I’ll admit it, I was never a princess kind of girl, never mind a Disney kind of girl. But having college roommates who were avid Disney fans and working with little girls (I’m a nanny) definitely changed that. After all these years, I’ve also learned something: Disney princesses are always presented as pretty before anything else. You can buy their shiny clothes and sparkly whatever else’s, and I always found the whole thing boring. Spend the whole movie chasing the guy? Ew, no. Give me some Power Rangers! I struggled to find any redeeming qualities in them. That is, until I re-watched their movies.
Disney princesses are actually amazing and totally badass, if you really examine what they’re all about. They’re all rebelling against norms in their own way. When life gives Disney princesses lemons, they make lemonade, sell it to everyone in their town, profit, then go on to change their whole lives, and occasionally their country, for the better. And for the record, there’s nothing wrong with caring about your appearance and prioritizing finding love. Implying that those things are petty or less than implies that there’s only one correct way to be a girl, which is totally incorrect.
It took me a long time to get to the party, but I’m here. Don’t believe what I’m saying? Here are 15 times you didn’t realize Disney princesses were totally badass:
1) When Snow White shows up and runs the dwarves’ house.
Freshly thrown out by her evil stepmother and chased through the woods by a huntsman intent on killing her (AND THEN RIPPING HER HEART OUT), Snow White stumbles upon a small cottage and proceeds to implement her own rules about how that household is to be run. Of course she’s seen cooking and cleaning throughout the movie, but that’s not reflective of submissiveness, it’s reflective of Snow White being like, “This house is a mess and if you’re gonna live here with me – and surprise, you are already because I’m not leaving – this place is gonna be tidy as hell, so deal.”
2) Cinderella went to that damn ball.
After years of mandatory manual labor, chores, and emotional abuse from her stepmother and stepsisters, Cinderella is tricked into believing that she can go to the ball. After her stepmother rejects her, she goes anyway! With help from her fairy godmother of course, Cinderella shows up on the scene, charms the prince just by being herself, and then goes on to become royalty. Eat it, evil stepfamily. Cinderella turned her life around and when she saw a window to be through with the craziness of her household, she took it. Be like Cinderella and don’t listen to haters.
3) Ariel low-key saved Prince Eric’s life.
The damsel in distress trope is flipped on its head when Ariel saves Prince Eric from drowning. Sure, Ariel chases a guy around through the whole movie, but who says finding love *isn’t* important? She’s 16! But we’re all forgetting that before any of the on-land romance happens between Ariel and Prince Eric, she saves him from drowning in spite of her father’s demands to stay away from humans. She doesn’t let anything get in the way of her and the man she loves. She does what she wants and is a total hero within the first half hour of the movie. Ariel rocks.
4) Belle touches all the things!
Belle resigns herself to live in a castle with an actual angry beast by trading places with her captured father – which is badass in itself. When the beast gives her these weird parameters to live in, Belle’s like “F— that. If I’m gonna live and die here, I’m gonna go where I want to go and you’re gonna deal with it. And hey, stop shouting and learn some table manners, you creep.” Of course the beast is angry at first, but it’s not like her curiosity isn’t rewarded at the end. Also, Belle is one of the first Disney princesses to have her intelligence highlighted as a personality trait. Belle is an avid reader and a brainiac. She’s whip smart and she says no to arrogant douche bags (that means you, Gaston).
5) Jasmine is having none of your shenanigans.
It’s no secret that she’s my favorite. The constant bucking against the rules, sassing back Jafar, refusing to marry a man she doesn’t love, and that time she pole vaulted from building to building. Everything she does is the coolest. She understands the laws of her country and while embracing her status as a princess, completely rejects classism! When Aladdin is revealed to not be a prince after all, Jasmine’s like “Nah, dude. For clarity, I don’t care that you’re poor, I care that you lied to me.” She’s the queen of living by her own rules and taking no shit. Four for you,
Glen Coco Princess Jasmine. You go, Glen Coco Princess Jasmine.
6) Pocahontas is all about peace and handles a break up better than anyone.
IRL historical context aside, just based on the movie, Pocahontas throws herself in front of John Smith’s body to protect him and protest the impending war between the invaders and her tribe. Of course, she jumps from super high cliffs and is a fearless adventurer, when she’s saying goodbye to John Smith, she doesn’t flinch. If she’s super heart broken, she’s not showing it. She has a tribe to run and that’s far more important than following John Smith back to Europe. She picks her family and I don’t think that gets discussed enough. And for anyone who’s gone through a break up, you know how tough it is to keep your shit together. She’s so stoic when she’s watching those boats sail back to Europe.
7) Megara answers to herself only.
