Disney Princesses as Positive Role Models for Girls (Part 2)

Remember the list I shared last week about my favorite Disney princesses and their potential status as positive role models for girls? If not, be sure to check it out before you continue reading. If you’re all caught up, here’s the second part of that list, featuring five more awesome princesses I admire as great role models! Enjoy, and again, Happy Women’s History Month!

6) Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

I want adventure in the great wide somewhere! I want it more than I can tell! – Belle

With a live action remake out in theaters now (and starring Emma Watson, no less!), it seems unfair to leave this beloved princess out of the list. Not that I planned to anyway. For a long time, Belle from Beauty and the Beast was my favorite Disney princess because I identified more with her than with any of the others. Her love of books and her status as an outcast taught me to appreciate being different for enjoying reading more than socializing, which was a valuable lesson to a shy girl who spent many of her school recesses alone in the library. The way she handles Gaston is another quality worthy of praise: while every other single woman in town would kill for a shot with him, Belle sees through his burly exterior to the dimwitted misogynist within and promptly dismisses his advances. Though many have questioned why this bookish princess falls in love with the Beast, it’s worth noting that she never takes his abusive behavior sitting down and only becomes friends with him after he learns how to treat her as an equal. Intelligent, empathetic, and independent, Belle is an excellent role model for every girl who loves to read and who refuses to let any man push her around!

7) Pocahontas (Pocahontas)

My daughter speaks with a wisdom beyond her years. We have all come here with anger in our hearts, but she comes with courage and understanding. From this day forward, if there is to be more killing, it will not start with me. – Chief Powhatan after Pocahontas stops John Smith’s execution

As a little girl who always loved nature, Pocahontas was another favorite princess of mine from childhood. The daughter of a Native American chief, she notably became the first Disney princess based on a real person (however loosely) when her film came out in 1995. Though much of the appeal of her character comes from her connection to animals and the natural world (Colors of the Wind was easily one of my favorite Disney songs growing up!), to me her most admirable trait is her strong advocacy of peace. Even when consequences are dire and war seems inevitable, Pocahontas continues to fight against the hatred around her until she can finally reconcile the Native Americans and the English settlers into a mutual understanding. Another notable quality that sets her apart from other princesses is her decision to forgo romance in favor of responsibility, choosing to let John Smith return to England alone while she stays behind to take her rightful place among her people. Wise in mind, strong in spirit, and empathetic in heart, Pocahontas is another great example of a truly brave princess and the peaceful-minded role model that many girls should look up to today!

8) Rapunzel (Tangled)

Find your humanity! Haven’t any of you ever had a dream? – Rapunzel to the Snuggly Duckling thugs

The release of Tangled in 2010 introduced a spunky new princess to the Disney Royal Court. Famous for her long magical hair, Rapunzel is much more than a simple damsel in distress waiting for a handsome prince to rescue her from her tower. In fact, she has no romantic aspirations at all before Flynn shows up, and even for a long time after that. Instead, this adventurous princess finds a way to save herself from her prison, cleverly (and at one point literally) roping a thief into escorting her across the land and through various adventures all so she can see the pretty lights that have fascinated her since childhood. She even continually proves herself more competent than her escort, saving him more often than he saves her. Though inexperienced and naïve about the world, Rapunzel is brave, kind, smart, and optimistic as they come. With her charming, sunny demeanor that can melt even the coldest heart, Rapunzel is a great role model for any positive-minded girl who aspires to make her dreams come true no matter what!

9) Jasmine (Aladdin)

How dare you? All of you! Standing around deciding my future? I am not a prize to be won! – Jasmine to Aladdin, the Sultan, and Jafar

Aladdin was another Disney classic that I loved as a child. Though the movie does focus more on the title character than the princess he falls in love with, Jasmine still stands out from the beginning of the story by challenging an old-fashioned marriage law in favor of love and happiness. Resentful of her obligation to become Sultana of Agrabah, she turns away stuck-up suitor after stuck-up suitor, refusing to be treated by the men in her life as nothing more than a prize to be conquered. Even when Aladdin comes to her disguised as a prince, she dismisses his shallow advances and only falls for him after he drops his arrogant facade to reveal the good heart underneath. Free-spirited and confident, Jasmine is yet another strong princess in Disney’s Royal Court and a great role model for romantic girls who aren’t afraid to speak their minds!

