I’d say that the featured image is my favourite screenshot from Princess Mononoke, but I say the same thing about every screenshot taken from that movie
It’s no secret that Studio Ghibli has feminism themes in its films. Often female and male characters are just stuck with their gendered roles and well, yep! That’s it! There’s your film! But Miyazaki ensured that his female characters weren’t portrayed like this. And as a result, we ended up receiving the awesome females from Studio Ghibli movies that we all know and love today!
One of the great things about Studio Ghibli’s female characters is that they’re realistic representations. They all have their own flaws, but they also have their good traits too. They’re shown to be equal to men – they can be leaders, war heroes, protagonists, villains, mothers… they can be whatever they want to be. These female characters don’t follow gender norms if they don’t want to and aren’t pigeon-holed into just being one thing throughout the entire film. The characters are shown in more mundane moments and shown interacting with different people – they aren’t flat characters who are there for only one purpose. They have depth and dimension to them, they have their own purpose.
It’s also incredible how these women are presented as equals to men, and the men don’t even blink an eye at that. Some of the male characters (like in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) work under female characters and instead of complaining about how they think that women are incompetent or shouldn’t be in a position of authority, these male characters respect their leaders. Which on the flip side of feminism (is it the flip side though? More just the side that people forget about… Feminism is more about gender equality if anything, so yeah), the men in Studio Ghibli films are shown to have their vulnerable moments and can be sensitive characters. They don’t all conform to society’s typical definition of masculinity. Take a character like Ashitaka for example. He’s a lot more calm and diplomatic than San is, who is pretty blunt and forceful. While in most other films their personalities would have been reversed to fit with their typical gender roles…
So, finally getting to the list (I know, I can hear you all groaning over how long this is)! Here’s 6 Studio Ghibli films which have the theme of feminism woven very heavily into the their core.
- Princess Mononoke
Where does one even begin with this film regarding feminism? The female characters in this film are forces to be reckoned with – they’re strong, independent and fight for what they believe in. I actually wrote a while back (as in my 4th ever post) about this movie and covered off on all most of what I say about the very strong theme of feminism throughout it and why the females are so admirable. So if you’re interested, here’s where I talk about it: https://thespookyredhead.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/13-reasons-why-you-should-watch-re-watch-and-then-watch-princess-mononoke-again/
- Kiki’s Delivery Service
Firstly, pretty much every single character in this film is female – so we’re naturally going to get a lot of awesome female characters. Kiki grows a lot throughout the film and she’s an independent young girl. She’s also the who also ends up saving the day (and in this movie, the damsel in distress is actually a boy). There’s also Ursula who has one of the best attitudes and gives the best advice to boot. There’s also Osono who practically takes Kiki under her wing to care for her and look out for her, despite having a lot of stuff going on in her own life at the time.
- Spirited Away
Chihiro is arguably the most realistic representation of a young girl in Studio Ghibli films. One of Miyazaki’s big things about this film was that he thought it was necessary to have a movie where the hero was an ordinary girl. Chihiro doesn’t have any special abilities or advanced skills. She doesn’t have some tragic backstory or fantastical ambitions. She’s just a normal 10 year old girl. But Chihiro proves that she is a very capable and meets all the challenges she’s faced with throughout this film.
- Howl’s Moving Castle
Sophie is an interesting character because she’s pretty much the only one who’s very insecure. She’s insecure about her personality and about her looks, but she learns to have more confidence in herself. She’s the crux of this story and without her I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that the entire castle pretty much would fall apart (honestly, that castle and its inhabitants were a mess before she arrived). She’s witty, compassionate and doesn’t need any man to save her. Sophie breaks her curse all by herself and while she’s at it – she indirectly stops a war, lifts Howl’s and Calcifer’s curse, gives Markl a a mother figure, cares for the Witch of the Waste, lifts Turniphead’s curse and takes in a dog.
Nausicaa is an environmentalist, a leader and a peacekeeper. She’s brave and adventurous, open-minded and curious. She’s the one who explores the toxic jungle and defends her village. She’a also a very empathic character – being one of the only characters who can understand different people’s, and creatures’, points of view. In addition, Nausicaa is shown to be a big team player, a believer in working together and despite being a princess, she treats the villagers as her equals.
- Pretty much every single goddamn movie
We have Theo from Porco Rosso who is a mechanic and doesn’t put up with anyone’s rubbish. We have Taeko from Only Yesterday who has the opposite lifestyle of what is expected from a late-twenties woman living in Japan. We have Sheeta from Laputa who’s very shy and quiet, but proves herself to be just as capable as a badass female pirate captain. We have the mothers from Ponyo – Lisa who is a very realistic and strong character and Granmamare who is a literal goddess. We have a brave and curious Arietty. And we have Umi from Up On Poppy Hill who pretty much makes everything happen in that film.
Studio Ghibli gives us some wonderful female characters with many admirable traits – the most being that they are realistic representations of women in our world. They are capable women and in each of their respective films, they prove that over and over again.