Moana. Another Disney movie that people probably underestimated. Yes, I’ll admit I had my doubts about it when I first saw the previews. It’s always a big deal when Disney decides to make a movie starring people of color. Sure, you probably rolled your eyes just now and thought, “But there’s a black Disney princess now.” Yes. There. Is. And she only spent 20 or so minutes as a human before she was turned into a frog. Imagine my disappointment. You could choke on it.
After all of that fuckery with Princess and the Frog, I was expecting Disney to pull some similar bullshit with Moana when I took my little black ass to see it in theaters. I was not disappointed. It far exceeded my expectations. I cried like a little bitch at least three times. The timing of the film? Perfect. The characters? Hilarious, dynamic, round. The music? Fabulous, though there should never be any doubt that a Disney movie will have an excellent soundtrack given the huge investment that Disney makes in its musicians and composers.
Now, I have seen it at least 20 times and notice new details every time I watch it. One thing that I appreciate about Moana is that it is about friendship and family and there is no love story at all. Usually, I’d be rather pissy if I saw a Disney movie that had no love story, but the fullness of this storyline forced me to love it the way it was. I was pointing out to my sister the other day, due to the way Maui relates his backstory of being abandoned by his parents and forever after doing a bunch of shit to earn the affection of some ungrateful ass humans, Maui has never had a real friend before. He interacts with the little tattooed version of himself on his own chest. Yes, I know he’s also been stranded on an island for 1,000 years before Moana shows up to help him save the world, but he has never felt wanted or loved by humans before. It was heartwarming to watch the progression of his friendship with Moana as he grew to respect her as a person, a friend, a sailor, and a heroine.
Another thing that totally turned me into a puddle of tears was the moment that Moana’s mother caught Moana about to run away to go find Maui. Moana’s mother is the one who reveals Moana’s father’s reasons for being so adamant that Moana never go past the reef. During that conversation, she becomes the mouthpiece for a husband who, apparently is incapable of explaining why Moana’s wanting to sail makes him so angry. Even still, Moana’s mother tells the story of how her husband lost his best friend when they went beyond the reef to drowning. There is no judgement in her tone and it is hard to say whether she is supporting Moana’s free spirited ways or whether she thinks her daughter should just do as her father says. With all of this build up, the moment Moana’s mother discovers Moana packing to run off, we see her make a decision to help her daughter and support her dream and her destiny. Though we get no back story on Moana’s mother, there is the vibe that she essentially acts as a support system for the family and a buffer between Moana and her father, who are both headstrong and stubborn. Watching Moana and her father interact looks kind of like watching two dry rocks rub together. Nothing but friction and fire.
Moana’s mother’s actions say to me that you should chase your dreams despite all of the resistance, even when it is your own family that is resisting you, more specifically in this movie, Moana’s father, who, when you really think about it, is only against Moana going past the reef because he doesn’t want her to die. I think that might almost be a legitimate excuse for being an obnoxiously overbearing and controlling parent. “You are my daughter. I don’t want you to drown to death,” would’ve been a much better way of keeping her under this thumb though. Just saying. I can’t end this post without talking about how fucking fabulous Moana’s grandmother is. If Moana’s mother is a buffer/ally to Moana and her father, then Moana’s grandmother is an antagonist to her son (Moana’s father) and a true ally to Moana. Labeling herself the “village crazy lady”, we learn that she is the only one willing to tell Moana the real truth about the ancestors of their people. That history is entwined with Moana’s own desire to sail the open seas and her destiny to make the waters safe to sail again to bring voyaging back to her people by returning the heart of Te Fiti.