Monday, July 1, 2013

Animated Role Models (Girls!)

So, I have been going through an animation craze lately. I've always liked it, but it wasn't until I got older that I really started to appreciate it. Some say that animated characters aren't good role models for this reason and that, but "don't worry, I'm determined to succeed! Follow my lead and yes, indeed" the haters will be proven wrong.

Here's to the animated characters that get the most hate: the girls. My next post will go over the guys, too. But for some reason, people tend to hate on girls like Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora, Ariel, and even Belle. They're just never satisfied (I don't like Belle all that much, though...). But even girls like them are good role models. Here are a few of the reasons to love animated girls!

1. Elastigirl (Helen Parr) from The Incredibles (Disney, film).
"Girls, come on! Leave the saving of the world to men? I don't think so."

Now, seriously. This girl can save the city with a teenage daughter (we're a lot of work), a pre-teen son, and a baby. And I've always admired her flexibility... I could use it for all these dance moves in musical theatre. But what I love most about her is probably her relationship with Mr. Incredible. She won't just stand on the sidelines like some random damsel in distress. She'll stand with him for better and for worse, with every definition of it. That, my dear, is someone who took their wedding vows very seriously. The kind of wife I want to be one day.

2. Suki from Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon, TV).
"That's some girl." -Hakoda, speaking of Suki to Sokka (her love interest who is also a protagonist)

Suki is just amazing. I mean, she's a literal warrior. What song describes her?
This girl had her entire village burned down. Keep in mind, guys, that she's like, fifteen... at the oldest, maybe seventeen. Not only was her village burned down, but it was burned down by Zuko. The funny thing is she is friends with Zuko by the end of the series. That really says something about her character--- that she can just  forgive someone like that and include them in her little gang. Plus: she eventually trusted him. I know I wouldn't. If I were in her position, I would want nothing to do with him. Another thing about her character? She was in prison for a very long time. When Azula tells Sokka "she was convinced you would come and save her," (not a direct quote), my heart just broke. Especially when she told him that Suki gave up on him. Because Suki was his weak spot, and she knew it (but I'll talk about him later). But when Suki tells Sokka, "I knew you would come," it's just like, "AWWWWWWWWHHHHH!!!!" She never lost faith in him. She believed in him, Aang, trusted Zuko--- she's a true friend and will never, ever give up. That's what makes her a survivor.

3. Princess Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon, TV).
"My own mother... thought I was a monster. She was right of course, but it still hurt."

I think Azula is one of the most well-developed characters of all time. She really shows that even the most evil people have a story behind it all.

The thing about Azula is that she is terrifyingly creepy... yet I can't help but sympathize with her. I started watching Avatar the summer before I turned seven, and around the time she started appearing in the show I was seven or eight. My thoughts about her then? She's evil, she needs to be brought down, I don't understand how it is possible to be that evil. She just seemed like an evil prodigy, really. But around the time I started learning more about her upbringing, it made my heart hurt a little. My heart just broke altogether after that last agni kai when she throws that tantrum after she's gone crazy. But let's talk about this girl for a minute.

She's the fire princess. She has everything she could have ever wanted... almost. Heck, she's her father's favorite child! She is crazy good at fire bending and even bends blue fire (which might have a little bit to do with her name... "Azul" means "blue" in some kind of language)! She probably was an outstanding student. She didn't even have to do her own hair. But that's the thing. The one thing a child needs most she didn't have.

Her mother. Her mom disappeared when she was pretty young, and though she acted unphased and almost joyful after, it isn't until she is fourteen that we learn more about her feelings toward her mom. "I don't have sob stories like all of you," she says in Book Three, "I could complain about how my mother liked Zuko more than me, but I don't really care. My own mother," eyes watering, "thought I was a monster. She was right of course, but it still hurts," she says, quickly regaining composure. She refuses to let people see her in her most vulnerable state. Eventually, though, we all know she kinda cracked and was put in a mental hospital.

How is she a good role model? She shows that 1) don't use fear to control people; sometimes it's okay to trust. 2) To get what you want, you really gotta chase it with all that you have. 3) Never think you're unbreakable, because even the strongest of people aren't.

4. Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon, TV).
"I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me."

Katara is known for being very maternal and controlling. I think, like Suki, she is a true survivor. 
This girl had her mother killed at a young age, such a young age in fact, her older brother doesn't even remember what their mother looked like. What gets me is when Sokka admits to Toph that when he tries to imagine his mother's face, Katara's is the only one he can see. She's his mother figure, even though she is his baby sister. She's only fourteen! Though sometimes she is overly motherly, like she said, she will never turn her back on those who need her. Even when Azula tried to kill her (basically), she looked at her with sympathy (...and horror) when Azula was literally spitting fire. She healed Zuko when he was on the brink of death. She healed Aang when he was nearly killed by the same person (so... how can one really have sympathy for Azula, still?). She doesn't always know when to shut her mouth, but she does know when to protect the ones she loves. 

5. Lilo from Lilo and Stitch (Disney, film).
"I remember everyone that leaves."

Lilo's story is another one that is very sad. She's bullied by girls who she still considers her friends, both of her parents are dead, and she's that freak no one wants to hang out with. Her mother may not have thought she was a monster but she lost both her parents and everyone seemed to convince her of that--- they all avoided her like the plague! However, the experience taught her to never leave anyone behind no matter how different or intolerable they are. So of course the child ends up depressed with only Elvis Presley, Stitch, David and Nani. Speaking of Nani...

6. Nani from Lilo and Stitch (Disney, film).
"I'm gonna stuff you in the blender."

Nani is another strong character, like Suki and Katara. She is faced with a large amount of responsibility from a very young age.
In the movie, Nani is shown as a stressed-out young adult who appears to be eighteen or nineteen years old. What is with animation and parents always being dead? Well, her parents are basically dead. Instead of putting Lilo in foster care, she takes care of her. Most likely she volunteered or begged to raise Lilo instead of putting her in foster care. Not only does she have to face losing her parents at a young age, but she also faces raising her first-grade-aged sister. It'd be one thing if Lilo was like, twelve. But no. Nani is basically a mom now. I would have lost my cool early on, but instead she kept marching on.

7. Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks, film).
"It's only fun if you get a scar out of it."

Astrid is like, my spirit animal. She's smart, she's quick, she's a dragon slayer in training... or was. And beneath her VERY strong outer shell, she's like a turtle. Caring and nice (but not at all soft). Like, when Hiccup said, "I was a coward, I was weak... I'm the first viking who wouldn't kill a dragon," she responded with, "[You're the] first to ride one, though." She can see the best in others. She also will do anything to get what she wants, like Azula. Keep in mind this girl dropped the bottom of her ax on Hiccup, punched him numerous times, basically threatened him, and well, still got him. She wanted to slay a night fury (or something like that) and was gonna do anything to keep Hiccup from getting in her way. Instead, they fell in love. Well, Astrid. That's for helping Hiccup restore peace with dragons, and this... (getting to be mentioned in my post) is for everything else.

8. Mai from Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon, TV).
"I don't hate you."
"I don't hate you, too." -Mai and Zuko

Mai is probably one of the most misunderstood characters in her series. She's also really good at making sure a guy pays for breaking up with her.
I thought that Beyonce music was appropriate. What I love about Mai is well, like Megara (who I should probably mention soon), she is completely realistic and not too... happy. As happy as I can be (I have my Ty Lee moments), I actually normally can't really stand overly happy people. I also find it hilarious how much Mai hates the world. But she does care about one thing (at least): Zuko. Even more than she fears Azula, which must be a lot. Have I mentioned how talented she is at knife-throwing? She proves that she can take care of herself without bending, she needs no man, and she ain't gon' let fear get the best of her.

9. Esmeralda from Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney, film).
"I thought we all were the children of God."

