Sunday, September 14, 2014

Jenn's Pick: A Definitive Ranking of 20 Disney Heroines

Ever since I was a child, I have dreamt of being a princess. While I spent the vast majority of my childhood in Pennsylvania, my parents brought me to Disney World on vacation so many times when I was little that when we moved here permanently in 2002, I wasn't as fazed as many people would have been to be a mere half an hour away from princesses and fairy tales. But I'll let you in on a little secret: I still love Disney World. I still love princesses. I still want to BE a princess. I love sparkles (shout-out, Maggie) and I love gorgeous gowns and balls and the idea of living in a castle, happily ever after with a tiara on my head and a prince on my arm. I think that princesses and fairy tales awaken this desire within us -- this extremely human desire that wants happiness wrapped up with a neat little bow and a beautifully belted song.

And when I thought about the Disney princesses and heroines that I admired, I realized that I loved each princess for a different reason but that they also shared some similar characteristics. What makes a princess worthy of admiration? What really makes a hero or a heroine? What makes one character better than another? I don't know if I can answer all of these questions but what I CAN do is this: I can definitively rank twenty of my favorite Disney princesses and heroines. My list is final. There is no other list and none better than mine. Basically my word is law and everyone else is wrong.

(Kidding, totally kidding. Feel free to discuss which rankings I got right and which I missed the mark on and which Disney heroine YOU would add in the comments section. Ready? Grab your tiaras and kindly locate your dashing prince because we are counting down twenty of the best Disney ladies of all time.)

20. Snow White (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves)

If a princess is in a comatose state throughout a good portion of her movie, only to be awakened at a convenient time by her prince charming, is she really a princess?

19. Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)

If a princess is in a comatose state throughout a good portion of her movie, only to be awakened at a convenient time by her prince charming, is she really a princess (redux)?

(Okay, I get that somehow Aurora and Snow White managed to charm animals and princes and that's cool, but the list of things that make each of these classic Disney princesses interesting is significantly small apart from 'animal whisperer.' And that's why these two rank the lowest on my definitive list of heroines. Sorry, ladies.)

18. Tinkerbell (Peter Pan)

Look, Tinkerbell is a sassy little fairy. There is no doubt about that fact. And in spite of the fact that she is trusted by Peter Pan and kind of hilarious in  how defiant she is, Tinkerbell is actually a pretty terrible character. She's selfish and hot-headed and snooty and hates Wendy and sabotages anything that doesn't make her happy. She may be pretty and sprinkle pixie dust, but that's not quite enough to warrant her any higher on this list of amazing Disney characters.

(Still love you though, Tink.)

17. Cinderella (Cinderella)

Out of all of the Disney princesses, the one I get consistently compared to is Cinderella. It's the blue eyes and the blonde hair, probably, but I think it's also the optimistic disposition and the romanticism. Cinderella is a good princess not because of what she can do but who she is. I think that's pretty awesome, don't you? To be loved not for what you can bring to the table -- your wealth or your status or your power -- but simply because you ARE. And Cinderella isn't a totally helpless princess by any means. She treats others with respect and kindness and sure, she doesn't really do much, but what she does manage to do is helpful and beneficial to others, not just herself. Cinderella didn't let her circumstances dictate her behavior and she managed to get a happy ending because of that. How admirable, right?

Plus, singing and dancing mice. I MEAN.

16. Jane Porter (Tarzan)

Jane Porter is smart, hilarious, and gives up all that she knows in order to be with someone she loves in Tarzan. She and Ariel share that in common, actually: this ability to give up every comfort, every familiarity, and even every family member in order to pursue a dream that is worth pursuing. The best part about Jane isn't that she learns things about herself and FOR herself in the movie but the fact that she becomes open to other ways of life. She's a curious character by nature, but it's lovely to see that curiosity is equated with open-mindedness in the film. She's initially quite stubborn but eventually willing to put aside her own ideas and views of the world in order to embrace others. It's pretty lovely, actually, and Jane is a delightful character and Disney heroine.

