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It feels impossible to count the times in movies over the past decade when I’ve thought “I wonder what I’d be like today if I’d had this when I was a little girl.” So much of how women are portrayed has changed over the last 20 years, and that change has mostly been for the better. The “Strong Female Character” archetype is no longer something that’s being crammed into a perfect little box. Instead, we’re finally taking a look at ladies in media as people. Here’s a tiny glimpse at some of the powerhouses you’ll be able to see on Disney+ when the service launches November 12.
Elsa and Anna
While these sisters are independently awesome in their own right, we paired them together because we’ve got quite the list of leading ladies to get through! Anna and Elsa are such a wonderful example of the notion that there’s no “right” way to be a woman. While the two have their similarities, each one brings something completely unique to the table. Elsa’s cool (not a pun), collected, and in charge of her emotions. Meanwhile, Anna will definitely sucker punch a princely wannabe if the need arises. (Watch now on Disney+)
You ever try and argue with a demigod? It’s exhausting. You know who has neither the time or inclination to lose to some stubborn jerk who thinks he can push her around because of said demigod status? That’d be Moana. The strong-willed, fierce, and incredibly skilled young princess took the world by surprise in her debut film back in 2016, and I get the sense that we’ll be seeing a lot more of her as time goes on! (Watch now on Disney+)
If you need the most underrated Disney princess, she’ll be chilling out in restaurant she busted her butt to make a reality. Though Princess and the Frog (Watch now on Disney+) didn’t achieve the commercial success that the studio had hoped for, it remains an exceptional look at the modern-day princess. Tiana might be wishing on stars, but the girl’s also putting in the work. Bear in mind that work is also happening while she’s babysitting her darling Navine!
Long before Merida was asking questions about changing her fate, Mulan was strapping on her armor and headed off to save China. With the help of her pals Mushu and Cricky, she successfully fooled an army of men while showing them precisely how to fight like a girl. No one needs “good breeding” or a “tiny waist”. Only thing you’ve got to do to bring “honor to us all” is be yourself. Maybe also bring down the entire Hun Army, but the second part’s negotiable! (Watch now on Disney+)
A lot of folks speculate that Rapunzel from Tangled (Watch now on Disney+) walked so Anna and Elsa could run. The statement’s not exactly unfair, but it does kind of feel like it pits the three princesses against each other. The reality of it is, these three ladies would be great pals! Rapunzel may be a little naïve, and a lot sheltered, but she’s also one of the bravest ladies on this list. After being trapped in a tower and gaslit her whole life, she took a leap of faith and chased her dreams.
Carol Danvers crashed into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) right when we needed her most, and the Kree-powered warrior woman is here to stay. Not only did we watch her take on the legion of Kree that threatened to harm the Skrull refugees, we also got to watch her smack Thanos around (infinity gauntlet and all). She has nothing to prove to anyone, and she will absolutely crash through your warship with her face if provoked. Maybe watch out for her cat, too? (Watch now on Disney+)
Never will there be a greater injustice in the MCU than the fact that Shuri didn’t get to show Tony Stark that he wasn’t the smartest person in the room. The Black Panther might be a part of Wakanda’s history, but he does not exist in his current iteration without this snarky, perfect little genius. Not only is she whip-smart, she’ll also blast you through several walls and has zero fear of flipping you off in front of her mother. An absolute queen. (Watch now on Disney+)
While her own movie is finally in the works, you can catch plenty of other films that include Russia’s femme fatale. Natasha Romanoff gets classified as a chronic traitor by some lazier folks, but the fact of the matter is that there are few people in the MCU more loyal than she is. That loyalty, her wit, and her ability to take down whoever may be unlucky enough to stand in her way are all what make her one of the most invaluable assets to both S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Avengers. (Watch now on Disney+)
No list of powerful women in the Disney universe is complete without the one true King of Asgard. Though she’s seen both The Valkyries and the majority of the Asgardians wiped out, she eventually found her footing and helped ensure that what was left of her people could thrive. She may not be a weilder of Mjolnir, but she’s got a Pegasus. It’s obviously not a competition! But if it were…
Mantis might be easy to overlook, but she absolutely belongs on any list discussing the strong women of Marvel. Her unique power set helps her understand things that others can’t quite grasp, as well pack a powerful punch exactly when they need to. That power set is an asset, but her biggest strength is her empathy. The Guardians of the Galaxy definitely need this sweetheart to dilute the whole ruffian thing they’ve got going on in that dirty old ship. (Watch now on Disney+)
Our princess, our general, and our hope. Leia Organa helped pave the way for every woman on this list, whether they be animated or live action, Star Wars, Disney or Marvel. A war against the very concept of evil might forever be unwinnable, but that doesn’t mean you roll over and let them win. Leia has been fighting as long as she’s been alive, and serves as a reminder just how strong the power of hope can be. (Watch now on Disney+)
Anakin Skywalker dragged a lot of people down in his suffering. Many were killed, while others were left behind with irreparable damage. Very near the top of that list is Ahsoka Tano. Though headstrong like her master, Tano would go on to channel her stubbornness into something good rather than fall to the darkside. She was thought dead for a hot second, but everyone’s favorite Togruta’s back and ready to fight as The Clone Wars continues its saga. (Watch now on Disney+)
She might not be Star Wars’ first leading lady, but that doesn’t take away from how much of an utter joy she is to watch. One of the things that makes Rey such an engaging character is her fear. In the rush to create the Strong Female Character™, a lot of writing discounted that our fears and our abilities to face them are such an integral part of said strength. Rey’s afraid, but she does it anyway. She has no clue what she’s doing, but she keeps going, and we stan a brave scavenger! (Watch now on Disney+)
The rebel. Jyn Erso’s rough around most of her edges, but that’s a huge part of her charm. Besides, how do you think you’d grow up while in the charge of Saw Gerrera? The Tatooine sized chip on her shoulder doesn’t necessarily ever get filled, by Jyn learns how to be a part of a team when it matters most. Without her and her band of misfits, the Rebel Alliance never would have received the plans to the Death Star, and the rebellion would have ended before it had a chance to truly begin. (Watch now on Disney+)
Let’s be clear here—everyone in Star Wars is having a bad time. Most, however, are having a bad time because the Empire and the Trade Federation and every other evil jerk is ruining their day. Padme, unfortunately, is having a bad time that directly correlates to the man she loves and the galaxy she was trying to protect. Did the love of your life murder a bunch of children? I think not. Padme Amidala is brave, strong and compassionate and she deserved better! (Watch now on Disney+)
While this list needed to cut off before it got to be far too many words, this is just a small smattering of the exceptional women that you can see on Disney+ later this month. They say the future is female. If this list and the trends that have come along with all these leading ladies are any indication, they’re right.
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