Esmeralda is big on one thing: Equality.
She is one of the only people to show the slightest sign of affection toward Quasimodo, which led to him being friendzoned but we're not talking about that right now. She understood what being an outcast was like; gypsies were considered evil, gypsies were considered filthy-- the list goes on. Quasi was considered deformed (well, he actually is, but still), he was considered ugly, a freak of nature, a monster. She was quick to get her message across: "You speak of justice, yet you are cruel to those most in need of your help." This girl almost got herself killed because of standing for what she believes is right. Justice!

10. Pocahontas from Pocahontas (Disney, film).
"Why do all my dreams extend just around the riverbend?"

I know, I know. I'm jealous of her wind-painting skills, too. She, like Esmeralda, is also big on equality. However, her power to end injustice is... well, different. She fell in love with her tribe's enemy. Which all that kissing really wasn't smart because we all know what went down after that... Smallpox, of course. But she was willing to save John's life (even if he does have the plainest name on earth-- exactly how many credit cards and e-mail addresses in his name?) AND put war on pause. So, what's around the riverbend now?

11. Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon, TV).
"I don't care what I look like. I'm not looking for anyone's approval. I know who I am."

If anyone knows how to stay true to themself, it's Toph.
In all honesty, sometimes I forget that Toph is blind and apparently I'm not the only one. Sokka forgot at least once (when he forged a letter from Toph to give to Katara, Katara quickly figuring out it was him as Toph cannot write). This kinda reminds me of a Social Studies unit from freshman year about people with disabilities. Though I used Quasimodo as an example on the test (my teacher apparently really liked that reference and gave me a 100% or something close to it), had I been thinking I would have used Toph, too. She not only overcame her disability, but it was barely even there. She wouldn't dare let her handicap define her. People tried to hold her down, but they just couldn't. Toph is strong. Toph is smart. Most importantly, she knows who she is and wouldn't change for the world. And despite her tomboy-ish demeanor, she is VERY cuddly. Here is an entire photoset of Toph cutesyness.

12. Princess Jasmine from Aladdin (Disney, film).
"I am NOT a prize to be won!"

Would you be surprised if I told you people don't understand why Jasmine is my favorite Disney princess?
Jasmine being rich doesn't really have anything to do with it, but you know, she IS rich, so I felt the song was appropriate. Most people credit Belle for being smart, but well... in HER movie I spend more time picking out the dumb things she does than actually enjoying it. She may be a bookworm but she is not very smart at all if you ask me. Jasmine, however, is VERY smart. Aside from the fact that she didn't bring any money with her when she ran away... that's the first thing you'd grab... no idea what was running through her mind. But what I love about her is even though Aladdin lied to her face more than once, she still loved him, flaws and all. She looked beyond class and status. She could care less that he was a riff-raff. Street rat. Scoundrel. She found out there's so much more to him (did you get my reference there?).

13. Mulan from Mulan (Disney, film).
"I don't wanna kick the other kid's butt."

Of course, when people talk about the awesomest Disney princesses she is always at the top of the list (that is, when she makes the list). It's not every day someone saves China. Like Prince Zuko (Azula's brother... I'll mention him later), all that she does is for the honor of her family. She is someone who has their priorities pretty much straight.

14. Jane Porter from Tarzan (Disney, film).
"Every gesture, every move that she makes makes me feel like never before. Why do I have this growing need to be beside her?" -Phil Collins, through Tarzan's eyes

Jane is much more than an artist. She is adventurous, she's funny, and well... half of my Disney OTP.
Jane is a pretty cool girl for her time and age (Tiana is, too, but... I've never seen her movie). She loves science (science gives me migraines, but whatever floats your boat, Jane), she's an amazing artist, and overall she's just really smart and a good role model for little girls and women alike. She's completely open to learning new things and leaving everything she's ever known all because of love. That was a giant leap of faith. Imagine if things didn't work out-- poor Jane would be stuck in Africa forever with a man she doesn't love! She's also on my list of will-be-great-mothers. What I love most about her character is that she shows affection through her eyes. It was very hard to find a quote because everything is expressed with eyes in this movie! Not once in this movie does anyone say, "I love you." The professor says, "...But you love him," but she never says it herself. We see it in giggles, blushes, smiles, and eye shimmering. And that is ten times cuter that she shows her affection rather than it strictly being words. Men, do not stop searching until you find your Jane Porter.