Remember that plot twist when we find out Meg is really working for Hades? WHAT?! Everyone’s first problematic fave, she wins out in the end. Aside from the genius levels of sarcasm and quips, she’s only checking in with herself even when her allegiances are called into question. She’s living her life how she wants. Sure, most of that is because she isn’t a princess and not held to (fictional) royal rules of conduct. So, when she gives her life for Hercules’s without any guarantee of immortality (she’s not a goddess either), she does so because she chooses to do so, and that’s not nothing.
8) Esmerelda stood up to Frollo in front of everyone.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame fandom is fewer in numbers than the rest of the Disney films, but it’s such a great, nuanced, kinda dark movie. Given historical context, Esmerelda, who is of low status stands up to a man of high office in front of everyone for abusing Quasimodo. He threatens arrest, but she doesn’t care and disappears in a cloud of smoke. She’s disguised as an old man when she runs away from Frollo, but we all know Esmerelda’s basically magic. She always has the back of the outcasts which is no small feat in a society that prioritizes class and status.
9) Mulan y’know… SAVES ALL OF CHINA.
She fights in the war instead of her ailing father and is, NBD, a better warrior than anyone. She’s instrumental in defeating the huns and is so cunning and such a great warrior that she’s even better than Shang at points. And when Shang recognizes this, coupled with the fact that Mulan’s a girl, she doesn’t back down from it. She doesn’t underplay her badass-ery. She’s like, “Yeah, I pretended to be a boy, it’s the only way I could help my family and my country, if you have a problem with that, fine, but I saved China, so do with that information what you will.” Mulan is the girl who saved her whole country – don’t forget that.
10) Merida shoots for her own hand.
“I’ll be shootin’ for me own hand,” she says, ripping her constraining gown. Merida aims and shoots a bullseye in the first two targets without thinking, then on the third target, splits the suitor’s arrow in damn half. Right down the middle! This moment gave me goosebumps. Merida is so badass. By now, Disney princesses refusing to marry because of some royal rule of conduct is old news, but at the end of the movie she remains un-partnered. She isn’t ready and she doesn’t want to and in the end, her parents respect her wishes to not get married. She stands up for herself and gives Katniss a run for her money.
11) Tiana works hard for what she wants.
Tiana wants a restaurant from the beginning and does not lose sight of that the whole time. Nothing, including becoming a real frog, gets in her way. She’s working multiple jobs when we meet her, which in itself is totally badass, because she’s saving up to own her own restaurant. Tiana is steadfast and determined to get un-frogged once she turns into a frog, and when she thinks she’s going to be a forever, she’s like, “Cool, gonna be the best frog ever with the best culinary skills in the bayou.” She falls for Naveen in her own time on her own terms, almost as an unexpected bonus to her career aspirations.
12) Rapunzel hogties Flynn Ryder armed with only a frying pan.
So, what happens when you’ve been trapped in a tower for most of your life, interacting with only your pet chameleon and the evil witch who captured you? You get wily. She sees an intruder coming and immediately knock him unconscious armed with only a cast iron skillet. Then, she ties him up! How did she learn how to do that? She’s skilled and spunky with killer fight or flight instincts. Then, she goes on the rest of the movie with her trusty pan when she leaves the tower – she’s equal parts funny and badass. I love Rapunzel.
13) Princess Anna ventures out into the blizzard basically by herself.
She’s like “BRB, I know I’ve never left my palace, but I need to find my sister in this Tundra-like blizzard she created with her magic. I think I know how to ride this horse? Wish me luck!” Princess Anna doesn’t think, she just goes into action. When her loved ones are put in danger, she springs into action. It doesn’t matter that she’s a young girl, she’s the only hero she needs and she doesn’t back down, even when she’s confronted with an actual snow beast. Princess Anna stops at nothing to help her sister, which is totally badass.
14) Queen Elsa overcame her own baggage to save her sister.
Sisters rescuing sisters! Other than her badass magical ice powers (and killer dress), Elsa is badass in that she overcomes her own complicated emotional baggage in order to save her sister from freezing to death. More so than building an ice castle with her mind and making it snow, Elsa’s true colors show when she learns to let her guard down and love her sister the way that Anna loves her back. The “true love” storyline in Frozen isn’t romantic, it’s familial, and Elsa saves the day like a badass.
15) Tinkerbell is an engineer!
Okay, so she’s not a princess, but I wanted to include her anyway. She’s spunky and sassy, but in a world where we’re trying to encourage girls to get involved in math and science, we’re forgetting to acknowledge Tinkerbell as the badass engineer she is. She’s a tinker, it’s literally in her name. Her ability to find her role in the world of the fairies along with the fairies in charge of beautifying Pixie Hollow shouldn’t be overlooked. Sure, they’re fairies, but Tinkerbell and her friends are diverse and have different passions and personalities that are all important in their world. And in Peter Pan, she is the smallest creature, but she isn’t afraid to be big in her actions and let everyone, including Captain Hook, know that she’s pissed af and will not be having any of their crap.
Which Disney princess is your favorite? What did we forget about? What do you disagree with? Tell us in the comments!
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.