15. Ariel (The Little Mermaid)

Ariel is pretty delightful when you really think about it. She's not the best Disney example (you know, deliberately disobeying her parental figure multiple times throughout the course of the film), but she's one of the more admirable ones, not because she sacrifices herself but because she voluntarily gives up everything she knows -- everything she has ever known about life -- in order to pursue a dream. That's where the Disney part of the story really kicks in though, right? Disney's movies typically focus on people following their hearts and their dreams. The Little Mermaid is no exception to this rule and it's why Ariel makes it into the top 15 of  my Disney heroines. She gives up everything in order to pursue her dream, in spite of the objection by her family and friends. The journey is far from perfect, but the key is that Ariel learns something about herself and what she wants in the process.

And really, in a Disney movie, that's all you can ask for.

14. Tiana (The Princess and the Frog)

Tiana is actually kind of a beautiful anti-cliche when you think about it. Nearly every Disney princess waits for her prince or wishes upon stars in order to change their destinies. There's nothing wrong with wishful thinking or dreaming, really: it's totally natural and human to look up at the stars and hope for something better than your current reality. But what's wonderful about Tiana is that she learns that life doesn't mean sitting around waiting for your destiny or your prince. Her father teaches her that in order to get what she wants from life, Tiana must not just dream but also WORK. She's one of the few Disney princesses who recognizes the extreme importance of hard work in order to accomplish your dreams, but it's also important that Tiana is portrayed as a character who still DOES dream. She tries to fill her life with work in order to earn what little she can to fulfill her late father's dream of opening a restaurant. She doesn't want hand-outs and she doesn't believe in the magic of wishful thinking. Tiana actually works multiple jobs in The Princess and the Frog in order to make her dreams a reality. That's extremely admirable in a Disney film, really, and Tiana is such a relentlessly hopeful, delightful, hard-working, devoted character.

It is also so important to note that because of this hard-working attitude, work often consumes Tiana. It pulls her away from friends and she closes herself off to socialization and love sometimes because her focus is intensely centered on her work. Naveen is a direct foil to Tiana's character and is someone who challenges her on every level: he is spoiled, charming, and free-spirited while she is is dedicated and grounded. But that is what makes Tiana such a realistic character and such a wonderful heroine: she teaches us all that it is okay to fall in love and it is also okay to own your own business;  both dreams are valid and you don't have to choose between them in order to find true happiness. In the end, Tiana recognizes that her dreams for a restaurant of her own are actually a bit dull if she doesn't have the chance to share them with the person she loves. Her father gave her the drive and desire to work hard and to love deeply. In the end, Tiana embodies both of those concepts rather wonderfully.

13. Anna (Frozen)

Anna is awesome. I think that people forget how awesome she is because they spend the entirety of Frozen marveling at Elsa and her ice powers. And yes, Elsa IS an amazing and strong female character (more on that in a bit), but so is Anna, for that matter. She's unassuming, really: a socially awkward, extremely sheltered princess who just wants to find love and purpose in her life. You really feel for Anna when she meets Hans because you think maybe, just maybe, this goofy young woman will finally be happy and less lonely. And what makes Anna so interesting is not just her vulnerability, but her strength and determination. You would probably think that one could not exist with the other -- that Anna would have to be either vulnerable or strong -- but what makes a great Disney heroine (and a great princess for that matter) is that she is layered and complex.

So while Anna may be lonely and a romantic, she's also extremely loyal and loving. She cares deeply for her sister, a sister she doesn't understand. And her loyalty is rooted in this intense love and respect and devotion to family. No matter how many times Elsa pushes Anna away, the latter ALWAYS comes back swinging. She fights for the things that she wants and she's not afraid to be emotional in the process. She's not always strong but being a "strong female character" doesn't mean you always HAVE to be -- you can be strong and still have a heart, you know. And because of all of Anna's complexities, her ultimate self-sacrifice, and her endearing personality even in the face of adversity, Anna ranks relatively high on my list of heroines.

12. Elsa (Frozen)

I'm sure you all are humming "Let It Go" and I would be lying if I said that I wasn't at the moment either. Frozen is a movie whose central focus is the relationship between sisters Anna and Elsa. And why these two women rank so closely to each other in the post is because their very stories are tied so closely together. Elsa only slightly edges Anna out of the ranking (mostly because I figured I wouldn't cheat and have a tie) because of the burden of her powers. Though Elsa doesn't always make the right decision, she always does what she deems best for the protection of herself and her sister. And that's what makes Elsa such a vulnerable character, really. She is taught to fear her powers her entire life and then the moment she begins to revel in them, she's hunted down and cornered as a feared monster. But Elsa never loses her inherent goodness. She doesn't mean to freeze the entire kingdom, nor does she mean for her actions to have the consequences that they do for Anna.

