These 17 Kids' Movies Were Actually So Progressive

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I don't know about you, but growing up, a lot of my worldview was shaped by movies. Lady & the Tramp taught me about true love, The Lion King taught me to stay away from elephant graveyards — all equally important progressive lessons. In fact, movies taught me a lot of pretty good lessons when I was a kid. Looking back, I think you'll agree, these 17 movies from your childhood were super progressive, more than you might have ever realized.

Now, when I say a movie is progressive, I don't mean that it has overtly liberal themes or that it campaigned for Bernie Sanders. Progressive movies from childhood are really just movies that planted the seeds for progressive thoughts and ideals. For example, Mulan helped advance the idea that women are equal to men without actually ramming it down our throats (unless, of course, you are Mike Pence). Now, without getting into the whole history of the Progressive movement, let's just agree that in terms of films, progressive just means advancing the ideas of equality across races and genders, advocating for the environment and peace, and exposing audiences to other cultures and social norms. At the end of the day, I'm not sure there's anything more progressive than being willing to listen to others, to extend an understanding, and that's something all these movies allow us to do.



Mulan is probably one of the most effective childhood movies about the need for gender equality, a major pillar of progressive thought.

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'The Color Of Friendship'

Who can forget this Disney Channel Original Movie about two women who learn to look beyond stereotypes?

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'Remember The Titans'

Another Disney movie about race relations, Remember the Titans continues to be one of the most thoughtful kids movies about race in America.

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'Fly Away Home'

Because what's more progressive than going above and beyond to save little baby geese?

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The idea of letting children be children and encouraging young girls to read might sound pretty universal, but there are still places in the world where women's education is still pretty damn progressive.

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'Sister Act'

Sister Act doesn't take itself too seriously, which is probably why its message of inclusion and understanding is so effective.

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Pocahontas is focused on the very simple progressive notion that you shouldn't judge people because of their race and that war is never the answer.

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'A League of Their Own'

A League of Their Own is special because it's not necessarily proving that one gender (women) is better than the other (men), but it's showing that women can do the same things men can, just in their own way.

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'FernGully: The Last Rainforest'

FernGully has one of the most obvious environmental messages of all animated films. It's also pretty hilarious and terrifying.

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'Erin Brockovich'

Erin Brockovich wasn't exactly a kids film, but when it was released in 2000, you can bet there were a lot of preteens flocking to the theaters to see a woman take up a huge corporation to expose corruption (Bernie would be proud.)

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'The Iron Giant'

The Iron Giant might look like a movie about a young boy who befriends a giant robot, but it also has a pretty strong anti-gun and anti-weapon message.

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'Mary Poppins'

Gotta love how Mary Poppins sneaks in a whole number about getting women the right to vote. #Preach

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Sure, Hardball suffers from the all too common white savior trope, but it also taught a lot of young children in the early 2000s about social and economic inequality. (It also made us all cry. RIP G-Baby.)

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'Harriet The Spy'

It's strange to say that a coming-of-age story about a young girl obsessed with other people is progressive, and yet here we are. What I love about Harriet the Spy is that it both embraces the stereotype of girls being nosy and dramatic while also proving it wrong.

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'High School Musical'

High School Musical is all about self-acceptance, a pretty Progressive value if you ask me, but it doesn't get enough credit for featuring a prominent interracial couple at its center without mentioning race at all.

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Kissin' Kate Barlow in Holes is a super progressive character: she defies a racist culture to date Sam and then becomes a murdering, robbing badass with her very own gang of bandits. I love her.

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Finally, Hoot, featuring a young Brie Larson, is either a coming-of-age story disguised as a piece of animal activist art, or animal activism disguised as a story of a preteen. I can't tell which.

Some might accuse these films as having a liberal or leftist agenda, but, hey, just because they put progressive ideas out there doesn't mean you actually have to listen to them.

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