Female Cartoon Characters That Are Amazing Role Models
There are tons of die-hard Disney fans out there, but do you want the truth? Most Disney princesses are kind of annoying. Taking an apple from a creepy stranger in the woods isn't the brightest move, and waiting for a prince to rescue you is so last century.
Luckily, there are plenty of female cartoon characters who are actually cool. Better, even. These 15 ladies are smart, independent, funny, tough as hell and feminine. Picking a favorite is the most challenging part.
Where you've seen her: "The Incredibles," "The Incredibles 2"
Defining traits: Witty, protective, resourceful, loving
Let's hear it for Elastigirl because let's face it: "The Incredibles" franchise would have ended before it began if she weren't part of the family. Helen Parr is proof that there's nothing boring or weak about being a wife and mom. After she and Mr. Incredible settled down to raise a family, they both retired from superhero work. He started a dull 9-to-5 at an insurance company while she stayed home with the kids.
Who do you think got the better end of the deal? Considering their kids could vanish at will, run faster than a jet plane and spontaneously combust, it's not even a contest. She kept them all, not just alive, but raised them to be confident, kind and to use their powers for good. Then, she went on to show literal supervillains what would happen if they messed with her family. She's the glue that holds the family together, and she can pilot a jet and knockout supervillains while she does it. She's the kind of mom we'd love to have and would love to be.
Best Helen Parr quote: ”Leave the saving the world to men? I don’t think so!"
Where you've seen her: "Lilo & Stitch," "Stitch! The Movie," "Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch," "Leroy & Stitch"
Defining traits: Caring, selfless, sarcastic
Nani doesn't get nearly enough credit, and we're sick of it. When we saw the movie as kids, she seemed annoying. She was always nagging Lilo, didn't seem to have much patience and was a bit of a party pooper. Or so we thought. Nani is Lilo's older sister, but when their parents died, she took over Lilo's care. At 19, she was essentially forced into single parenthood, and she did so without question. She does everything she can to balance her responsibilities, work and personal life.
Even though she had to give up her own sense of freedom and youth, she did so without resentment, setting her Ohana as her first priority. Sure, Nani gets aggravated and overwhelmed at times, but who wouldn't? Lilo's a handful, and Nani loves her no matter what trouble she gets into.
Best Nani quote: “Lilo, if they only liked you because you had a cute pet, then who needs them? You have to trust your real friends. Stitch, for one. He’s a royal pain, but he’s loyal, and he’d never ever do anything that would hurt you. That’s a true friend.”
Where you've seen her: "Avatar: The Last Airbender"
Defining traits: Maternal, principled, compassionate
Katara, a waterbender from the Southern water tribe, isn't perfect. She's often bossy and can be a know it all, but Aang and Sokka wouldn't have gotten far without her. She's sensible and protective, and the young Avatar and his gang needed that. At the beginning of the series, Aang and Toph are 12, Sokka is 15 and Katara is 14. They're a group of tweens and teens traveling the world alone, with grown adults trying to take them down.
They needed someone with common sense and discipline to keep them on track. Being the mom of the group doesn't always make you well-liked, but her companions appreciate it later on. Katara is also insanely put together for someone who lost her mother when she was just a kid. She could have succumbed to grief, but instead, she took up her mother's role, protecting those around her fiercely. She also serves as the moral compass of the group.
Best Katara quote: "Love is brightest in the dark."
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Where you've seen her: "Kim Possible," "A Sitch in Time," "So the Drama"
Defining traits: Confident, assertive, multifaceted
Kim Possible is the crime-fighting Disney Channel vigilante we all wanted to be. She's only 14, and she somehow manages to be a straight-A student and head cheerleader while secretly fighting crime on the side.
The police don't seem to mind her undercover bad-guy takedowns, and her parents remain blissfully unaware that their daughter is basically a superhero. She's an overachiever for sure. Sometimes, her confidence comes across as arrogant, but when you're as good as she is, you get to be a little full of yourself.
Best Kim Possible quote:"It’s what I do, and nobody’s going to stop me!"
The Powerpuff Girls
Where you've seen her: "The Powerpuff Girls," "The Powerpuff Girls Movie"
Defining traits: Kindhearted, tough, leadership material
The Powerpuff Girls are not one but three kickass little girls. Growing up, we loved them because they proved that little girls weren't helpless. They were only kindergarteners, but they used their individual gifts to battle bad guys like pros. Blossom is a natural-born leader, while Buttercup fights dirty and plays rough. Bubbles is kind and sweet, but she's tough when she needs to be.
The Powerpuff Girls teach us that there's not just one way to be feminine, and it definitely doesn't mean being helpless.
Best Powerpuff Girls quote:"We’re not afraid of anything as long as we have each other.”
Where you've seen her: "Mulan," "Mulan II"
Defining traits: Brave, loving, selfless
Mulan is, well, Mulan. She saved China, made the Emperor and a General eat their words, and brought honor upon her family. She knew the whole "perfect bride" thing wasn't her cup of tea. Even pouring tea wasn't her cup of tea.
She was athletic from the get-go and hated being forced to fit a demure, submissive role she never wanted to play. She risked her life and defied the law and several social norms to protect her father from inevitable death. Then, she used her wit, strategic mind and agility to take down the dreaded Huns. She's also hella relatable. We'd have set the matchmaker on fire, too.
Best Mulan quote: “You said you trust Ping. Why is Mulan any different?”