The fact that Elsa is so timid and yet so powerful is extremely interesting to me. It makes her such a complex and layered character, as she struggles so hard to isolate herself from the people she loves most because she remembers hurting Anna as a child. The last thing Elsa ever wants to do in Frozen is hurt her beloved baby sister. And so, she believes that isolating herself is the solution -- fearing her gift and hiding it is the best solution to an unsolvable problem, really. But when Elsa begins to finally embrace the beauty in her gift, she realizes that others still see her as a threat and a danger. And the way that Elsa responds by trying to hide herself away to protect everyone around her (especially Anna) is so heartbreakingly beautiful that it landed her a slight spot above Anna.

11. Nala (The Lion King)

Nala is fantastic. Nala is amazing. Nala is fierce and stubborn in the best possible way. And though she's not technically a princess, she is one of the strongest female Disney characters that has been created. You see, Nala could easily tell Simba what he wants desperately to hear (that he doesn't need to return to Pride Rock, that they don't need him, that they are all fine without him and it's okay to stay running away from problems forever), but she doesn't. She challenges Simba on every level. She reminds him of who he really is -- Mufasa's son -- and doesn't accept the lesser version of him that she sees in the jungle.

And Nala is strong: she is strong against Scar and the hyenas and she does all that she can under oppression in order to protect her people. That is just who Nala is as a character and a person (... animal, whatever). Nala is strong against Simba though, which says the most about her. It is one thing to be strong against an enemy but it requires another level of strength in order to stand up to the people you love most in the world. And I absolutely love Nala for her younger self's sass and for her older self's determination. She is wonderful and terrific and strong and worthy of being on this list.

10. Merida (Brave)

Merida is as wild and untamed as her flowing red locks. She's stubborn and free-spirited, cracking jokes and preferring to spend the majority of her time outdoors with her bow than inside in a gown like her mother. The central conflict of Brave is the conflict between your reality and your destiny. There are strong themes of fate that weave themselves into the story as well. Why Merida is such a brilliant heroine is not because she is an amazingly defiant archer -- that's the reason people love her and relate to her. No, the reason that Merida is a wonderful heroine is because of what drives her to do everything she does and what she learns at the end of her journey. You see, Merida evolves from a place of defiance and stubbornness to one of maturity and understanding. In the movie's beginning, she is a character who refuses to become betrothed to another man not because she's necessarily opposed to love but because she's opposed to her mother's oppressive and obsessive idea of what a princess should be. (Nice wink and a nod, Disney Pixar, with that whole idea.) But Merida doesn't want to be confined to a dress. She hates hiding her massive red curls beneath a cap. And she certainly doesn't want to be forced to marry.

So Merida rebels and it's funny because we don't necessarily blame her for rebelling, as Disney viewers. After all, Disney preaches that you should always be yourself and find your own destiny, etc. etc. But what Merida realizes later on is that sometimes in the fight for your own destiny, if you're not careful, you can hurt the people you love by your selfishness. And Merida admits to being selfish and disregarding her mother's ideals. Merida never asked WHY her mother cared so much about being proper and put together; she never inquired about the reasoning behind her mother's actions. She simply rebelled. And her rebellion didn't just affect her -- it affected her mother and her family and, very nearly, her kingdom. Why is Merida such a great heroine then if she is so self-centered in the fight for her own destiny? It's because the redhead is passionate and compassionate; she's feisty but she's also smart and talented and loyal. The scene near the end of the movie where she fights against her own father (with a SWORD) is pretty fantastic.

Though Merida's selfishness and rash decisions are what turn her mother into a bear, it's also quite beautiful that through the experience they learn to love and respect each other. Merida breaks down at the end of the film, telling her mother (for the first time on-screen) that she loves her and needs her. And when Merida tells her mother that she's changed, having softened her views toward Merida's independence and her own attitude, the queen tells her daughter: "Oh, darling... we both have." That is why Merida is amazing -- she learns to put her dreams and her destiny into perspective; she realizes that her family and her relationships are not less important than her destiny and that they are, in fact, intertwined. And perhaps they both have been right in front of you all along.