15. Ty Lee from Avatar: The Last Airbender (oh my gosh... yes, it's Nickelodeon again).
"My aura has never been pinker!"

Ty Lee, like one of her best friends, Mai, is also very misunderstood.
I feel like Ty Lee and I really connect on a non-animated level. I've calmed down a little since a certain time in eighth grade, but ever since... I'd say fourth grade, the time I actually started talking to people (I've always had some kind of anxiety around people but I've gotten better. Now I just don't really like them), I've been known as crazy, stupid, boy-crazy, giggly, the one of my friends with the more out-there dream. Now I'm not ashamed to admit I am not nearly as pretty as Ty Lee, but otherwise we are similar. She's more of an airhead (no pun intended at all), finds every boy cute (but then again, so do I), she's a circus freak and probably the youngest (she just kinda... acts like it. She's animated to look more baby-face-like, too).

She's the person who was closest to Azula and honestly, probably the only person who actually loved her (Ozai is hardly capable of love, Chan probably just liked Azula because she's pretty, Ursa seemed to be terrified of her and although Azula hallucinated that she told her she loved her, there's no telling that was true) with like, two exceptions. I don't believe Ty Lee and Azula's friendship was strictly based on fear. I think there was some trust and real friendship there (what may have made the end of the friendship so hard on Azula). If there hadn't been, Azula wouldn't have cared. Sure, she would have been mad, but not to the point of crying. You may be thinking, when did she cry about Ty Lee and Mai? Even though she never actually cried in the series until Ursa told her "I love you," her lip began to quiver when Ursa mentioned "You've used fear to control people, like your friends Mai and Ty Lee." She did care about them. I can tell.

Oh, look at me. Once again I've turned this into three paragraphs analyzing Azula. Point is, while Ty Lee is innocent, she is not ignorant. Especially when she chi-blocked Azula to protect Mai. People underestimate her, but if she weren't strong and independent, do you really think Azula would have picked her for the mission? She chases her dreams no matter what people think ("circus freak"), and she's not afraid to defend herself. And now, she's a Kyoshi Warrior, too!

16. Megara from Hercules (Disney, film).
"I'm a big, tough girl. I tie my own sandals and everything."

Little Nutmeg is a lot like Mai. Pessimistic but hilarious at the same time. Plus, both girls have bad guy experiences but ended up getting with a Fire Lord and a Greek God (which is better?). However, Meg has a slightly bigger problem.
Most people, when they talk about their demons, they aren't literal demons. Well, our Nutmeg kinda sold her soul to the devil to save her boyfriend's life (and then he dumped her? I'm not gonna call this one smart). That didn't end well and now she's stuck being Hades' little puppet. She becomes Hercules' only weakness. Which I find adorable. Plus she takes liking to Pegasus. But what I love most about her and Hercules? "A life without Meg, even an immortal life, would be empty." The guy gave up his god status for her. Now THAT'S a girl worth fighting for!

17. Ursa from Avatar: The Last Airbender
"Everything I've done, I've done to protect you. Remember this, Zuko. No matter how things may seem to change, never forget who you are."

Do you know which Disney character Ursa reminds me of?
KALA! They're both married to some rather... controlling men. Yet they both keep a kind and gentleness about them that makes them great mothers who uplift their children to see what their kids may not see in themselves. She also reminds me of Mufasa ("Remember who you are"). But the impact that both Kala and Ursa (not gonna put Kala in this because she isn't human and I've been writing this post for like, three weeks) had on their children is very strong (and both relationships had some serious tear-jerkers involved). Zuko saw himself as a failure because he couldn't firebend nearly as well as Azula. Tarzan saw himself as too different to ever be useful to his family. Both were taught to overcome their struggles and both kids grew up to be leaders. Ursa was always there for Zuko, long after her departure.

"Just look over your shoulder. I'll be there, always." -Phil Collins

(Might make a Part 2 after I finish the Animated Role Models {Guys} section)


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