22/07/2016 11:47 BST | Updated 23/07/2017 06:12 BST

Disney's Latest Heroine Is Finally Showing Girls There's More To Life Than Prince Charming


Disney has created a film where the female protagonist doesn't have a love interest and I, for one, couldn't be happier about it.

Moana is a story of self-discovery following a kickass 16-year-old who goes on an adventure to find a banished god, instead of Prince Charming. Her ultimate aim is to save the world.

It couldn't be more different from the children's films my generation grew up with.

Looking back at my two favourite films as a young child - The Swan Princess and Sleeping Beauty - makes me cringe.

One of the female protagonists flaps about as a swan until a prince saves her from death, while the other sleeps through half of the film until she's woken by "true love's first kiss". These women could not be more passive.

I didn't realise it at the time, but in hindsight it's blindingly obvious these films were instilling a worrying message in me: that in order to be successful in life you have to have a boyfriend.

Throughout school I constantly worried about not being coupled up. In the dark days of peak teenage awkwardness I probably would have gone out with anyone who asked me out, because culturally we teach girls to value romantic relationships over individual achievement.

Even Disney's Mulan, which I loved for its strong, female lead when I started forming my feminist ideals, ends with a love story.

Retrospectively, it's no wonder that when I finally got a serious boyfriend at the grand old age of 18, the overwhelming emotion I felt was relief that I wasn't destined to be "left on the shelf". In reality, I'd just smashed my A Levels and had a hell of a lot more important things to be proud of.

It's not just old school animated films that are guilty of placing relationships on a pedestal.

I am a proud Harry Potter nerd and Hermione Granger will always be the ultimate babe in my eyes for being a swot (like me!) and proving a woman can help save the day. But every main character in the films gets married by the end, which only reinforces the idea that tying the knot is the only way to have a happy ending.

I love JK Rowling for creating Hermione, but I wonder what impact it would have had if she'd let Hermione become an empowered, happy, single woman, just to show girls that there is another option in life.

Sadly, films aimed at adults are no better than ones aimed at children. Almost half of 2015's highest grossing films failed the Bechdel Test, which requires films to have at least two (named) women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man.

These films may not be entirely to blame for the deprecating phrases we use to describe single women like "crazy cat lady" and "spinster", but they definitely don't help.

How many times have you heard friends say "I really want a boyfriend" rather than "I really want to go out with John because I fancy him?" We're all so terrified of being single because somehow, it's become a symbol of failure.

In reality, meeting someone you're truly compatible with is just plain luck. Don't get me wrong, romantic relationships can be a truly wonderful thing, but they don't have to be a prerequisite of happiness.

Women (and men) are completely capable of living a fulfilling life as a singleton.

So I'd like to applaud Disney for pulling up its socks and showing the next generation that it's okay to focus on finding yourself, instead of finding a husband.