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 of My Favorite Fictional Couples

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, which means many of us creative writers are thinking more than ever about romance (at least, I am). All the talk of love in the air has gotten me thinking about my favorite love stories and the characters who bring them to life. February is the perfect month for romantic inspiration, so it’s no wonder I always take this time to indulge in stories about my favorite fictional couples. To be honest, there are probably too many to count, but I’ve managed to narrow my current favorites down to a few that I’d love to write about!

So to celebrate the upcoming holiday, here’s a list of six of my favorite fictional couples and why I love them. Enjoy, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Warning: the following post may contain spoilers for Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and The Hunger Games. Proceed with caution.

1) Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet

Could I really have started with any other couple? Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet has long been my favorite love story, so much so that I’ve written a post about it every year since I started blogging and even adapted the story into my own novel-length fanfiction (not sorry). It’s a tragic tale of passion thwarted by fate, and it may well be the most famous love story ever told.

Romeo and Juliet started out as lost and lonely teenagers who quickly found meaning for their lives in each other. They defied a generations-old feud through a forbidden love affair, complete with consummated marriage and the determination to be together at all costs. And though they didn’t get the happy ending they arguably deserved, they did immortalize themselves as the star-crossed young couple whose love finally ended years of violence and hatred. Love may not conquer all, but it’s still one of the most powerful forces on Earth!

2) Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger

To anyone who knows me well, it’s no secret that the Harry Potter books have been my favorite series since childhood. I grew up with J.K. Rowling’s beloved fantasy books and have been in love with her magical world for most of my life. Each new book was better than the last, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I reached the second half of the series to find she had tossed the exact romantic subplot I wanted into the mix.

Ron and Hermione had a rocky start to their relationship, even as friends. Every Potter fan who read the entire series watched them grow from disgruntled acquaintances to close friends to jealous crushes to will-they-or-won’t-they admirers to romantic couple to happily married couple. It’s the perfect example of a childhood friend romance gone right, and Rowling couldn’t have done a better job of timing this beautiful love story all the way to its satisfying conclusion. Best friends forever indeed!

3) Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy

I finally got around to reading Pride and Prejudice last year, and I have to say it’s such a delightful story that I’ve ranked it among my favorite books ever. The story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is a complex tale of true love concealed beneath (and often obstructed by) a veil of manners and morality, with a hint of irony to comically highlight the incongruence between a charming demeanor and a good heart. These two are the ultimate proof that when it comes to romance, first impressions don’t matter as much as character, assuming both parties are willing to open their minds to humility and their hearts to the possibility of love where it’s least expected. Jane Austen was truly a master of romantic comedies!

4) Monica Geller and Chandler Bing

Ross and Rachel may have been the star couple of Friends, with their ten-season-long will-they-or-won’t-they story that culminated in a heartwarming “they will” (“I got off the plane!“), but my favorite romance in the series was the far more stable relationship between Monica and Chandler. After hooking up the night before Ross’s wedding in England, these two best friends embarked on a beautiful journey of love that became the saving grace of the show. You didn’t think viewers would hang around for ten seasons just to see Ross and Rachel get together for good, did you?

Monica and Chandler are a classic example of a romantic experiment that worked. While Friends didn’t start with the expectation of getting them together, their chemistry was so great from the earliest seasons that their entire relationship, from friendship to happy marriage, just felt natural and real. Sometimes true love really has been right in front of you all along!

5) Marshall Eriksen and Lily Aldrin

While diehard fans of How I Met Your Mother are still arguing over which couple was better in the Ted-Robin-Barney love triangle (Ted and Robin FTW!), I’m sure everyone can agree that Marshall and Lily were the most adorable pair in the series. Not only were they college sweethearts and each other’s first love, they maintained a loving and (mostly) stable relationship all the way to the show’s conclusion. From engagement to marriage to parenthood, these two continuously took on the challenges of a committed relationship and kept knocking them out of the park. And let’s be honest: while we all waited nine seasons for Ted to finally get to his happy ending, wasn’t it fun to watch Marshmallow and Lily Pad already living theirs? Seriously, cutest couple ever!

6) Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark

I admit it: I was one of the Hunger Games fans who cheered for Katniss and Peeta from the start. Not that I had anything against Katniss and Gale; I just preferred the dynamic between the two characters who were thrown into the Games together. Katniss has a strong spirit, which often manifests as a hardened demeanor and a refusal to show weakness through emotion. Peeta, on the other hand, is considerably softer and more sensitive, though no less strong in spirit than his fellow tribute. Their chemistry not only makes for an interesting relationship but a refreshing departure from the stereotypical “strong man, weak woman” pattern. An innovative love story for the novels’ young adult audience!