10) Princess Leia Organa (Star Wars)

Why, you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder! – Princess Leia to Han Solo

And finally, here to cap off this list is science fiction’s favorite princess: the iconic Princess Leia of the Star Wars franchise! Yes, I know she’s not an official Disney princess, but ever since Disney bought Lucasfilm, she’s technically been part of the Royals in my book! Well before the Disney Renaissance, Leia Organa was already kicking butt as a leader of the Rebel Alliance, fighting off her enemies and courageously standing up against the villains of the Empire. She’s never afraid to resist or say what she’s really thinking, even when she’s been captured and imprisoned by her enemies. Handy with a blaster and always ready to jump into the fray, this beloved space princess fearlessly proves time and again throughout the classic trilogy that a just cause, however daunting, is always worth fighting for. So here’s to the late Princess Leia and the legacy of strong heroines she helped usher in for future generations! Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher. You will always be greatly missed!

Who are your favorite Disney princesses? What other Disney leading ladies would you add to this list?

Disney Princesses as Positive Role Models for Girls (Part 1)

Last week, I celebrated International Women’s Day with a post about six female characters I love and admire as positive role models for girls. While compiling that list, I had an overwhelming urge to include some of my favorite Disney princesses, but since the post was becoming too long, I instead decided to feature these awesome female characters in their own list! Of course, this also turned out to be a long list on its own, so I’ll have to split it yet again! Long live the Disney princesses!

So in no particular order, here is the first part of a list of my favorite Disney princesses and how they can be some of the best role models for young girls. Enjoy, and again, Happy Women’s History Month!

1) Fa Mulan (Mulan)

The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter. – Fa Zhou to Mulan

Ask me who my favorite Disney princess is and I’ll answer without hesitation: Mulan. Okay, technically she’s not a princess (even if she is in the Royal Court), but she’s still one of my favorite Disney heroines ever. From the beginning of her story, Mulan breaks the mold of her highly traditional culture by proving herself different from other young women and bravely taking on the guise of a man in the Emperor’s army. Though she isn’t the strongest or most skilled fighter, she is clever and resourceful enough to scrape through otherwise hopeless situations. Her selfless heart leads her to constantly rescue the people around her: her father, her captain, her army, and even the Emperor himself. Even when she loses her honor and respect simply for being a woman, Mulan gets back up and keeps fighting, continuing to use her intelligence and resourcefulness against the villain until she saves all of China. And she does it all by being herself. Strong in mind, heart, and spirit, Disney’s beloved warrior princess serves as a shining example of some of the best lessons for young girls: never let anyone make you believe you aren’t valuable, women are just as capable as men of saving the day, brains are more important than brawn, and you can be a hero just by being you. In her quirky, badass, and beautifully feminine way, Mulan certainly brings honor to us all!

2) Moana Waialiki (Moana)

I am Moana of Motunui. You will board my boat, sail across the sea, and restore the heart of Te Fiti! – Moana to Maui

My boyfriend and I watched Moana in theaters last December, and I admit I couldn’t stop smiling over how awesome this girl was throughout the entire movie. From learning how to lead her people to embarking on an epic journey to save the entire ocean, Moana is an action girl from start to finish, hardly stopping for one minute until her voyage is complete. Even in moments of doubt and fear, she summons the courage to keep going because she knows in her heart that her quest is about far more than herself. The best part is that she never gets a romantic interest; her relationship with Maui is purely mentor–protégé, and the only love driving her story is her unconditional love for her family and her people. With a brave spirit and a kind heart, Moana is a true heroine and the princess role model that girls today deserve!

3) Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)

The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work. – Tiana

As a longtime lover of Disney’s classic 2D animation, I had high expectations when The Princess and the Frog came out in 2009. I wasn’t disappointed, thanks especially to how much I admired the newest princess in the lineup. Tiana is ambitious, focused, and easily one of the most hard-working characters in Disney’s entire canon. Determined to run her own restaurant since she was a little girl, this goal-oriented woman lives up to her beloved father’s example and does whatever it takes to make her lifelong dream come true, always striving for success by her own means. What really drives the message of dedication and independence home is seeing how she finally accomplishes that goal: even when she snags the wealthy prince (or rather, wealthy in-laws) at the end of the story, she still buys her restaurant with her own hard-earned money and runs a successful business her way, inspiring him to live up to her standards! Turns out Tiana isn’t just a good role model for girls; she’s a great role model for everyone!

4) Merida of DunBroch (Brave)

There are those who say fate is something beyond our command, that destiny is not our own. But I know better. Our fate lives within us. You only have to be brave enough to see it. – Merida

I admire Disney princesses, I love Pixar movies, and I’m fascinated by archery. So to finally see all three rolled into one with the release of the 2012 film Brave was practically a dream come true for me. Princess Merida of DunBroch is a courageous and fiercely independent young woman – so independent, in fact, that she repeatedly clashes with her mother when it comes to “proper princess behavior”, especially on the issue of marriage. Headstrong and determined by nature, this sharp-shooting princess repeatedly proves she’s willing to do whatever it takes to change her fate, and ends up learning much about herself and her mother on the way. Whether it’s the bravery she shows in her prowess with weapons, the tenacity she shows by taking control of her life, or the intelligence she shows by finally learning from her mistakes, Merida has several positive qualities and a realistic personality that many young women can relate to. Besides, what little girl wouldn’t admire a princess who can shoot an arrow through another arrow?

