The most feminist characters in Disney

Posted by
Stylist Team
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No, feminism and Disney aren't strange bedfellows, in fact, they're pretty cosy together, thanks very much.

You need only look at the various female characters coming out of Walt's studio of late, such as Merida in Brave and Elsa in Frozen, to recognise that the female leads in Disney movies are just as awesome and fearless, if not more so, than the men they star alongside with.

But we'd also argue that it's not just the more recent roles, it's also the older characters, such as the fiercely intelligent Belle in Beauty and the Beast, who reject the typical damsel in distress stereotype.

To prove our point, we've selected 15 of some of our favourite feminist Disney characters. If you think we've missed anyone out, tell us in the comments below.

  • Mulan - Mulan

    Let's get down to business, to defeat the Huns! Which is exactly what Mulan does. Although she has to pretend to be a boy, it's OK, she's badass and shows all the men she's just as tough as they are, all of which she does just to protect her family.

  • Belle - Beauty and the Beast

    Belle is incredibly intelligent and doesn't stand for a man who considers her as just a piece of meat. Take Gaston, for example, he just wants her as a trophy bride, but she wants someone who loves her for her mind too. Go Belle!

  • Elsa - Frozen

    Let It Go is basically our new favourite Disney tune. So it's hard to write this without spontaneously bursting into song. That aside, Elsa is just the coolest (no pun intended). She's fed up of being told what to do and of hiding her powers with which she can create ice and snow, so she heads out into the world and creates her own ice kingdom. Sister Ana also gets some serious feminist cred here (spoiler alert). In a last minute bid to save her sister with an act of true love she rejects a kiss from her 'love' and runs to block her sister from suffering a fatal strike, taking it in her place.

  • Jasmine - Aladdin

    Despite the fact her father wants to choose who she marries, Jasmine would rather decide her own fate. Not only does she sneak out of the palace to escape the patriarchal constraints imposed on her, she also falls in love on her own terms, with a pauper instead of a prince.

  • Maleficent - Sleeping Beauty

    She doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. She's the female boss of all evil.

  • Merida - Brave

    As three men fight for Merida's hand in marriage with an archery contest, Merida proves that she's far more worthy of her own hand (if she could in fact do that) by beating all three of the men with a bow and arrow. Just watch the incredible scene here.

  • Pocahontas - Pocahontas

    Despite her differences with John Smith, Pocahontas proves to him just how important nature is in the world and how he needs to respect the earth. Not only that, she doesn't listen to what her father says, and makes her own way in the world, preferring to be somewhat of a rebel. Finally, when John Smith leaves, she doesn't just go with the guy, she stays with her people.

  • Giselle - Enchanted

    Played by Amy Adams, Giselle leaves her fairytale world behind and has to survive in a fairly hostile New York. That said, she's completely happy to be herself and doesn't care about the cynical city dwellers. In the end she rejects the safety and comfort of her old world to pursue her dreams, and sets up her own business. She also finds love with Robert (AKA McDreamy, hi Grey's Anatomy fans).

  • Esmeralda - Hunchback of Notre Dame

    While we hesitate to use the word feisty, that's exactly what Esmeralda is. She's a dancer and a gypsy and is fearless in the face of the evil Frollo.

  • Meg - Hercules

    Meg is a pretty sarcastic woman and seems to not like Hercules a whole lot. But she does save him from the centaur Nessus, proving the woman doesn't always have to be the one who needs saving.

  • Anna - Frozen

    After her sister Elsa creates a never ending winter, Anna decides to go after her. It's her strong will and determination that ensures she brings her sister home.

  • Rapunzel - Tangled

    When Flynn enters her tower, Rapunzel takes him hostage and makes him take her to see the floating lanterns she can see out of her bedroom every year. On the way, they nearly die by getting caught in a flooded cave, however, Rapunzel rescues them with the help of her hair and then heals Flynn's hand. Once again, it's the woman rescuing the man.

  • Mrs Banks - Mary Poppins

    Mrs. Banks is a suffragette. Need we say more?

  • Tiana - Princess and the Frog

    Tiana dreams of opening her own restaurant and works relentlessly at two different diners, in order to raise money to buy an old sugar mill for her own place. Sure, she might get turned into a frog for a lot of the movie but she gets there in the end.

  • Tinkerbell - Peter Pan

    The tiny fairy is stronger than she looks. She's also vindictive and immensely jealous of Wendy, even getting the Lost Boys to shoot arrows at her love rival. She's a flawed character and has many layers, which is why she's so great.