The ‘Wokeness’ of Female Disney Characters

Tara Abhasakun

27 Apr 2024

Many Disney characters considered ‘woke’ this century are women or girls.

In recent years, Disney has been accused of being “woke.” In March, Nelson Peltz, an activist who recently unsuccessfully campaigned for two Disney board seats, criticised two films over their casting. The films were “Black Panther”, and “The Marvels”.

Peltz asked, “Why do I have to have a Marvel [movie] that’s all women?” and “Why do I have to have an all-black cast?”

Black Panther does not in fact have an all-black cast, nor does Marvel have an all-women cast.

But Peltz isn’t the only one angry about historically marginalised people starring in Disney films. Some angry op-eds and forum discussions also bemoan how Disney films now have protagonists who are “diverse newcomers” instead of “beloved, well-established heroes.”

Here are seven female Disney “newcomers” that might be raising the ire of the anti-woke brigade. Lighten up you people.



Moana (Moana)

Moana is celebrated for her strong, independent spirit and dedication to saving her people and culture. Her story focuses on self-discovery and environmental conservation, avoiding traditional romantic subplots. In December last year, one satirical Instagram account claimed in a video that Moana was to become Disney’s first transgender character. Many commenters took the video seriously, saying things such as “Like, if they are really about to turn her into a boy, they are literally ruining my childhood, our childhood, everyone’s childhood”.



Kamala (Ms. Marvel)

Kamala is a teen who doesn’t fit in at school. She is a huge fan of Captain Marvel, and eventually develops her own superpowers. One op-ed mentioned Kamala on a list of characters that the writer believed was part of Disney “trying to shove identity politics down our throats.”



Elsa (Frozen)

Elsa is often viewed as a symbol of empowerment and accepting one’s identity. Her journey is about self-acceptance and her character breaks away from traditional narratives by not having a romantic interest as part of her story. Psychologist and commentator Jordan Peterson has accused Frozen of being “propaganda” due to its lack of traditional male and female archetypes.



Judy Hopps (Zootopia)

Judy confronts and overcomes stereotypes in her quest to become the first rabbit police officer in a mammal metropolis. The film addresses issues of prejudice and discrimination directly. There are many online forums and op-eds accusing Zootopia of being “woke” and “virtue signalling”.



Merida (Brave)

Merida is portrayed as a strong-willed princess who defies age-old customs to forge her own path, emphasising themes of independence and the redefinition of female roles. One Youtube video with 60,000 views accuses the film of only dedicating itself to anti-traditionalism, and not good storytelling.



Raya (Raya and the Last Dragon)

As a warrior princess, Raya’s story centres around unity and trust among different groups, reflecting themes of diversity and inclusion. Some Redditors have left snarky comments about Raya being a strong female character, saying “Lol like every single thing that Disney makes?” Others called the film “preachy”.



Anna (Frozen)

Anna’s character development, particularly in “Frozen II,” shows her growing into a leadership role and highlights her resilience, empathy, and commitment to doing what’s right, even in the face of uncertainty. Many have suspected that the two protagonists, Anna and Elsa, are gay. Commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted last year that if Disney makes Elsa a lesbian “it will destroy Disney”.