5 Disney Films That Prove Sisters Can Do It For Themselves

In Commentary, FILM, THEATRE & TV, HOME by Hannah Oliver

Disney’s tiaras and bouffant dresses don’t exactly scream ‘feminist’. However, sometimes when your Peter Pan complex is flaring up again and you can’t find your VHS copy of Thelma and Louise, only a Disney film can soothe essay stress and combat the patriarchal claptrap that assaults us everyday.

Although many of the Disney ‘Princess’ films seem to affirm that the only valid ‘happy-ever-after’ for women is a heterosexual marriage and motherhood, there are some Disney films that we can watch without guilt. These are the Disney films that tell us that girls can be more than just queen of their (domestic) castle: instead women are depicted as regal sistaaas who can rule whatever kingdom they choose.


At first glance, this ice cool adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen appears to advocate the usual: escaping the evil clutches of your parents for the liberty of… marriage. However, Frozen is in fact a celebration of sisterhood. All together now: ‘patriarchy never bothered me anyway’.


This 1964 classic is a spoonful of ‘independent woman’ sugar. Admittedly, Mary works in a job that was viewed as the only appropriate profession for women in the Victorian era. But Mary’s financial independence and Mrs Banks’s involvement in the suffrage movement make up for this and show that women can occupy positions of social, economic and political power. Chim-chim-cheree indeed.


Although it’s named after an institution that tends to perpetually subjugate and oppress women, the monarchy of The Lion King is in fact one that depends on and celebrates the success of women. Simba’s love interest, Nala, is essential to getting him out of the desert and back into the kingdom. She not only insists that Simba rescue the Pride from Scar’s despotism, but she also grabs her freakum dress to fight the good fight against the evil hyenas. Behind every great lion, there is a great lioness.


Okay, hear me out. Yes – initially, Mulan is only able to gain independence by assuming masculine roles. She has to impersonate her father in order to be the kick-ass soldier who saves all of China from the Hun: she cannot do this within the confines her own gender. However, at the end of the film she is able to subvert the construction of femininity created by her countrymen and prove that women can also be as swift as a coursing river and be as mysterious as the dark side of the moon.


Flame-haired Merida is the sassiest Scot there ever was. She shoots (with her bow and arrow), she scores. This 2012 tale reflects on the relationship between a protective mother and her adventurous daughter, placing their fearsome bond at the centre of the clan. Brave tells us that it’s okay to ignore conventional ideas about beauty to focus on what really matters: our love for the other strong women in our lives. Preach.

Connie McKimm

Connie McKimm is studying English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. She enjoys chai lattes, Sunday afternoons and taking on the patriarchy. The rest is a mystery.

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(Images sourced from: www.weeatfilms.com)