9. Rapunzel (Tangled)

Until Frozen was released, Tangled was the one Disney film I watched over and over (and over and over) again. I loved the music, I loved the characters and the animation and I loved the lantern scene more than anything else in recent Disney history. So when I compiled this list, it was obviously necessary to include one of the more recent Disney princesses -- Rapunzel -- onto it. Rapunzel is such a delightful character because she typifies everything a Disney princess is expected to be: kind, obedient, wistful, smart, etc. And truly, Rapunzel IS all of those things. But that's not why she ranks so high on my list. No, she ranks high because of how earnestly she believes in other people throughout the course of the movie (including Flynn) and how earnestly she's believed in. People care about her and I think that it's this caring that truly causes her to grow and to realize that she should care about herself right back. Disney princesses and heroines were often meek and unassuming. Sure, they would have a nice song sequence, but the majority of the time, they were treated poorly by others and victimized and that, in turn, was supposed to endear them to us. We felt bad for Cinderella, perfect little pauper that she was, because she deserved better. But that "better" didn't come in the form of any self-actualization but in a prince.

What's lovely about Rapunzel is that yes, she earns the love of a man in the movie, but she learns much more about HERSELF than anything else. And she stands up to her mother. She talks back to her. She stands up for and fights for herself. She sacrifices her own happiness in order to save Flynn's life. SHE is the one learning and growing and changing and it's delightful to see how her journey from meek, sheltered, say-and-do-no-wrong Rapunzel evolves into hold-nothing-back-and-fight-for-what-you-want-who-you-love-and-who-you-are Rapunzel.

(Plus, she's voiced by Mandy Moore and I adore her. So.)

8. Belle (Beauty and the Beast)

Out of all of the Disney princesses and heroines, I've always related most to Belle. She's a bookworm with high standards and a gentleness that makes her respected by her father and adored by the townspeople. Belle is pretty wonderful because she's pretty ordinary. And I think that's the whole point of some Disney stories, really: ordinary characters realizing that their ordinary-ness is what actually makes them extraordinary. Belle doesn't do anything particularly heroic by Disney standards. She doesn't save a country. She doesn't sacrifice her life for someone else (she sacrifices her happiness and agrees to be imprisoned by the Beast so that her father won't). She doesn't really even travel that far away from her own home. Again: by most heroic standards, she's relatively unassuming.

But isn't that also the beauty of Belle as a character? Isn't that WHY she is so amazing? She literally is revered and adored and loved because of who she is. She doesn't have to change, she doesn't have to pretend to be someone else to win over the Beast or the townspeople or her father. She grows and changes throughout the course of Beauty and the Beast, softening her heart toward others but in general, Belle remains pretty much the same character we meet at the beginning of the movie. And that's an amazing thing, really. It's wonderful to see characters who change dramatically, like Mulan or Rapunzel or Elsa. But it's another thing entirely (and an encouragement, really) to see heroines who can be who they always have been and STILL be amazing.

7. Pocahontas (Pocahontas)

Though it might not have been the most historically accurate re-telling, Pocahontas is a pretty compelling Disney story about a young Native American woman who wants to feel freedom -- the freedom of decision, the freedom of living, REALLY living, and seeks to do so throughout the film. Over the course of the journey, she encounters John Smith and the two fall in love. Her decision to continue to see the man eventually leads to the death of one of her own (semi-betrothed Kocoum), which Pocahontas feels remorse over and probably rightfully so. With all that said -- with her recklessness and disobedience to her father -- you're probably wondering why she makes it onto the list and why she ranks so high.

The truth of the matter is that Pocahontas is a free spirit in every sense of the word. She believes in having no boundaries, nothing holding her down, and listening to her heart. She's the kind of person who cannot be chained down in any sense of the word. She NEEDS to be free, to be with nature, and to express herself. But she puts herself and her own wants and desires aside the moment she throws herself onto John Smith when he's slated to be executed. She thinks of everyone -- her people and his -- besides herself and only wants one thing: peace. So she fights for it through her willingness to sacrifice her freedom, her happiness, and her very life for the sake of another. And that is precisely why Pocahontas is a wonderful heroine.

