9 Empowering Summer Movies for Girls

Loraena is a Noonday Ambassador who makes her home in Portland, Oregon with her husband, daughters, and rambunctious Schnoodle puppy. She is passionate about empowering women across the globe — and in her own living room! Today on Flourish, Loraena shares her list of fun and inspiring films perfect for a summer movie night with the girls in your life!

My husband and I enjoy watching movies together. We often find ourselves watching films that explore justice issues and educate us on history and other cultures (Lion, anyone?). We also like showing our kids movies that express values we find important.

I am here to recommend empowering movies to watch with the girls in your life this summer, but before I do, I’d like to define what I mean by empowering. If you’ve spent much time around Noonday, you’ve probably heard certain words and phrases: sustainable income, a living wage, family preservation, and empowerment for women. These are important values for Noonday. At Trunk Shows, I often say, “Noonday exists to build a more flourishing world. A world where women are empowered, children are cherished, people have jobs, and we are connected.” Occasionally, I get questions about the word empowerment. Why do we want to empower women? What does that really mean?

In many of the communities in which our Artisan Partners live and work, a living-wage job can be hard to come by, particular for women. It might also be the only thing standing between a single mom and homelessness or worse. A job empowers her to do more than simply survive. I think understanding empowerment is easier when contrasted with disempowerment. Tamara Aklilu, Noonday’s former production manager, lived in Ethiopia for six years. She recently shared,

“As an already empowered woman…. you have the choice of where you’re going to go, what you’re going to do, what you’re going to eat, what you buy, what career you go into, who you’ll marry, who you spend time with, what you say and do, what you say to people you disagree with, what you stand up for.

We have the choice to use our empowerment to lift others up, or we can squander it away on ourselves. Really, if we live empowered it’s different from entitlement…it’s using the choices and the options and the opportunities we have not only for ourselves, but also for others; not only to demand what is comfortable and nice for us, but to use that power to support others.”

I have thought about this a lot. I have traveled to Haiti, Uganda, and most recently Rwanda. Each time I travel to a developing nation I come home with a deeper understanding of my own privilege, but I am still growing in my understanding of how empowered I actually am. A comfortable home, more food than we can eat, a good education, healthcare, and a multitude of options in life should not make us entitled but should be viewed as gifts to be stewarded. I want my daughters to understand this, too.

So without further ado, here are my summer 2017 movie recommendations (in alphabetical order) for young girls.

Summer Movies That Empower Girls

1. Frozen

Frozen Empowering Movies for Girls

I know, I know, you’re tired of this movie. But have we ever before had a Disney movie demonstrate the danger of “love at first sight” and how important it is that a potential husband prove himself trustworthy before the girl in question gives herself to him? Anna’s almost-mistake with Hans does just that as she learns the hard way not to trust the first handsome man who gives her attention. Romance aside; Anna is the hero of this story. She uses her resources to pursue her troubled sister, demonstrating faith and sacrificial love even when Elsa acts unworthy. Love conquers fear and the entire community is saved because of it.

2. Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures Empowering Movies for Girls

My husband and I took our girls (ages 9 and 6) to see this in the theater. It was a bit over their heads, but not inappropriate. It offers a relatable glimpse into the racial discrimination of our country’s past in a way that is kid-appropriate and redemptive. A great example of empowerment happens when female mathematicians realize a new “computer” invention is about to make their jobs obsolete. One learns the manual and teaches her coworkers how to run it. Instead of losing their jobs, the whole department is promoted to work the computer.

3. Home

Home Empowering Movies for Girls

This one may not have been critically acclaimed, but my kids really like it. One of the few animated features with a protagonist of color, Home is a sweet story about a little girl who journeys against all odds to find her mother after they were separated during an alien invasion. Might sound scary, but it’s not—and my kids like the Rihanna soundtrack.

4. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl

Kit Kittredge Empowering Movies for Girls

This one is older, but so good! Kit (played by Abigail Breslin) is clever, vulnerable, and tenacious. She learns about resourcefulness, compassion, and hope during the Great Depression of the 1930s. She is also a great example of a girl who has confidence in her abilities as she angles for and obtains (spoiler alert) a “kid’s-eye view” column in the local newspaper. Other movies from American Girl are great as well, particularly the Melody and Maryellen movies available on Amazon Prime.

5. Moana

Moana Empowering Movies for Girls

An obvious choice, but not one to be left out! Moana demonstrates courage and persistence even when others are discouraging her. And let me say “bravo Disney” for actually giving her a realistic teenage body type – it may be unprecedented! And for what it’s worth, my favorite character is the ocean.

6. Pete’s Dragon

Pete's Dragon Empowering Movies for Girls

This may seem like an unlikely choice, but I wanted to include it for the very reasons it’s not obvious. The character played by Bryce Dallas Howard is an intelligent, thoughtful woman in a job she obviously loves. She models a quiet confidence and is simply a person who un-ostentatiously does the right thing. When she comes across a boy in need of a family she shows him compassion and ultimately he becomes part of her own family. I found this movie incredibly beautiful and moving. May contain triggers for kids who have faced trauma.

7. Queen of Katwe

Queen of Katwe Empowering Movies for Girls

A true story about a girl from a Ugandan slum who became a chess Grandmaster, this movie paints a compelling and realistic picture of why women in developing countries need access to living-wage jobs. Phiona’s mother and her four children were left with little protection or means to survive after her dad died and we get a glimpse of the tension a mother feels when her personal integrity butts up against basic needs of her family. Ultimately, Phiona’s skills at chess provide a better life, but it is not an easy path. This movie has some difficult things (homelessness, a hit & run that injures a boy, a flash flood that almost drowns a toddler, possible prostitution, and a propositional situation) but it isn’t crude and the PG rating is appropriate. If I were ever recommending a movie to all of my Noonday customers, this would be it.

8. Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman Empowering Movies for Girls

Somehow this movie manages to sit solidly within the superhero genre while offering more substance than we typically get from those films. My favorite thing about this movie is the way Diana resolutely goes about her quest, even at personal cost. Seen through our eyes, she is simply a woman using her skills and gifts to do what she was made to do without second-guessing whether it is understood by others, perceived as appropriate, or even if she is up to the task. And there is a softness about her, a naiveté that is really refreshing in a female superhero. Favorite quotes: “My father told me once, he said, ‘If you see something wrong happening in the world, you can either do nothing, or you can do something.’ And I already tried nothing.” Also, “Maybe it’s not about what you deserve, but what you believe.”

9. Zootopia

Zootopia Empowering Movies for Girls

Last but far from least, this movie is huge in my home. We saw it in the theater and own in on Blu-ray though my girls still ask if they can watch it on Netflix. This movie somehow manages to be funny and poignant while dealing with issues of prejudice and discrimination in a kid-friendly way that speaks to adults, too. One of the strengths of this movie is that the prejudice isn’t one-sided as protagonist and underdog Judy the Bunny comes face-to-face with her own biases and rises to the occasion. Well done.

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