Story by Zakiya Austin
On November 23, 2016, the newest Disney princess Moana made a splash all over the world with her persistence and charm.
Moana is a movie about a Polynesian girl who had always been attracted to the water. As a little girl, Moana, voiced by Auli’i Cravalho, was chosen by the sea to break the curse that plagued her people and bring them back to the former glory of their hidden history. To accomplish such a feat, she had to recruit the bringer of the curse: the demi-god Maui. Maui, voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, brought ill-will to the people by stealing the heart of Te Fiti, the goddess of the islands, which began the release of the darkness, a power that destroyed everything in its path.
The quest wouldn’t be an easy one. Trials had to be encountered and risks had to be taken in order for Moana to fulfill her destiny as the chosen one of the sea. Per Chief Tui, Moana’s father, no one was ever to go outside of the reef. It was thought to be unsafe due to previous incidents with rough water, strong winds, and water beasts.
In addition to this, Moana had never learned how to sail as it was thought to be unnecessary; no one was allowed beyond the reef anyway. She needed to get on a boat she didn’t know how to sail, brave the harsh waters, pirates, and various beasts of the sea, find a demi-god who was very determined to leave her behind and defeat a lava monster that guarded the island in order to return the heart of Te Fiti and restore the safety and prosperity back to her island or her people would be doomed.
Go on, Moana; no pressure.
It took courage, endurance, the help of the sea, and a whole lot of winging it to get Moana to Maui. After a break-down on the boat and the encouraging hand of a grandmother reincarnated as a giant glowing manta ray to get her and Maui on track to completing the mission. Along with a moody demi-god and her trusty chicken sidekick, Moana braved the high seas.
This movie is not only important because of Moana’s heroism and courage. Moana introduces another princess of color for young girls with Polynesian or other Island ancestry. Representation matters at a young age, and for Disney to come out with princesses of all shapes, all colors, with wide hips, broad noses, curly hair and wide eyes, it really reaches a new audience and teaches young girls that they can be special too.
Moana is also an important film as it showcases culture on a level that other children’s films have not yet reached. With the clothes they wear, their hairstyles, their interaction with each other and the beliefs they cherish, it gives a new dimension to an otherwise ignored culture and actually teaches something other than “be nice to people.”
There was brief controversy over the movie when it first debuted over the portrayal of Moana as a Polynesian princess when some of the most important elements of the Polynesian culture were missing and filled in with more general island cultural practices. Also, the portrayal of Maui as a comic figure was hotly debated. On some Polynesian islands, Maui is considered so sacred, images of him are forbidden. His intellect is one of the most important attributes of his divinity and in a sense, they dumbed him down to make him funnier. There was also the fear that this film would perpetuate stereotypes of Island communities and basically undermine the progress that Disney made by putting this movie out.
Most of the controversy, however, died down once the movie came out. The fears of stereotypical behavior were struck down once Disney showed it’s obvious respect for the people. The film was a beautiful display of unity among a people and reverence for the culture, especially the strength of women.
Overall, Moana was a movie that everyone could benefit from seeing. It is made by Disney and s rated PG, but the movie is good for more than just entertaining children. Catch Moana in a theater near you for an educational and entertaining experience.