6. Atta (A Bug's Life)

I'm cheating here slightly by including some Disney Pixar movies and when I combed through the lists of heroines, I very nearly forgot about Atta from A Bug's Life and well, wouldn't that have been a shame? See, Atta is a princess whose journey leads her toward self-confidence and better leadership. True, Flick is the hero of the story but Atta is the up-and-coming leader of thousands of people (er... ants), struggling against the grasshoppers who seek to instill terror into her people. She isn't confident in herself at the beginning of the movie and has to learn how to become a better leader. Throughout the course of the film though, she learns not to just trust herself and her own instincts but to let other people in, too, and trust THEM even when it is scary. Atta is a pretty timid and unassuming character in A Bug's Life and it's delightful to see her evolution from insecurity to happiness and confidence. She and Flick lead their people well and Atta always puts the well-being of everyone around her over her own well-being. Because that's just what a leader and a heroine does; it's who they are at their core. And she's a lovely example of being a meeker, quieter female character but still being a kick-butt heroine.

(Also, Dot and the Queen and Rosie and Gypsy are amazing female bugs/characters in this movie as well.)

5. Megara (Hercules)

Oh Megara. Meg, Meg, how I love thee. If you don't know why Meg should be one of the highest-ranking women in this post, then you should probably watch the above GIF on loop about twenty more times. Meg isn't fearless but she is brave. She's not flawless in a literal sense, because she's human. But she is amazing and so strong and so powerful and she doesn't even realize it most of the time. The best part about this scene is that in any other Disney movie, the hero would rescue the heroine and the heroine would swoon at her dashing prince and the two would fall madly in love. But Meg saves herself and that is all kinds of amazing, especially because it's so counter-cultural to a fairy tale. Meg is also an extremely vulnerable character. She often puts up a front around others -- this brilliant and beautiful sarcastic front -- in order to mask her pain. She's so complex, too, because she's strong and also emotional and fights against ideas like love and happy endings because she doesn't feel like she will ever find them.

("I Won't Say I'm In Love" is Meg's song in Hercules and it basically epitomizes her character.)

Meg is complex because of her past (she sold her soul to Hades in order to save her boyfriend who then left her for another woman) and she allows that pain to not just define her but also prevent her from opening herself up to love. She's such an amazing character because of how layered she is: she's sassy and strong but also extremely lonely and heartbroken and vulnerable. She puts up walls and refuses to let love in, but it eventually finds her in the form of Hercules. And in an act of complete selflessness (something I am sure Meg was terrified of, given what happened the last time she acted so selflessly), she saves Hercules' life by sacrificing her own. Also, if you also haven't noticed, self-sacrifice is a huge element of this list already. Basically all you need to know about Meg is that she is amazing and wonderful and I love her.

4. Jasmine (Aladdin)

I have a thing for princesses who act more like normal people than tiara-wielding royals, if you can't tell. Jasmine is one of my favorite Disney characters of all time and definitely one of the best heroines in this list because of how defiant and determined she is in order to make her own destiny, find her own love, and not be controlled by the actions of others. She's not helpless, by any means, and I like that Disney just doesn't portray her as a damsel in distress, nor as a woman who never needs help at all. You'll find that a theme of my post is that all of these women -- these princesses and mere mortals alike -- are able to take care of themselves, but also occasionally need rescue. And they're all still STRONG, not because they never need help but because they find their own voices and shout them.

Jasmine wants to fall in love, not have it arranged for her even by her well-intentioned father. She longs for a world without the duties of royalty, which is something quite interesting, is it not? It's the exact reverse of Cinderella who is a lowly servant desperate to be a princess; here, in Aladdin, Jasmine is a lonely princess desperate to be a normal young woman. I think it's pretty amazing that she is courageous and defiant enough to stand up to her father and to Jafar, to find her own voice and have her own opinions. It's the opposite of what we would anticipate a princess to be and truly, it's the opposite of everything we've been taught about princesses for the most part: princesses are meek; princesses do as they're told; princesses serve to look pretty and to dance at balls. I think Jasmine is such a great example of a princess who doesn't accept that the life she has is the best life there is. She fights for a better existence for herself, and - upon seeing conditions of others - fights for the people around her as well. She is respected and revered because of it and I love her dearly.

3. Esmeralda (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

Okay, let's all just take a moment to bask in the awesomeness that is Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, shall we?

