When my 40-year-old son was a child, I dutifully took him to the movies. We watched the Transformers and the Smurfs and He-Man and She-Ra all fight crime on the big screen. They were ridiculous stories that kids the age of Court loved, and parents accompanying the kids slept through.
Nowadays, kids movies are no longer rated G, but most often are rated PG. The rating is because the movie makers actually make the movies secretly funny to the parents, and yet interesting and exciting for the kids. Boy, that wasn’t true of movies in the 80s. If I never had to see another big rig turn into a super hero, it would be too soon.
And there were the Disney princess movies, which started when I was a kid. Snow White and Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty come to mind. When Court was older, there were movies such as Princess and the Frog, which introduced white kids to the fact that not all princesses were white and not all princesses lived in Never Neverland. Still, the princess was always beautiful and at the end, she found her Prince Charming.
Through my grandkids, (the first born in 2003), I watched Ariel and Repunzel and Belle and Jasmine and Cinderella, all of whom had their trials and tribulations, and all who found their Prince Charming in the end.
Recently, my granddaughter Mylee asked me who my favorite Disney princess was. Hmmmm, I said. Maybe Belle, because she loved a beast before he was a prince. And then I asked her who her was her favorite Disney princess. Without skipping a beat, she said Raya! I was caught off guard because I wasn’t even vaguely familiar with a princess named Raya.
“Who’s Raya?” I asked Mylee.
“She’s Cambodian,” said my half-Cambodian granddaughter Mylee. “She’s awesome, and she’s my favorite Disney princess.
Since then, I have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to watch Raya and the Last Dragon, a Disney 2020 film that features a main character that I wouldn’t classify as a princess, but who is southeast Asian. The story takes place in a fictional country of Kumandra, which is a combination of the southeastern Asian countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, and others.
The main character, Raya, is not your typical princess. There is, for example, not a prince in sight. She, along with the last remaining dragon, saves her country from destruction through trust, friendship, and love. But it isn’t all roses and hearts. That girl can fight. The main female characters are tough and strong and independent, very unlike Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. I was happy that Mylee chose her as her favorite Disney character.
And, by the way, Raya looked just like my granddaughter Kaiya. That added to my enjoyment.
I will always love the original Disney princesses like Snow White and Cinderella. But I have to admit that it made me happy to see a role model for girls who was strong and independent. I watched it with my great-niece Lilly, who played along with the Kung-Fu scenes and looked strong and independent herself.
That’s a good thing.