Warning – may contain slight spoilers!
Today, more than ever, it is so important for our daughters to grow up to be smart, confident and capable young women. In a world of #metoo and gender inequality, we need a generation of women who are not afraid to speak out.
This is a topic I am hugely passionate about. I want my daughter to smash through glass ceilings. I want her to have the courage and tenacity to speak up for what she believes in. I want her to fight for what’s important in the spirit of the ancestors who have gone before her. I’m thrilled that she is already rejecting stereotypes at the tender age of two, but I am well aware we have a long way to go.
It is obviously our job as parents and educators to have a positive impact on our children, but we can’t deny the importance of external influences on impressional young minds.
I found my role models from books, from Lizzie Bennett’s smart wit and quick tongue in Pride and Prejudice, to Jo March’s uncompromising beliefs in Little Women. While my daughter does enjoy books, she is still too young for both the novel and the movie adaptations, but in my view, not too young to be surrounded by positive female characters.
My daughter is almost three and just getting to the stage where she will sit through (the majority of) a film. We are lucky a lot of the modern movies are creating kickass girls I’d be happy for my daughter to look up to. Gone are the days where our heroines are simpering damsels in distress who fall in love at the drop of a hat. They are strong young women, creators of their own destiny, not defenceless weaklings waiting to be saved.
Here are some of our favourite films for empowering young girls.
1. Matilda – “So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”
Matilda is the first film that comes to my mind when thinking about kickass girls. She fights against unsupportive parents and a demonic headteacher to pave her own path. She’s passionate about reading, education and supporting her friends. She’s awesome.
The comparison between her and Hermoine Granger has been made before – both intelligent young girls confident in their abilities. The only reason I haven’t included Harry Potter, which is full of strong female characters, is due to it being a tad too dark for children of my daughter’s age.
Matilda isn’t the only strong female in the film. Miss Honey is a smart, kind and fun young woman who enjoys her work. At no point does her relationship status impact her personality. The friendship between her Matilda shows how women of all ages should stick together and support each other.
2. Moana “Okay, first, I am not a princess. I’m the daughter of the chief.”
Moana is an empowered, independent future leader, who rejects the stereotype of being a princess. She is the daughter of a chief and is his natural successor. Her status as princess isn’t just a title, she was born to lead.
And lead she does. She risks everything to save the island she calls home, and is intimidated by no-one. Her tenacious and wilful personality are usually traits associated with male characters, but Moana is breaking the mould.
There is also no love interest! Disney really has come along way from the days of Snow White.
Sophie is the epitome of small and mighty. Despite her diminutive size, she is resilient and brave. It is her intelligence that shines through when she devises the plan to stop the BFG’s grisly neighbours from eating “human beans”. She convinces the BFG to have a meeting with The Queen (another female role model!) whilst treating the giant with kindness and compassion. She is level headed, calm and logical and the perfect friend to the BFG.
4. Zootropolis – “Life’s a little bit messy. We all make mistakes. No matter what type of animal you are, change starts with you”.
Positive female characters don’t always come in human form! Judy Hopps is Zootropolis’ first rabbit police officer and faces discrimination and general unkindness on a regular basis.
Her gender is actually not mentioned; it’s her species and her size that are targeted and seen as indicators of weakness. However, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she is also female. She is fiercely wilful and independent, and strives to be seen as an equal. She fights against convention and despite being ridiculed and belittled, she proves her antagonisers wrong. A true woman/bunny to be reckoned with.
5. Frozen – “I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered me anyway.”
Frozen broke the mould of the traditional Disney film. With two strong but contrasting female leads, the movie pokes fun at the older movies when Anna agrees to marry someone she has just met. Frozen promotes the glorious notion that romantic love isn’t always the most important thing in life. Love between friends (“some people are worth melting for”) and family can be just as strong and defining.
Elsa is not just your traditional film princess. In fact for the majority of the film she is Queen, which again is not typical of a Disney heroine. She is a leader, who tried to sacrifice her own happiness to keep her subjects safe from her powers. She eventually learns to accept who she is, powers and all, and Let It Go is the ultimate empowerment anthem.
Anna is an unconventional hero, whose naivety and unwavering faith in her sister endear her to the audience. She isn’t afraid to fight what she believes in, and is willing to sacrifice her life to save those she loves. She is feisty and brave, yet not afraid to show kindness and compassion.
Frozen is the perfect film for showing how important friendship and acceptance can be.
There are so many other films I could have included in the list, but these are our favourites. What are yours? Let me know in the comments!