When I was a child, I had a doll of her and I loved that little Barbie doll-esque figure. I always loved that she was a woman who was outcast and rejected by the majority of society. She was considered scum and her people were treated unfairly. And rather than wallow in her circumstances, Esmeralda always rose above them. All she wanted was justice and hope -- she wanted to believe in and fight for a better world, a world in which she was respected not just as a woman but as a person. Because truly, Esmeralda (being a gypsy) was not at all respected or revered. She was used and abused for entertainment purposes only and the second she even thought of standing up for herself, she was literally doomed to live a life of submissive complacency and fear or be executed. What always struck me as interesting about Esmeralda was that she had every right to be angry and bitter toward any and everyone she came into contact with. And truly, she doesn't get along well with authority figures (like Phoebus) because she only believes them to be cruel and unfeeling toward her and her people. She correctly assumes that people judge her for being a gypsy, but she doesn't let their perceptions or stigmas define her.

And, most importantly, Esmeralda is a genuinely good, caring, sensitive person. She barricades that behind her sassy (I have a thing for sassy heroines) and bristly exterior sometimes, but she truly cares about Quasimodo throughout the film and it's lovely. She protects him, feels empathy for him, and though she does not feel anything romantically for him, she is one of the only people to see the beauty within him. Her relationship with Quasimodo throughout the film is so lovely because it exemplifies her heart -- though Esmeralda is a tough, streetwise young woman who can (and often does) fight for herself, she fights for a larger cause: she fights for justice, for the outcasts. In her prayer/song, she doesn't pray for herself or her own circumstances but for her people and for God to help them.

Above all else, Esmeralda clings onto hope and beauty and believes in seeing past exteriors in order to examine hearts. The most pious people, she's learned, do not often have clean and pure hearts. And those outcast by society? Well, they are often the gentlest, most humble human beings. Esmeralda is so amazing for such a variety of reasons. She's intelligent and witty and sweet and sassy and progressive and romantic and defiant and humble. She is amazing, to be quite honest. AMAZING.

2. Lilo Pelekai (Lilo and Stitch)

The silver medal of this post is bestowed upon the youngest contender: Lilo Pelekai. I don't know when I first watched Lilo and Stitch, but I suspect that it was when I was old enough to understand the plot but not yet old enough to understand the significance of it. Lilo is an amazing little girl, and not just because she's hysterical and pretty comedically dark. No, she's interesting and layered even in her youth because of what she's already been through. (And really, shout-out to Nani who is one of the actual best Disney characters created and certainly the best sister.) She loses her parents in a car accident and I think that Lilo is such a strong little girl for being able to endure that. She's an outcast among her classmates, though, and it's difficult to tell whether or not the tragedy made her that way or she was just eccentric and dark to begin with. Nevertheless, Lilo doesn't let the tragedy dictate how she lives, as she is a lovable little girl who cares about other things and people deeply.

Lilo treasures family above everything else. There's that gut-wrenching scene in the movie right before she explains the meaning of "ohana," where she talks about her family and how it's little and broken but it's still theirs. Lilo, bless her, is strong for a child because she has to be. She's experienced more in her young life than most people do and both she and Nani have to grow up so quickly to accommodate. Lilo knows why Stitch wrecks things and pushes people, both physically and emotionally: she does the same thing. She's angry and it's easier to push and misbehave than it is to remember that she had something once that was good and happy and unbroken. And maybe it's reading into things too deeply for a Disney movie but I don't think it really is -- I think Lilo knows she's hurting Nani and herself and others, but I think she's just so sad that she can't help it. And that's why she and Stitch bond so much: she's lonely and needs someone to care about and care for, needs to put a piece back into her family that is missing. And Stitch needs a home and a family, to remember what it is like to love.

And dangit if Lilo Pelekai isn't one of the most beautiful, complex characters because of everything she is and everything she does in Lilo and Stitch.

