Friday, December 1, 2017


This latest Disney release has grown on me the more I have watched it. At the first viewing I wasn’t very impressed, the themes of demi-gods, and reincarnation didn’t sit very well. But upon more viewing and reflection, I’ve realised it has some good things to offer.

Daughter of the Polynesian village chief, Moana, is destined to lead her people one day and that is what she is being raised to do. The villagers have become used to being on their island and never venture out beyond the reef, yet Moana feels the ocean call her to explore it. She struggles with her desire to discover new places, yet knows she is to fulfil the role she has to stay and lead her people. Encouraged by her elderly grandmother, she is slowly told the real story of her people and how they used to be explorers and travelers but that fear now prevents them continuing that tradition.

When dangers start to threaten the island (through the long reaching tentacles of the lava demon Te Ka), Moana knows she must travel beyond the reef to find the demigod Maui and make him restore the stolen heart of Te Fiti.

The music is pretty catchy, I do find myself humming along, probably because our very kind piano teacher has provided our girls with some of the sheet music.

Some of the positive elements in this movie:

  • Moana has a more realistic girl body than we’ve seen for a while in a Disney movie. Her clothes cover her body appropriately, her proportions are more like an actual, normal girl. With the exception, of course, of the crazy large Disney eyes.
  • Moana doesn’t need to be rescued. Of course, this is an emerging theme over the last 10 years with Disney women, especially with Tangled and Frozen 
  • There is absolutely no love interest at all. Moana is out to save her people and her island, and she co-opts Maui to help her. Boys and romance don’t even enter the equation. It’s a refreshing change.
  • She has loving, caring parents who want what is best for her and their people. Parents have not had a good rap or much presence in Disney movies with most heroines being orphans (Frozen), with evil step parents (Cinderella) or removed from parents (Tangled)
  • She knows she has a responsibility as the daughter of the village chief (“not a princess!” she claims). While she wants to explore, she acknowledges her responsibilities. Yet, once her people really are threatened, she acts in their best interests.

Moana has a lot of character traits which are admirable and we would be happy for our children to imitate.

As I pondered some the themes more, it was good to be able to talk about the ideas of demi-gods. The song “You’re welcome” by Maui is a good chance to talk about “Do we actually thank God for everything he has given us in creation and our lives?” The ideas of worshipping numerous gods and creation is a good conversation point for understanding other cultures. The concept of reincarnation and the sea being a living, active entity are all things that make kids think and if you are willing to interact with it, can be interesting conversation points.

One other major thought I had after this latest Princess movie was – has Disney gone too far? Where are the boy heroes now? They’ve essentially done away with the prince as rescuer (probably a good thing), the father as wise guide (there’s something we could have back), and any men get relegated to fun sidekick following the capable women (think Kristoff in Frozen, Flynn Rider in Tangled and now Maui). I mentioned this to my kids and Mr 14 agreed wholeheartedly, but Miss 12 and Miss 10 still thought most superheroes were men so it was fair. We might have to explore that whole idea another time!

1 comment:

Tamie said...

I'm with the girls! With so few kids' films and shows passing the Bechdel test (or adult ones for that matter), we're in no danger of writing out men from entertainment. On the other hand, we barely flicker an eyelid when we have films with no women, or where women are superficial foils for men's heroism, because this is the norm.