I recently watched Frozen for the first time and I have to say I’m amazed at the calibre of the new Disney movies and really impressed with the empowering role models that are presented to young girls in modern day Disney movies. Gone are the stereotypical lily white maids like Snow White and Cinderella who need a man to kiss them to awaken them from a deep sleep or a prince to rescue them from an ivory tower. These Disney princesses decide their own fate and boy can they save themselves.
I haven’t seen a lot of the new Fairy-tale type of movies but a few I’ve watched recently are Maleficent, Frozen and Brave. Maleficent for those of you who haven’t seen it, features Angelina Jolie as the Queen of the Fairies, the one with the most powerful wings, whose wings were stolen from her by a childhood friend she loved, whose thirst for power was stronger than his loyalty to her. His daughter is cursed at birth by Maleficent who soon regrets her curse and as she cannot reverse it, strives to protect the child and watch over her to ensure that no harm comes to the ‘little beastie’. The girl in return develops a kindred bond with Maleficent and believes her to be her fairy godmother, not knowing anything of her royal lineage and that Maleficent is the one who has placed the curse on her. On her 16th birthday the girl finds out and runs away to the castle only to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and descends into a deep sleep. But the prince she stumbles upon is not the one who gives her true loves kiss, it is Maleficent, the Fairy who watched over her her whole life and loved her like a daughter. Unlike the traditional Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, this modern day Disney story has a Motherly love save her and restore her to life. The scene actually made me cry because I missed my own mum so much…which is saying something…I think the last time I cried watching an animated movie was when I saw Up.
Both Frozen and Brave also deviate from the traditional endings that place the women in a vulnerable position and the male character in a superior position. Frozen tells the story of two sisters who grow apart as one tries to protect the other but in doing so shuts her out and makes her believe that she does not love her. When Elsa accidently freezes Ana’s heart, leading her to slowly freeze to death, it is not ‘true love’s kiss’ that saves her, but her willingness to sacrifice herself for her sister. Their love for one another is ultimately what saves them. Similarly, Brave also centres around a relationship that is fraught with friction and pride. A mother and daughter fall apart and only love can mend the bond torn by pride which has turned her mother into a bear. It’s a beautiful movie about parental love for a child and desire to shield them from anything and protect them but also the duality of that relationship and how both parent and child learn from each other. Mereida’s I-don’t-need-no-man attitude and her self-sufficiency is inspiring not only for young girls but grown women who flounder around waiting for a man to save them. I strongly believe that everyone should be able to look after themselves regardless of gender and Brave is a movie in succeeds in showing women that it is possible.
Ultimately I am very pleased by this change in female role models that are being presented in Disney movies and the strong and feisty women that are being displayed to our daughters through these films. As a young woman I look to my own mother for strength and am inspired by her humility and her courage. It’s wonderful that young girls are now being shown realistic role models who can save themselves. I hope that when I have a daughter someday I will teach her to be just as strong and fearless and if she does accidently turn me into a bear, I hope our bond is strong enough to heal those wounds again.