Disney: Adventuring Women

Screenshot of Karen Allen as Marion in ‘Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark’. Copyright goes to Lucasfilm.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Some of my favorite types of movies have always been adventure films. Especially the ones with a vintage feel to them. There’s a comfortably nostalgic feeling about them to me. And some of my favorite parts of these movies is that many of them were the start of the focus on female characters we are now seeing. Because while action films in general turned their backs on female characters, some of the adventure films were actually pretty good with their portrayals. They by far portrayed their female characters as the most intelligent of most other movie genres. I know not all of these are Disney specifically, but I’m mainly going to discuss movies that Disney have had rights to. Seeing adventuring women in movies was always incredibly inspiring to me, so I want to go over some of my favorites. (Especially because I’ve seen more and more people reference ‘The Mummy’ which I didn’t grow up watching as much.) And some that I found the most relatable.

Marion in ‘Indiana Jones’:

So Marion is definitely not a character created by Disney, but by Lucasfilm. Which is now owned by Disney. ‘Indiana Jones’ as a franchise has always confused me because I go back and forth on whether or not I like it. I didn’t watch the movies until later in my life, but the immersive ride in Disneyland was always one of my favorites with the fully built temple and the 1920’s music playing outside. But Indiana Jones as a character didn’t turn out to be likable to me and the way he treats women is even more atrocious. In all of the movies, there is only one female character worth mentioning. The other two are incredibly stereotypical, pretty offensive, and mostly not intelligent. Marion is from the first movie and she is by far the best. Marion is incredible. I would have loved to see her in all of the movies, but unfortunately George Lucas insisted that Indy have a different love interest in each film and refused to let her come back though that was the original plan. George Lucas gives me a headache. Marion can fend for herself, keep up with Indy, and even outsmart him at times. She’s continuously shown to be intelligent and resourceful. And she is needed to balance out Indy in the first film. She’s the daughter of a Professor who more or less runs a bar. Definitely a badass.

The Women in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’:

Here I am specifically referencing Elizabeth, Angelica, Anamaria, and Syrena. I didn’t much care for the fifth movie and it would be difficult to cover Tia Dalma without covering Calypso. Which is a connection I still don’t completely understand. Elizabeth Swann is the Pirate King and I feel like that speaks for itself. I’ve written entire articles about Elizabeth because she was so influential to me growing up. Anamaria was only in the first film, but her few scenes were important. She is definitely a scene-stealer and one of the most resourceful characters in the film series. Angelica could go toe to toe with Jack while also being one of the most compassionate characters we’ve seen in the films. Her representation was important to so many people and I wish she would be remembered more as a character. But from that movie it was Syrena who drew most of my attention. It’s difficult not be drawn in by her. She’s a mermaid. But her plot line with the priest character was one of my favorites. Specifically because you don’t often have an entire plot focusing on the compassion of two characters in this franchise. Definitely the sweetest couple we’ve seen here. But Syrena’s turn on the damsel in distress trope by acting much more stubborn and less bothered by her capture is one of my favorite aspects of her character.

Jane in ‘Tarzan’:

Another daughter of a Professor who travels with her father. Jane is adorably awkward but never incapable. You can most often find her with her nose stuck in a book or drawing some sort of animal. But my favorite part of her character is how I related to her awkwardness when I was growing up. My awkwardness suddenly didn’t seem odd. Jane has become one of my favorite Disney animated characters over the years because of her amazing writing. She’s an introvert but she’s never set back because of her struggle with social situations. Jane is shown to be strong and intelligent. Definitely a role model I’m glad to have had.

Alice in ‘Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland’:

‘Alice in Wonderland’ is a story that is very close to my heart. So I’m often met with surprise when I say that I actually liked this version of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. For someone who grew up reading the book multiple times, watching the Disney film multiple times, and in love with the idea of Wonderland it may seem odd that I like such a different version of the tale. And while I really don’t like the sequel, the styling of this movie stole my heart from the very beginning. And what I like about this version is that it gives Alice more agency as well as portraying her as an adventurer. She even becomes an adventurer in her real life after the story. Though my attention was often caught by characters like the Mad Hatter or the White Queen, Alice’s actions were some of my favorites in the film. She even gets a sword fight. The vintage but colorful vibe of this film specifically is one of my favorites in any film and I love to see a woman at the head of it.

Lily in ‘Jungle Cruise’:

The most obvious and newest addition to this list. Lily may just be one of my new favorite Disney characters simply because of the role she plays in this film. Earlier as the movie starts there are two giant action sequences where Lily swings from several platforms, runs across a roof top, and resourcefully fights her way out of dangerous situations. These sequences reminded me immediately of Captain Jack Sparrow and for a second I couldn’t believe that we were finally seeing films with sequences like this being given to women. Lily is smarter than most people and an incredibly complex character. Her discoveries and ideas are often shot down because she’s a woman, resulting in her brother having to give pitches of her ideas to associations for her. But in the end she doesn’t need them or anyone to get where she needs to go. All she needs is her determination and incredible intelligence. So I guess all of those professors can “Shove it up their association” as McGregor would put it.

I don’t know what it is about Fall, but it always puts me back in the vintage adventuring mood. That might explain why I’ve been watching ‘Jungle Cruise’ so often lately. So I’ll get back to my scratchy gramophone playlists on Youtube and Rachel Maksy videos, but I couldn’t do that before I talked about some of my biggest style and character inspirations. And some of my favorites for the Fall season too!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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