Frozen 2 comes out this weekend and I shudder at the thought. I’ve always disliked Frozen, from its many criticisms of same face syndrome and lack of characters of color, to its sheer pervasiveness in popular culture despite better movies and better princesses existing. Of course, people can like what they like, and I’m not here to crap on a movie and characters that more people love than hate. What I am here to do is highlight the princesses Disney’s created that I personally think deserve a little more love and recognition than two certain sisters from Arendelle.
Technically the village chief, not a princess, Moana deserves all the praise. Like Elsa, Moana leaves her home; not because she accidentally plunged it into a forever-winter, but to save it from Te Kā’s spreading blight. Like Anna, she’s joined by a male character, but he’s not a romantic interest and she doesn’t rely on him to do all the saving. Moana literally faces down a giant lava monster, without hesitation, to save her island. What’s more badass than that?
Instead of saying, “Let it go, let me run away from my problems and embrace who I truly am as long as I’m on a desolate mountain with no one else around,” Moana looks to the horizon and wonders how far she can go, and if she goes, there’s just no telling how far she’ll go!
In my eyes, Tiana’s a princess for the millennials. She’s constantly on that hustle, spending all her time working to get ahead in life and feeling like she has no time for “messing around.” Even when put in an impossible situation—being turned into a frog—her first course of action is to find out how to undo the spell. I always liked Tiana’s message of how wishing and dreaming is all well and good, but it won’t get you anywhere if you don’t put in the work necessary to achieve them. I also like that she learns that dreams can change, and that you can work hard but also find time for love and fun and dancing.
Also not technically a princess, but she’s in the lineup, and how could I even think to leave her out? In the scene where Mulan cuts her hair and prepares to go to war, as quoted by my best friend, “Mulan shows more bravery in this scene than Elsa and Anna have in their entire bodies combined.”
I’ve read many pieces which state that Mulan’s story is less about feminism and female empowerment and more about filial piety, but it still takes a huge amount of courage to take someone else’s place in a war. And let’s not forget that Mulan was also left alone on a desolate, snow-covered mountain, but she didn’t stay there. When Anna tells Elsa about the current, subzero state of their kingdom, Elsa pushes her away. When Mulan finds out that China is in danger, she races to save it, and does so using her own wit and bravery. The fact that the Emperor himself, and all of China, bows to her in the end, is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
I get it. Frozen is marketable as heck with its catchy songs, “quirky” characters, and goofy snowman sidekick. All I’m saying is that Disney has the means to market its other movies to death, too. But if we really must have another six years of nonstop Frozen love, you better believe I’m going to cling to Moana, Tiana, Mulan, and any other princesses brave enough to be awesome in the face of the much overhyped Elsa and Anna.