1. Mulan (Mulan)

Look, Imma let you finish, but Mulan is the best Disney heroine. Here's why, in list form:
  • She enlists in the army so that her injured father will not have to.
  • She cuts her hair, disguises herself as a man, and joins knowing that if she gets caught, she will die. Her death, however, is better than her father's death in her mind. Self-sacrifice, for the win.
  • She refuses to give up during training, even when surrounded by misogynistic men. She eventually proves Shang wrong by accomplishing every task he believed her to be a failure at. Mulan does not accept defeat when that would have been the easiest choice.
  • She saves Shang and their entire army from an attack by the Huns by firing a canon into the mountainside.
  • She then is discovered by the people around her to be a female, not a male soldier. Rather than be executed, she is pardoned by Shang because she saved his life on the mountainside. Mulan bravely returns home to face her family and their inevitable disappointment. She returns to a town that knows what she did and she returns to dishonor, which is pretty brave if you think about it.
  • She tries to warn Shang and his men about an impending Hun attack only to be rebuffed.
  • Mulan is the one to devise a ploy in order to save the Emperor -- a ploy which involved displaying men's sexism clearly to her fellow soldiers and using her femininity.
  • In order to fully complete her plan, Mulan then lures Shan Yu away from Shang and, oh, UTILIZES HER FREAKING FAN AS A WAY TO STEAL HIS SWORD. She makes up the entire plan as she goes and has help from Mushu but essentially Mulan wins not because she is a soldier, but because she is a woman who... you know, carries fans.
  • Mulan is then given the highest honor and everyone, including the Emperor, literally bows down to her. It's because she saves an entire country. AN ENTIRE COUNTRY.
Look, I love a lot of Disney princesses and heroines and when I discuss my favorite Disney princess, Mulan isn't usually at the top of my list (my favorite princess has always been a toss-up between Jasmine and Belle) mostly because I find myself personally relating more to those two princesses than any other. 

But objectively, Mulan is the Disney heroine that deserves the #1 spot on this list. She saves an entire country, is willing to sacrifice herself multiple times for the greater good, and... you know, instead of sitting around wishing for her life to change, she actually takes action. Mulan is such an awesome example of how you can be an amazing kick-butt woman without having to change everything about yourself. Mulan may pretend to be a man for the majority of the movie in order to gain respect from her fellow soldiers, but it's her femininity that saves her and it is not just celebrated but also honored at the end of the movie in the highest way possible.

So now that I have ranked the twenty best Disney heroines/princesses, it's your turn: who did I forget? Who do you agree with (and, conversely, who do you not)? Hit up the comments and let me know your thoughts! Until then, folks. :)


  1. This was amazing and extremely accurate and detailed personally i love ALL of these but i would've put meg second or at least tjird she is personally my favorite but it's your opinion so well done on this it wa amazing and a pleasure to read ������

  2. I think you are being completely unfair to the classic Disney Princesses. Like usual, people like to write off Snow White and Aurora just because there's a hate bandwagon for the classic heroines, and hence nobody spends just five minutes of time thinking more about their characters. No, they don't just sleep-and they might not fit the stronge-indepdendent-woman-who-don't-need-no-man cliche that your list seems to perpetuate, but they are both absolutely wonderful in their own way. Snow White for starters is one of my favorites: Not only is she one of the kindest, sweetest, and most adorable characters Disney has produced (And being kind and sweet seems to be undervalued traits in your ranking) but she's also extremely resourceful, brave, motherly, and mature for her age. Snow, just like Cinderella, was a slave all her life but still kept an optimistic outlook on life-but even more so than that when her life was threatened and she was forced to be completely out of her element, she still stayed brave, found shelter, and kept her shelter by being smart enough to bargain with the dwarves. At only fourteen SW took complete care of the dwarves and became a motherly figure for them, which is not a job that should go unnoticed in how hard it is. Not to mention that Snow White wasn't conveniently saved by The Prince-she spent years wishing for somebody to take her away from a miserable life of servitude and years later it finally paid off.
    As for Aurora (Who I don't like as much but still can recognize her many good qualities) she's a respectable, polite, graceful, and smart young lady who spends her time thinking about deep inquisitive things and making the best out of a bad situation, without ever once being bratty to her three aunts about it. She also has a huge sense of responsibility for trading true love in turn for taking care of an entire kingdom, a life that she never asked for but still was going to face anyway.

    To sum up, I just find it odd that you praise Belle and Rapunzel for things that you completely overlook in older DP's (And honestly I much prefer Snow White and Cinderella to characters like Rapunzel who magically have everyone love them in a heartbeat)

    But that aside, nice article. You explain yourself well and I can respect your opinions-I just wanted to get that defense out there and hopefully broaden some peoples perspectives. My favorites Disney heroines are Merida, Anna and Jane as of now. Merida for being so realistic and having some of the best character development in a Disney character I've seen, Anna for being brave and selfless in a realistic way and never giving up on the people she loves, and Jane's prim and proper dorkiness is so gosh darn lovable.