25 Disney characters that are actually good role models

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8. Mulan

Speaking of socioeconomic barriers, imagine being a woman in early Imperial China. Things, at least according to 1998’s Mulan, could be pretty grim. If you were a woman who wanted to be something more than an obedient, subservient wife, well, too bad. Might as well get down to denying your dreams and having copious amounts of children.

Now, the reality of such a situation is likely up for debate. But in this Disney-fied reality, things really are set against our heroine, Mulan. She’s clearly awkward in the role of future wife, as evidence by a disastrous meeting with a matchmaker. Afterwards, she mopes through her family garden and signs a Disney ballad about identity and not fitting in.

Things get worse, however. She learns that her aging father has been conscripted to fight against the foreign Huns. He’s practically been handed a death sentence. Unable to bear the thought of sending her beloved father into danger, Mulan disguises herself as a man and enlists in his place.

Though there’s a somewhat romantic subplot with Mulan’s army commander, Shang (whose singing voice is provided by, no kidding, Donny Osmond), Mulan herself isn’t that focused on courtship. Instead, she is motivated by her love of family and deep bonds with her parents and grandmother.

All of that adventure, including causing a massive avalanche to defeat invaders and a dramatic rooftop fight at the Imperial Palace? That’s ultimately for the sake of family. Mulan even turns down a prestigious role as advisor to the Emperor to just return home. Though it’s disappointing that she turned down a groundbreaking job, it’s still gratifying to see a Disney heroine who’s motivated by something other than finding her Prince.