I saw Moana about a week ago now at the cinema, and tonight I found myself listening to Disney songs. A Moana track came on and it reminded me just how great this film actually was. It’s not had as much publicity or gained as much traction as the likes of a film like Frozen, but that doesn’t mean this Disney princess doesn’t live up to the feats of her predecessors. So, in case you’re in any doubt, here are five reasons we should all be watching Moana and listening to the many important messages it portrays…
1. BODY IMAGE
Sure, she’s another slim and pretty young girl, but compared with princesses past, she has much more realistic proportions, with slightly chunkier arms and legs, for example. In other words, she doesn’t look like you could break her by simply pushing her over too hard – and that’s not even mentioning her unruly and natural hair, that actually goes flat and drips when it gets wet. She’s the image of a normal, real-life girl, and yet she is also one of the bravest and most beloved young women in her whole community without a reference to her appearance in the slightest. She doesn’t need to look a certain way to gain validation. She’s just herself, and that’s good enough.
2. HER DETERMINATION TO FOLLOW HER DREAMS
Moana may be slightly naive and misguided, but she is certainly not stupid, and she understands why she has to stay on her island when all she really wants is to explore the ocean. She’s mature in this sense and her conflict of emotions is completely relatable as she wrestles with her will to go out and save the island, and staying to fulfill her role as a new chief. And yet she eventually goes with the former, knowing that if she didn’t at least try, she and her people would end up regretting it.
3. HER FEISTINESS
Despite being respectful towards her parents, Moana takes no shit from anyone. She knows her place and she knows her value, relatively unfazed by Maui’s attempts to impress her when she finds him on her journey. Despite her natural insecurities at times, she ultimately knows what she can do, and yet she’s still willing to ask for help when she needs it as well in order to get where she needs to be. This is a sure sign of someone in control of her own destiny, someone we can look up to.
4. NO ROMANTIC COUNTERPART
On a similar vein to her inner strength and ambition, Moana does not have a romantic counterpart that she can share a big romantic kiss and wedding with at the end, and while I’m a sucker for a good love story, this is actually refreshing to see. Instead of a gorgeous prince, she’s lumbered with a self-absorbed demi-god, but the thing is, she doesn’t even need a prince because she’s awesome enough in her own right, and boys are clearly the last thing on her mind as she opts for high-intensity adventure on the open seas instead.
5. THE EMOTION AND EXPLORATION OF SOCIAL ANXIETIES
This film did an incredible job of capturing the various emotions and personal issues its characters are going through. Moana is brave and focussed, but we’re reminded throughout that at the end of the day she is still young and vulnerable and not immune to fear. Similarly, the way Maui’s cockiness is really masking his insecurity is just purely touching, and when Moana eventually brings this out of him, he becomes a better person for it. It shows that everyone, even arrogant jerks, can be respected and understood and loved by somebody, without the need to hide behind a mask.
Moana is truly an inspirational film that shows bounds in how far Disney have come in changing with society since the days when the likes of poor old Snow White and Sleeping Beauty were relevant. It’s a great symbol of modern feminism, but also just an all-round fun action-adventure story with a hint of fantasy at its core – and who doesn’t love a bit of that?