Over the course of three books/four movies, District 12’s “star-crossed” duo endure two Hunger Games and a revolution, through which they evolve from acquaintances to allies to a fake couple and finally emerge as a real couple in love. They go to hell and back for the greater cause at hand, but draw enough strength from each other to never lose themselves on the way (at least, not completely). So when these two finally earn their happy ending, you know it’s a love that’ll last. It seems the odds were in their favor after all!

What about you? Who are your favorite fictional couples? What love stories inspire your romantic fiction?

Defender

Why does he have to attack me? What did I ever do to him? I’m sure I’ve never seen him before, yet here he is, charging straight at me with the light of the sun at his back. He looks like all the others: clad in glistening steel from head to toe, sword and shield at his sides, a white horse carrying him full speed into battle. Hopefully he’ll end up like the others too.

I stand my ground and turn to face the knight head-on, ready for what’s become a routine encounter over the past month. As always, I’m terrified, but I can’t let it show. The slightest hint of weakness and you’re roasting on a spit for the next royal feast faster than you can yell “Scram!”

He shouts something at me as he draws nearer. I can’t catch all the words through his closed visor and the whistling mountain wind, but I know what he’s saying. Every knight comes here for the same reason. Everyone wants to be the hero who slew the dragon and saved the kingdom. What difference does it make to any of them what I do? It’s not like they live on the old farms I scavenge. None of them know what it’s like to have hungry children to feed when winter turns the mountain into a barren wasteland. They don’t care if my family and I deserve a chance to survive, so long as they get their precious gold and glory.

I’d explain myself if I thought he could understand me. It wouldn’t matter; they never listen anyway. Not one of these buffoons has ever bothered trying to reason with me or hear my side of the story. All they see when they look at me is a monster who’d sooner rip their heads off than glance at them. So that’s what I give them.

The knight reaches my clearing and raises his sword and shield. Time to defend. I open my jaws and release a carefully aimed jet of flame at him, straight into the shield so it burns but doesn’t ignite him. Before he can look up, I bring my tail crashing down inches from his steed. The animal rears and throws its rider off before it turns and gallops back into the woods. Good riddance. I’m sick of seeing these white horses on my mountain. Why is it always white? Are horses color-coded for service? Or is it the same horse every time? Either way, it always gets scared off in the first minute. That’s the easy part.

The man staggers to his feet and faces me again, sword and shield still in hand. His visor is open now, and this time I can hear the words he yells up at me.

“Your days of destruction are over, foul beast! Prepare to die!”

I’d roll my eyes, but I don’t want to egg him on. Prepare to die. Like I haven’t heard that a million times. I have to give him credit for his bravery, though; most of them run away as soon as they lose their horse. Not so tough on two legs.

I tower over the knight and stare him down, ready for his next attack. He runs forward with his shield up, but I step back and shoot a fireball over his head. He ducks and rolls as if it would have hit him, then swings the blade at my front claws. It cuts, but not deep enough to sting. I’m lucky these fools never think to bring long-range weapons. If they ever figure out to go straight for my heart, I’ll be toast for sure.

The knight hacks at my claws a few times, then raises his shield again when he sees me open my mouth. Another stream of fire washes over him for a few seconds, and it’s his turn to attack again. This back-and-forth continues for several rounds, until at last I start to see the signs of fatigue in his movements. Time to end this.

Just as he lowers his shield and raises his weapon for the umpteenth time, I swing my tail back around and knock him to the ground. He falls on his back as the blade and shield go flying. Before he can recover his breath, I pin him to the earth beneath my claws and bring my face close to his, baring my fangs at him. Finally I see the satisfying fear in his eyes.

“GO AWAY!” I shout in my native tongue. He doesn’t understand my words, but I know he’ll get the message. I lift my claws with him still between them and drop him on his feet, then I roar until he bolts off in the same direction as his horse. Turns out he’s not just one of the bravest challengers so far; he’s also one of the fastest.

Exhausted yet triumphant, I sweep the fallen sword and shield into a nearby chasm full of lost weapons before I turn and walk back up to my cave. Three hatchlings are poking their heads out of the cavern, and I know at once that they were watching the whole time. They put on brave faces as I saunter in, pretending they knew how the battle would play out, but I’m sure they’re relieved that their mother is home again.

“Mama”, says my youngest as I cradle all three under my wings, her wide green eyes betraying the fear hidden in her voice, “will they ever leave us alone?”

