At Christmas time I loaded the girls up in the car and took them to the theater to see Moana. We tend to see most Disney movies in the theater and we add a girls day of it. It was so good we went back later in the week with Big Daddy. The story, really, has everything. Humor. Bravery. Dispair. Triumph. The animation is beautiful. The soundtrack is wonderful. The acting and casting superb.
But my favorite part is the strong feminist message sent by the movie. Yes, I really do believe that Moana is a gorgeous, subtle, truly feminist production.
Moana is the daughter of the chief and she will be chief in his stead. There is no talk of her marrying to rule. She’s not a princess. She will be the unqualified leader of her people. A chief. Period. I love the representation that not only do Moana’s people accept her and honor her as their future leader, but it just is. She will lead. No asterisk or qualifications. And her family prepares her for this in totality.
There is absolutely no love interest in this movie. There is no romantic connection between Moana and Maui. They are uneasy adversaries and then friends with each of them proving equally valuable to the other on their journey. Maui may be a demigod but Moana is powerful in her own right.
Moana begins her adventure with a mantra of finding Maui, sailing him to Tafiti where he will return the heart. After a disastrous first battle, Maui abandons the mission leaving Moana alone. She is visited by the spirit of her Grandmother who reminds her that she was the one that delivered herself across the sea to save her people. And the end of the repraise of the Oscar nominated “How Far I’ll Go”, Moana proudly declares “I am Moana!” finding power and pride in her own accomplishments. It’s a very powerful moment in the movie when Moana realizes that she is not only capable of returning the heart of Tafiti herself but that her strength is enough. Moana defeats Te Ka by facing her bravely, with love, after battling her fiercely to return the heart. She is victorious in her own strength and leads her people to voyage again, not stifled by fear.