young girl is being pressured into an arranged marriage that she doesn’t want and exerts her independence to follow her own path. On top of that, she also refuses to perform femininity in the way that is expected of her, forcing those around her to reshape their idea of what it means to be a woman.



#3: Helen Parr / Elastigirl

“The Incredibles” franchise (2004-)




When we first met Elastigirl in 2004’s “The Incredibles,” it was clear that she was a strong character. But when the film finally got a sequel 14 years later, Helen Parr had become the star of the show, leaving her husband behind to take care of the kids while she’s out saving the world. Creator Brad Bird said, “I don’t think you would ever catch me saying that [it’s feminist] because that makes it sound like it has an agenda.” In any case, this follow-up clearly represents what modern families look like, and that’s pretty darn progressive.



#2: Moana

“Moana” (2016)




Unsurprisingly, with each film that Disney releases, their female characters seem to become more fiercely independent and autonomous. With 2016’s “Moana,” we got to meet a female figure unlike any we had seen before. Moana isn’t concerned about finding a man, but rather about pushing her personal limits and saving her people. Her signature song is called “How Far I’ll Go” and is all about seeing what she is capable of and not being held back by people’s expectations of her. At the film’s conclusion, she even becomes chief of her village, defying the odds.


Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:



Megara

“Hercules” (1997)



Jasmine

“Aladdin” (1992)


Esmeralda

“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996)


#1: Mulan

“Mulan” (1998)



Interestingly, our number one pick for the most feminist Disney character is one that was created two decades ago. Mulan exemplifies many of the qualities of a feminist woman and acted as a role model for lots of young girls in the ‘90s and beyond. She calls into question the gender roles in her very traditional society and goes undercover as a man in order to pursue her goals. She acknowledges that she wouldn’t be getting anywhere as a woman in her role, but ultimately subverts people’s expectations of what girls are capable of.
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