If someone asks me what my favorite Disney movie is, I will always, always say Mulan (The first one, never the sequel). It’s partly because of Mushu, but mostly because of Mulan, the strong female character who saved China. Recently, I watched Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which has a unexpectedly strong female character, Helga (And yes, I realize that this movie came out years ago, but I only watched it last week). Helga isn’t the heroine; in fact, she’s one of the bad guys. She only wants the money, and will stop at nothing to get it, which is one of the quintessential qualities of a villain; however, this isn’t entirely a bad thing. She’s driven to get what she wants, which is something we try to be; maybe don’t destroy an entire civilization while you’re at it, but to each her own.

The first time you see Helga, she’s the mysterious blonde woman in the red dress who takes the hero to see someone important. You think that’s her only role, but nope, she’s actually one of the heads of the expedition and she can fight her way out of most situations. The point is, she’s both—the womanly woman with the dress and the hair, and also the strong woman who fights and leads. She’s not just one—not just the tomboy or the girly girl—she’s both. This realistic portrayal of a woman in this movie really appealed to me.

The other thing about Helga is that she’s a lieutenant. This probably isn’t very historically accurate for a woman in the early 1900s, but I appreciate that Disney made a woman lieutenant. As lieutenant, she knows what she’s doing, and she knows how to get people to listen to her, which is nice to see considering that doesn’t even happen everywhere today. Even when she’s betrayed, she makes sure she gets her revenge. I’m not saying that we should all be like her, because forgiveness is important too, but there are some moments where you just have to be like her. You have to be that strong woman who won’t take no for an answer, fights her way to the top, and say, “Yeah, I’m strong.”