5) Queen Elsa of Arendelle (Frozen)

Here I stand in the light of day! Let the storm rage on! The cold never bothered me anyway. – Queen Elsa singing Let It Go

And there’s your earworm for the day. Yes, I remember how ridiculously popular Frozen became shortly after its release. Who among us hasn’t heard Let It Go at least a hundred times, right? Though much of the film’s commercial success can easily be attributed to its soundtrack, it has also been praised for introducing a princess—excuse me, queen—who doesn’t get a romantic interest throughout her movie (while her sister, to compensate, gets two). Elsa is clearly independent and selfless, willingly condemning herself to a life of solitude in order to protect her people, yet her struggles with anxiety and fear also make her a well-rounded character to which many young women can easily relate. Her relationship with her sister, however strained for much of the film, is also a model of family love: Elsa distances herself to protect Anna, while Anna goes to astounding lengths to help Elsa. To any girl with siblings, this beloved ice queen and her clumsy yet lovable princess sister teach the valuable lesson of what true love really means!

Who are your favorite Disney princesses? What other Disney leading ladies would you add to this list?

6 Awesome Female Characters Every Girl Should Look Up To

Happy Women’s Day! Because face it, world: you couldn’t exist without us. March has been designated National Women’s History Month, so to continue the theme of celebrating women on my blog, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite female characters ever! There are tons of amazing characters to choose from, of course; it was quite a challenge just to narrow the list down to fit in one blog post!

So to celebrate Women’s Day, here are six awesome female characters that I believe every girl can look up to as a potential role model. Enjoy, and keep being awesome, ladies!

Note: I was originally going to include a couple of my favorite Disney princesses in this list, but the post was already becoming too long. Instead, they’ll be the subject of another post coming soon!

1) Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter series)

Hands down, Hermione Granger is my favorite female character ever written. Growing up reading all seven Harry Potter books, I witnessed this beloved character’s transformation from a naïve know-it-all girl to a brave and intelligent young woman. I always admired Hermione for how much she loved reading, and even more so for how skillful she was at applying her knowledge to real-world situations. Her brains and dedication to her studies may have qualified her for Ravenclaw, but her courage and determination prove she was always a Gryffindor at heart! And let’s be honest: this girl was the real hero of the story all along. Do you think Harry and his friends could have accomplished as much as they did throughout the series if Hermione didn’t read so much? It just goes to show: never underestimate the value of intelligence and a good education, because they’re the most powerful tools to save the world!

2) Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)

The heroine of Pride and Prejudice is Elizabeth Bennet. She is one of the greatest and most complex characters ever written, not that you would know.

– Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail (1998)

After finally reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time last year, I can honestly say it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, thanks in no small part to the fascinating complexity of its female protagonist. Elizabeth Bennet is a remarkable character who, like the author who created her, could easily be seen as very much ahead of her time. While many of the women around her are inclined to marry for convenience (her best friend included), Elizabeth is determined to marry for love. She is clever and quick-witted in conversation without compromising her integrity to impress anyone, which wins her the favor of her proud-yet-good-natured soulmate, Mr. Darcy. Lizzy is observant enough to make quick analyses of people’s characters, yet ultimately proves her real intelligence by overcoming the prejudice that almost costs her true love and a lifetime of happiness.

Smart yet proud, charming yet headstrong, idealistic about love yet critical about people, Elizabeth Bennet is the epitome of a multidimensional character and a powerful role model for women even today. So to all the clever young ladies who can relate, never feel like you don’t deserve to be appreciated for your intelligence. Keep on channeling the Elizabeth Bennet in you, and you may find your Mr. Darcy is just around the corner!

3) Juliet Capulet (Romeo & Juliet)

Painting of Juliet by Philip H. Calderon (1888)

This may seem a strange choice to some, but hear me out. First of all, no, I am not condoning teen suicide nor the total abandonment of family in favor of romance. I know Romeo and Juliet are often criticized as a couple of stupid kids who get six people killed in four days (which is so untrue it’s not even funny), but I’m not trying to praise their totally normal recklessness or their totally justified attempts to break out of a broken system. No, what I really find so admirable about Juliet is her determination to take control of her life in the face of an overbearing patriarchal society.

