What The Disney Princesses Taught Me – Part 2

I’m no expert on child psychology or a master Disney innovator – I’m just a person who learned a lot of great things from the Disney princesses I grew up watching. And I’m excited to dive in a little deeper into those lessons.

If you haven’t read it yet – check out Part 1 : What the Disney Princesses Taught Me!

Without further ado, here are our next two princesses… Pocahontas & Mulan!


Pocahontas – Pocahontas (1995)

Summary:

This Disney film is very loosely based on the real life Native American woman, Pocahontas; well-known for her association with Jamestown. Jamestown was the first successful British colony in what is now the United States of America. The movie begins with The Virginia Company – a group of young men led by the brave and handsome John Smith (ahem, loosely based) and the villainous Governor Ratcliffe. They are on their way to the New World, voyaging across the Atlantic Ocean in their mighty vessel and determined to stake claim on an unknown land for their beloved King of England. After arriving and setting up camp, determined to find gold, John Smith ventures into the forest. Little known to him, he has piqued the curiosity of Pocahontas, who in turn follows him closely as he treks through the brush.

Pocahontas is the daughter of the powerful Chief Powhatan and is trying to find her place in the world rather than the arms of Kocoum, thanks to an arranged marriage. She and John Smith stumble upon each other and walls are initially up… but tentatively, they begin to fall for each other. They meet in secret and Pocahontas shares with him that there is no gold – only corn. John Smith, smitten and worried about Ratcliffe’s intentions, tries to convince the Virginia company to take a chill pill. But Ratcliffe, purple and pudgy as ever, ain’t having any of that. He sends Thomas (a lowly sailor) to tail John Smith in order to discover where the lovestruck man keeps running off to. Pocahontas’ almost-beau-to-be does the same to her. Unbeknownest to Pocahontas or Smith, they are caught by the two in a lover’s embrace. Kocoum doesn’t take it well. He attacks, Thomas shoots to save John, and Kocoum succumbs to his wounds. His death is blamed on John Smith and lover boy is sentenced to death by Pohatan himself. The air is ripe with the scent of war as both the Native American tribe and the Virginia Company prepare to fight. Pocahontas decides to stand for peace and lays her life on the line for John Smith to ensure a ceasefire. Her impassioned speech touches everyone… except the grumpy psychopath Ratcliffe. He aims to shoot and kill Pohatan, but John Smith takes the bullet. Ratcliffe is hauled away by his own crew. In the end, Pocahontas and John smith must say farewell as he is shipped back to England. Her hair billows behind her as she waves goodbye.

What I Learned:

This girl is the definition of FIERCE. Not only was she jumping off cliffs and swan-diving into water, she was also careening down a raging river of death, singing in perfect pitch, and getting an amazing arm workout doing it. She makes kayaking look easy! Spoiler alert: it’s not!

Jokes aside, both the real-life Pocahontas and the cartoon Pocahontas were exceptionally brave. I remember as a little girl admiring the courage Pocahontas had, in not just laying down her life for others, but by determining her own path in her own life. A compass is used as a symbol in the movie; a way for Pocahontas to choose her own destiny and to make things happen. I also used to roll through fields singing ‘Colors of the Wind’ at the top of my lungs – a song that reminded me to enjoy the beautiful outdoors and the beautiful diversity in all of us.

Mulan – Mulan (1998)

Summary:

Fa Mulan is just trying to fit in with the world… but attempts are futile. She doesn’t like who she is and she feels like she is being forced into being someone she isn’t. One day, her father (the famous retired warrior Fa Zhou) is called back to active military duty. The Huns, led by the evil Shan Yu, have invaded China and are headed toward the Imperial City. Mulan knows her father is honorable, but weak… she fears that if he goes back to battle that he will not survive. With a sudden leap of faith, she cuts her hair and disguises herself as a man, running away to take his place in the Chinese Army. The demoted family guardian/mini-dragon named Mushu seizes his chance at proving himself worthy to the other ancestors and goes with Mulan to help guide her through whatever lies ahead.

At the training camp, Mulan takes on the identity of ‘Ping’ and cowers under the scrutiny of the other soldiers; most notably, the handsome and intense commanding officer, Li Shang. Shang initially believes Ping/Mulan to be a poor excuse of a soldier, but overtime Ping/Mulan proves to be one of the best in the training camp – excelling at every exercise and being the only solider to climb to the top of a tall poll to retrieve an arrow. Later, Li Shang’s battalion is called to defend a village from the impeding Huns. So they march off, up the mountain and through snow only to discover that the Huns beat them there. Soon after, they are ambushed on the mountain face, outnumbered at least a hundred to one with no where to run. Mulan, once again with a stroke an unabashed brilliance and fearlessness, takes the last cannon from the battalion and runs up the mountain toward the charging Hun army. She aims the cannon at the mountain next-door, causing an avalanche that she, Shang, and the rest of the gang barely escape alive. But alas, not unscathed. Mulan suffers a wound to her side and when treated is discovered to be a woman. Instead of killing her on the spot as the law commands, Li Shang spares her life. She is left on the mountain disgraced, but quickly discovers that the biggest and baddest huns of the bunch (Shan Yu and company) have sprung up out of the snow like daisies and are making a beeline toward the Imperial City. Mulan races them there in time to watch the Emperor get kidnapped. She, Shang, and a few others fight tooth-and-nail and Mulan proves herself worthy by defeating the Huns in front of an entire city. She is bestowed with great honor by the Emperor AND her hunky commanding officer comes home with her to stay for dinner.

What I Learned:

You know, Hua Mulan is a legendary woman in an ancient Chinese ballad – Disney didn’t just come up with this one either. But I am SO GLAD that we’re talking about Mulan because admittedly… she’s been my favorite Disney princess since 1998! (and technically, she isn’t even a princess!)

I remember seeing Mulan in the movie theater and being in complete and utter awe of how amazing she is. She’s brave,  beautiful, strong, daring, sure, and selfless. I knew, even then, that was the kind of girl I wanted to be. Mulan didn’t just sacrifice everything she had; she also became everything that she wasn’t. She saw something in the mirror she didn’t like so she looked at herself and said, ‘no, this is who I am.” She went forth with the unknown, swam deeper into the abyss, took risks and fought hard for what she wanted. Plus, she preforms a mean roundhouse kick on the roof to sweep Shan Yu off of his feet… and I think that was the first time I ever said “YAAAAAAAS, GIRL. YAAAAAS.”


Hope you enjoyed my commentary! 😉

Stay tuned… Tiana & Rapunzel are next! xo

-Jenni

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