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Where you've seen her: Daria
Defining traits: Insightful, sensitive, snarky
Daria was originally a side character for the MTV series "Beavis and Butthead," but she was so well-received that she got a show of her own. Her character is a brutally honest, sarcastic teenager who prefers to be an anti-social oddball than to try to fit in.
She's observant, loyal to her one close friend, Jane Lane, and makes scathingly accurate observations about the idiosyncrasies of her classmates, teachers, family and even herself. Daria is awesome because she's unapologetically herself. She doesn't try to be likable, and that's exactly why we like her.
Best Daria quote:“I don’t like to smile unless I have a reason.”
Where you've seen her: "Avatar: The Last Airbender"
Defining traits: Assertive, straightforward, loyal
Suki wasn't a main character in the "Avatar" series, but she was important nonetheless. She's the leader of the Kyoshi Warriors, an all-female group of fighters. Before she realizes that Aang is the Avatar and his group is on the side of good, she takes down his companion, Sokka, with ease. He's humiliated at being bested by a "bunch of girls," but after she kicks his butt in a sparring match, he swallows his pride and asks her to teach him. He later apologizes for underestimating her, stating that he should have treated her like a warrior, not a girl.
Suki's epic reply:"I am a warrior, but I'm a girl, too."
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Where you've seen her: "Scooby Doo"
Defining traits: Smart, competitive, skeptical
Velma is the brains powering the Mystery Gang's adventures. She's fascinated by mysteries and takes an analytical approach to solving them. She's no-nonsense and believes there's always a logical explanation for seemingly ghostly events.
Her realism can come across as cynical and dull, but her skeptical nature usually leads her to the answers she's looking for. She also knows Morse Code, martial arts and is surprisingly athletic for someone portrayed to be a bookish nerd.
Best Velma quote:“There’s a very logical explanation for all this.”
Where you've seen her: "The Princess and the Frog"
Defining traits: Hardworking, realistic, ambitious
Tiana is the most realistic Disney princess to date. She comes from humble beginnings and watched her father give up his original dreams so that he could have a new one: supporting his beloved family. She's driven to carry on his legacy and make her big dreams come true — but with a hearty dose of realism.
She knows success doesn't happen by coincidence. It takes grit and persistence, and she has plenty. She also doesn't hesitate to put a snobby, entitled prince in his place, and we love her for that.
Best Tiana quote:“The only way to get what you want in this world is through hard work.”
Where you've seen her: "Hercules," "Hercules: Zero to Hero"
Defining traits: Independent, quick-witted, cynical
Sarcasm queens, Megara is your gal. She doesn't need Hercules to save the day. She's independent, hard-headed and can handle herself. She's been played a few times, so she's a bit jaded when it comes to romance, but elevating one's standards isn't a bad thing.
Best Megara quote: "I'm a damsel, I'm in distress, I can handle this. Have a nice day."
Where you've seen her: "Frozen," "Frozen II"
Defining traits: Loving, loyal, steadfast
Yes, Elsa was originally the star of the "Frozen" franchise, but Anna is so much cooler. She grew up having a sister with magical powers, but did she get jealous? Nope. She became the sweetest, most empathetic, loving sister on the planet. She was a little naive initially, but that's to be expected when you grew up behind closed gates.
She matures quickly, and every time her will was tested, she passed. She was willing to step in front of a sword for Elsa in the first movie. In the second, she pushes on in the dark, alone, while carrying unbearable grief. She thinks her only remaining family member is lost, and yet she pushes on to do the next right thing. That's true queen material.
Best Anna quote:“I climbed the North Mountain, survived a frozen heart and saved you from my ex-boyfriend. So, you know, I’m coming.”
Where you've seen her: "Avatar: The Last Airbender"
Defining traits: Strong, defiant, determined
Toph is only 12, and she's an earth-bending master. She was born blind, causing her parents to become extremely overprotective. They treated her like she was helpless, but she didn't believe that for a second.
She learned how to use earth bending to visualize her surroundings. Then, she escaped her oppressive caretakers and became the undefeated champion of the biggest earth-bending tournament in the nation — in which all her competitors were grown men. She also discovered metal bending and never once let her size or visual impairment hold her back.
Best Toph quote: “There's no different angle, no clever solution, no trickity trick that's gonna move that rock. You gotta face it head on.”
Where you've seen her: "How to Train Your Dragon," "How to Train Your Dragon 2," "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World"
Defining traits: Bright, competitive, fierce
If we were little girls, we'd want to be Astrid. She's feisty and competitive, but she's also the best friend you could ever have. She takes a while to warm up, but once you have her on your side, you can't lose. She has a strong personality and knows exactly who she is.
She'll gladly take risks and defy orders if that's what it takes to protect her friends. She also learns to be more open-minded after realizing the people of Berk had it all wrong about dragons. She can be prideful, but at heart, she's supportive, empathetic and one of the best Viking warriors around.
Best Astrid quote:"You might wanna take notes."
Where you've seen her: "Kim Possible"
Defining traits: Fearless, quick-thinking, logical
Shego is a villain through and through, but she still has some admirable qualities if you look for them. She's abrasive and mean, admittedly, but she's more ambitious than the male villains she competes with. She has more of a moral compass than most villains, yet she doesn't take crap from anyone, even villains who outrank her. She's also the only villain in the show who actually succeeded in taking over the world. How's that for breaking the glass ceiling?
Best Shego quote:"I'm not gonna stand here and let her waltz in and destroy Kimmy. That's my job!"