Every girl has that one friend or acquaintance she wishes she could look like. That girl always seems effortlessly put together, her skin luminous, her hair perfectly tousled, her movie star teeth hidden beneath her perfect pout. Too bad she’s too nice to hate completely. Growing up watching Disney movies and reading fairy tales, I couldn’t help but think that the prettiest girl always gets the prince. Ever notice how all the other characters in those movies are hideously unattractive? Of course we’re going to notice the heroine if she looks a hundred times better than all the other characters. As much as I loved all those movies, and as I grew up all the chick flicks with the beautiful protagonist, I’ve realized something that the characters I am always most attracted to are the smart girls. Sure they’re pretty, but their beauty is humble and not showy and glows from within because of their spunky personality, smarts and confidence.
My favorite Disney character has always been Belle fromBeauty and the Beast. Although her name means beauty, her character is so much more. I used to dance around to the soundtrack and pick up books from our bookshelf pretending I’m Belle in the library picking out her next read. I loved that she read when she walked down the street, bumping into people as she passed. Her love of literature made her especially appealing to me. Belle was also the least shallow of all the Disney heroines. She fell in love with a beast for gosh sake! Her depth allowed her to see past the beast’s outer appearance and love him for his heart.
My other favorite female characters in literature were go-getters who didn’t wait around for a guy, but went after their dreams and spoke their mind, even if it was “un-ladylike” to do so. Jo March in Little Women loved to write novels more than attend frivolous parties and envied Teddy, who could afford to go to college. She eventually published her novel, something practically unheard of for a woman in her time! Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables was not only the smartest girl in her class, but the smartest student, period. Anne read so much that the worst punishment to her was to have her books thrown in the fire. She eventually won a prestigious scholarship, went to college and became a tutor at a fancy boarding school for girls. But her proudest achievement was getting her novel published, just like Jo. Although Elizabeth Bennet, my favorite heroine in literature, never received a proper education in Pride and Prejudice, her wit and spunk gave her an appeal that none of her sisters possessed. Like the other characters mentioned above, Elizabeth loved reading and good conversation, and didn’t care about meeting new men, parties and other frivolities like her younger sisters. Love came her way when she was least looking for it. In fact, that is the case with all the women I mentioned.
My sister who is going to school for dietetics and nutrition and is getting straight A’s recently remarked that she felt surprised at a party she attended over the weekend, that the guys seemed especially impressed by her smarts. Who would have thought that brains would actually trump beauty at a party? Not that my sis isn’t beautiful, but that wasn’t all that the boys were attracted to that night. They were asking her whether or not she’s planning on going to med school and asking her questions about what she has learned. She was the one they all wanted to talk to and about. This really just shows you, beauty can only take you so far. Beauty might be what initially attracts people, but brains are what keep them interested. The girl that spends all her time grooming herself and waiting for her prince charming, is not only going to lead a dull and shallow life, but by the time her prince charming actually comes along, he might not even want her or may not be the catch she could have gotten, if she had actually cared about more than just attracting a man. I believe that true love can come along when you least expect it or even want it. Look at Mr. Darcy and Gilbert Blythe. The women they pursued for ages not only weren’t interested initially, they actually despised them before they fell in love. But these men knew what catches these women were, and didn’t stop pursuing them till they won their hearts.
So what did we learn from all this? Smart girls rule. Yep, you heard it. Life shouldn’t be about looking pretty and attracting shallow men. To live is to pursue your dreams, to go on adventures, to learn about the rich history of our world and blow all our money on trips to see it. That is what Belle, Anne, Jo and Elizabeth would do. These women were low maintenance and embraced it. Girls, it’s cool to be smart—nerdy even! So bring on the books and reading glasses! Live life and let love follow. It’s the cool thing to do.
You can read more from Addi Black on her blog.