Remember that Romeo & Juliet takes place during a time when men literally controlled everything, including the women in their lives, which really makes Juliet’s triumphs all the more inspiring. Her family is eager to have her married at the age of thirteen, a thought that has barely even crossed her mind once before the night of the Capulet Ball. She politely agrees to consider Paris as a potential husband while cleverly avoiding committing to him. When it becomes clear she won’t be able to break the rules that bind her to marriage, she bends them to her own wishes by choosing love (Romeo) over convenience (Paris). She handles the aftermath of Tybalt’s death with a much clearer head than Romeo (who at one point tries to stab himself out of guilt), sacrifices her social status and security for love and freedom, and defies the fear that would send her back to her unfulfilling life by (painfully) following her beloved into eternity. Say what you will about Juliet and her Romeo, but you have to admit this girl is a fighter to the very end, a woman who knows exactly what she wants and who will do whatever it takes to have the final say on how she lives her life.

Of course, if you want to see this taken a step further, you should check out the anime series Romeo x Juliet, in which a 16-year-old Juliet Capulet leads a revolution and masquerades as a sword-wielding vigilante known as the Red Whirlwind. Now that’s a strong woman!

Juliet, rightful ruler of Neo Verona, prepares to lead the Capulet rebellion against the evil Prince Montague (Romeo x Juliet , 2007)

4) Jo March (Little Women)

Another book I finally got around to reading last year is Little Women, a recommendation from my mother that I absolutely loved. She told me going in that I would strongly identify with Jo, and being a tomboyish bookworm and writer, it didn’t take me long to see why.

At the age of fifteen in 1800s America, Josephine March is a classic example of a girl who refuses to conform to the expectations society has of her. While her sisters live up to a more feminine image, Jo proves herself independent by constantly rebelling against the limitations placed on women. She reads books incessantly, writes and publishes stories, assumes the male roles in the plays she composes, and openly dismisses the idea of romance in favor of holding her family together. She may not embody the ideals of every woman today, but (at least in the first books of the series) Jo does serve as a model of the independent spirit that all women potentially have inside them!

5) Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games trilogy)

I’ve watched all four Hunger Games movies and recently finished reading the first book in the trilogy, and I have to say that I admired the story’s protagonist from start to finish. Forced to endure a lifetime of hardship and more than one battle to the death from the age of sixteen, Katniss Everdeen is an embodiment of strength, tenacity, and survivalist cunning, not to mention the lengths one will go to for the love of family. After losing her father to a mining accident and watching her mother fade away into depression, this girl took on the role of head of her household and sole provider for her family at the age of eleven and shouldered that responsibility through her entire teenage life. That’s not an easy feat for anyone, especially someone who has to survive two Hunger Games and a revolution along the way. Still, Katniss is a fighter all the way to the end of the story, and stands as a symbol for girls everyone to never give up on defending what they believe in!

6) Imperator Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Heck yeah, I’ll say it: I loved Mad Max: Fury Road! Who didn’t, right? Remember how everyone was gushing about it two years ago and it took home six Academy Awards out of ten nominations? It’s already a great movie for its incredible action sequences and wildly thrilling screenplay, but what really made the story so enjoyable for me was the sheer awesomeness of its main character, Imperator Furiosa.

Intent on rescuing the Five Wives of the film’s villain, Immortan Joe, Furiosa sets off on a daring quest across a post-apocalyptic wasteland to deliver them to a promised sanctuary (while Max, in his usual fashion, ends up coming along for the ride). This hardcore woman drives a war rig through the desert, uses great resourcefulness to evade her pursuers, and fights off countless enemies with an impressive arsenal of weapons. Oh, and she does it all with a prosthetic arm. With her endless bravery and cleverness, Imperator Furiosa is a model of strength and skill for women and people with disabilities alike. It doesn’t get more badass than that!

Who are the female characters you most admire? What other fictional female role models would you add to this list?

What If? Writing Prompts: Women I

Welcome to March! Here’s a fun fact: the third month of the year is also known as Women’s History Month in the US, UK, and Australia! It’s the perfect time to celebrate women everywhere, so this month I’m dedicating my blog posts to all those amazing ladies out there, starting with some new “What If?” Writing Prompts in the theme of women. See what stories you can create from these ideas! Good luck!

What if… since the beginning of history, women had ruled the world?

What if… women were always treated with the same respect as men?

What if… people’s biases were never based on gender?

What if… most of the greatest discoveries and inventions in the world had been made by women?

What if… every woman in the world could feel confident in herself exactly the way she is?