I’m asked the same question after every battle, either by her or one of her brothers. The best I can ever do is smile at them and say reassuringly, “We’ll see.” Mothers are supposed to protect their children, even from the truth. I know the people in the valley. They won’t stop until I’m dead or the kingdom runs out of glory-hungry idiots. And the kingdom never runs out of idiots.

Sometimes I wonder if I should just kill the knights. It would be a much more effective way to make sure they don’t come back. My children have never tasted human before… but with good reason. I don’t want to set a bad example. It’s hard enough living in a world that thinks you’re evil; we can’t afford to lose all reason by living up to the hype. Too many of our kind have gone down that dark path, and it never ends well. Still, I have hope that it won’t always be this way, that someday empathy will overcome fear and our attackers will learn to tolerate us, maybe even accept us.

Until then, all we can do is defend.

Our Darkest Day

As the creature reared its massive ugly head, we all trembled. We had never seen anything like it. Where had it come from? What was it capable of? And why hadn’t we seen it coming? The answers were more terrifying than we dared to imagine.

The sorcerer smiled thinly at the crowd from the platform. His beast towered behind him, held fast to the ground by a massive chain that rattled whenever it roared. We shuddered to think its master could unleash it on us at any moment.

“My friends”, the magician cried as the audience grew quiet, “I am honored to be your champion. My beloved pet and I will be proud to serve as your defenders in this new age of peace and prosperity. But trust me, we could not have succeeded in ending this terrible reign of oppression without your overwhelming support, courage, and spirit. We have all won a grand victory today. This day will be remembered for centuries as the day we ended tyranny, the day we crushed the bloodsucking rats who thought they could steal your freedom and leech off your hard labor forever.”

“He’s talking about us”, I heard one of my friends mutter next to me through the thunderous applause. It was true: every right we had worked for over the past decade, every step we had taken in the name of justice, everything we had thought was for the good of the people, was now being undone before our eyes because it was only ever good enough for us. It was a cruel reminder of how fragile our world really was; the harder you fought for change, the more afraid and resistant people became.

“This is your time, my friends”, the sorcerer continued. The cold look in his eyes as he addressed the people sent a chill down my spine.  “It’s time you took back what is rightfully yours. Together, we can return this land to the thriving state it once was. Things are going to be very different from now on.”

The rows of people around the platform cheered, while those of us huddled in the back of the crowd remained more lost and confused than we had ever been in recent memory. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The queen and her army were supposed to save us, to fight the dark forces and vanquish the evil into oblivion. We were supposed to be celebrating today. Instead, she had been defeated and most of us were left cowering like frightened children in the wake of the revolution. What had gone so wrong?

Some of us blamed the town criers for carrying false news and exaggerated reports of the army’s successes. Some of us blamed the queen’s advisors for devising a military strategy that ultimately failed. Some of us blamed the queen herself for overestimating her own power and placing her trust in the wrong people. And some of us were reduced to blaming each other for taking our beloved leaders for granted and not doing our part to defend the progress they had made possible.

In the end, it didn’t matter. We were all to blame for this travesty, we knew that, and now it was too late to stop the storm. History had already been changed. So now what?

“He’s right.”

My gaze fixed on the stage, I saw the others turning to face me from the corner of my eye. It might have been the weight of my words that made them stare, or perhaps they were just surprised that I had spoken for the first time in hours.

“What are you saying?” said one of my companions, her voice small and nervous. I shook my head.

“Things are going to be different. This is just the beginning. The queen is gone, the army is scattered, even the scholars are starting to disappear. There’s nobody left to protect us… so we have to protect ourselves. No running, no hiding, no pretending that everything is normal. It’s time to organize. It’s time to fight.”

“But…” another friend stammered, “how are we supposed to fight them when they have that… thing on their side? It’ll kill us as soon as they know we’re coming!”

“And who’s going to see us coming?” I said, turning to the group at last. It was the first time I’d smiled in weeks. “We’re rats, remember?”

The monster roared again, flaming locks of fur flying as it convulsed like a raging madman. Somehow that horrible sound made the crowd cheer even louder. Stoic as I planned to be for the foreseeable future, I turned my back on the holes in the wall and jumped down to walk away into the darkening streets. I didn’t have to look back to know my friends were only a few steps behind, nor that nobody else saw us leave. They never even knew we were there.

We still remember it as our darkest day. And though none of us knew exactly what to say, to think, to feel anymore, of one thing we were absolutely certain: these were going to be the longest and hardest fought years of our lives.

Pin It on Pinterest

%d bloggers like this: