Disney is often cited as portraying women as needy, air-headed damsels in distress. While I can’t deny that there should be more diversity as far as waistlines go, I think the critics often overlook the strongest female Disney characters of all: the mothers.
From Sarabi’s grit to the unfailing tenderness of Bambi’s mother, the mothers of Disney exhibit virtues that any feminist could cheer for. Ready to be inspired?
Self sacrifice: Queen Elinor (Brave) See also: Duchess (The Aristocats)
Like her daughter Merida, Queen Elinor often lets her stubbornness get in the way of clarity. But the one thing she puts before everything else? Her children. Despite enduring threats of war, face-offs with an evil mutated bear-man (seriously, that guy gives me the creeps), and volatile teenage mood swings, Elinor never wavers in her dedication to her family.
My favorite scene in the movie is one that perfectly portrays Elinor’s love for her children. She’s been magically turned into a bear and, due to misunderstanding, is tied up by her countrymen and about to be killed. She struggles to free herself but can’t escape. But moments before her the queen’s would-be death, the monstrous Mor’du attacks Elinor’s daughter Merida. Within seconds Elinor has torn off the ropes binding her to the ground and throws herself at her daughter’s attacker. She wasn’t able to escape when her own life was threatened, but the second someone messes with her baby girl? There’ll be hell to pay.
Elinor loves her husband and children more than anything in the world and is never afraid to risk anything, even her own life, for their sake.
Emotional support: Eudora (The Princess and the Frog) See also: Kala (Tarzan), Andy’s mom (Toy Story)
Tiana is living in a world rife with chauvinism and racism where it seems everyone is trying to get her down. Yet she not only survives but thrives – and achieves a happily-ever-after that has nothing to do with being saved by a prince. In fact, her success can be entirely credited to the support of her mother, Eudora.
Eudora is strong and confident and does not let others’ negativity (or an empty purse) bring her down. She instills this love of self and tough work ethic in her daughter from the very beginning. While she sets boundaries for her daughter and is firm in discipline, she provides constant support and never fails to let Tiana know and feel how much she is loved.
Typically when someone calls you a “lady dog” it isn’t meant to be a compliment, but badass Perdita turns that insult into an honor! She holds her ground against a psycho who’s out to skin her children, runs cross-country in the dead of winter to save puppies who aren’t even hers, and essentially saves the day for canines, felines, and humans alike all while keeping her wits about her.
Perseverance / Strength: The Queen of Corona (Tangled) See also: Sarah Hawkins (Treasure Planet)
Yea, so, the Queen of Corona’s beloved only daughter was kidnapped by an evil hag and she hasn’t heard from or seen her for eighteen years. So what? Trying to squelch the hope of this tough cookie is like trying to bring down Kimmy Schmidt. (I can see where Rapunzel gets her moxie).
Every year on her daughter’s birthday the Queen sends out thousands of paper lanterns as a symbol of hope that the lost princess will be found. She realizes that life brings sadness and hardship, but also beauty and joy – and that’s where her hope lies. #Undefeated
Standing up for what’s right: Mrs. Jumbo (Dumbo) See also: Anita (One Hundred and One Dalmatians)
Have you ever witnessed someone else being bullied or mocked for his or her appearance? You felt so sorry for them and wished you had the gumption to tell that bully off – but you were too embarrassed to say anything, so you became a silent witness. Next time that happens think of Dumbo’s mom, Mrs. Jumbo and you’ll have more courage than you know what to do with.
Mrs. Jumbo knows the rules of the circus; no messing with the patrons. But when some cruel bullies start mocking her son for his unique looks, she is there to defend him no matter what the consequences. Let’s face it: we could all use some Mrs. Jumbo type ferocity in our lives.
Not every warrior rides around on a horse while waving a sword. Sometimes the strongest people are the ones who wake up early to make you lunch on the first day of your new job. Sometimes the bravest people are the ones who smile and laugh and hug you, even though dad left and they’re heartbroken too.
Perhaps those who say that Disney sets bad examples for girls have been watching the wrong movies.
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.” – Francis de Sales