Have fun writing your own stories about women!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

3 Lessons from My Father That Inspire My Writing

Last year, I shared a post about the lessons I’ve learned from my mother and how they inspire my writing. Today, I’d like to honor my other greatest role model with the most important lessons he’s taught me and how I apply them to my fiction. My family has played a large role in my life choices as well as my creativity, and much of that is thanks to the wisest man I know: my father!

So this week, I’d like to dedicate my creative writing post to the man who lovingly raised me by sharing three of my favorite lessons from him that inspire my stories. Enjoy, and thanks for the inspiration, Dad!

1) Real men respect women.

There’s a lot of debate around the question of what constitutes “being a man”. Some people measure masculinity through physical strength, others through intelligence or courage, and still others through power or wealth. Many even claim that the only requirement to make a man is a Y chromosome. My dad, however, seems to have his own idea of what it means to be a man. He’s not a big fan of sports (unless you count the tennis game in Wii Sports), he values wisdom coming from anyone, and he considers people who show off their wealth petty and obnoxious. In truth, the only men I’ve ever heard him call “not real men” are those accused of mistreating women.

If I learned anything from my dad, it’s that a real man knows his worth shouldn’t be measured by the power he can exert over women, but by how well he thrives when on equal footing with them. My whole life, my father was the only man in the house (even most of our pets were female!), yet from the respectful way he always treated his wife and daughters, I know any brothers I might have had growing up would be just as chivalrous today. That’s why the male heroes in my stories are always gentlemen who treat their female peers as equals and never look down on them in any way (the same can’t always be said for the villains). It’s a lesson my dad has been teaching me for as long as I can remember, and one I continue to work into my fiction to this day. If I expect to be treated decently by the men in my life, my heroines must demand no less from the men in theirs!

2) Whatever you do in life, strive to be happy.

One piece of advice my dad always gave me and my sisters was to “be happy”. That may sound vague, but what he really meant was that we should always make choices that lead to a positive and fulfilling life, in every possible aspect. Pursue a career in something you love doing. Marry a person – not “man”, “person” – who loves and respects you. Avoid people and situations that make you miserable. Tackle the problems you can solve and let go of the ones you can’t. In a nutshell, every decision must be made with a single clear goal in mind: being a happier person.

So I’ve tried to make choices that benefit my happiness. I’ve pursued writing and science because I love both. I’m in a relationship with someone who makes me laugh and who treats me like royalty. I work hard for the things I want and try to get past the things that make me unhappy (hard as it is much of the time). And I apply the same lesson to my stories: I give my characters clear ideas of what they want in life and the courage to jump through every hoop imaginable to get it. I once wrote a protagonist who was ready to throw everything else in her life away for the one thing she desired. Why? Because she knew it was the only thing that would make her happy.

As a writer, I’ve come to realize my father has essentially been telling me to be the heroine of my own comedy. And as long as I’m willing to pursue happiness above all else, my characters will continue to do the same.

3) A woman’s father is the most important male figure in her life.

Every girl, no matter how many strong women surround her, still needs a man in her life to serve as an example of what she should expect from all the other men she ever meets. Brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and even male friends can provide some insight, but no man is more influential in a woman’s life than her father. He’s the man who raised her, who watched her grow up, who was always there for her (or in many cases, wasn’t). He’s the first man who ever loved her and the only one guaranteed to love her forever. How can any other man hope to compare?

Princess Merida sharing a laugh with her father, King Fergus (Brave, 2012)

More often than not, the way a girl interacts with her father growing up will set the standard for how she interacts with men throughout her adult life. The relationship I have with my dad is one of my most valuable family ties because he’s more than just a cool dad to me; he’s a mentor and a friend. Our bond has made me the woman I am today and has served as inspiration for several father-daughter relationships in my fiction, and his wisdom continues to guide me and influence my stories about family. I’ve learned much from my mother and sisters, but my connection with my father will always be exceptional!

What about you? Have you ever been creatively inspired by your father’s lessons? What sorts of stories or poetry has he inspired?

Today’s post is dedicated to my father, whose love and lessons have always been a wonderful inspiration to me. Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you!

What If? Writing Prompts: Love and Peace IV

We’re halfway through February, so let’s continue celebrating the month of love with some new “What If?” Writing Prompts! This week’s set features more prompts in the theme of love and peace. See what hopeful stories you can spin from these ideas! Enjoy!

What if… all human beings were born with the instinct to love everyone?

What if… World Peace became a reality?

What if… all forms of art were used exclusively to cultivate a more positive and accepting society?

What if… everyone went out of their way to help strangers in need?

What if… people were psychologically incapable of feeling hatred?

Have fun creating your own stories about love and peace!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

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