My Mild Critical Analysis of Moana

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I finally watched Moana. I’ve been singing “How Far I’ll Go” to Nenive ever since. I had a few thoughts about Disney’s latest and greatest…

While a headstrong girl seizing control of her own destiny is hardly a unique concept of late, in this narrative Moana also restores Te Fiti/Te Kā, the Mad Woman in the Attic, bipolar and dangerous due to the loss of her heart (identity stolen by a patriarchal figure) and saves Maui from his island imprisonment and dismal self-esteem. Maui, a demigod like Hercules, is an endearing character even without admitting his flaws and looking after Moana. I especially like his weapon of choice, the massive hook, since I’m currently finishing the Red Rising series with the weapon and symbol of the slingBlade.

The movie’s biggest issue was Moana’s problematic relationship with her parents. Her parents were straightforward people and nice enough, yet her father was so unsupportive of her dream as to be emotionally abusive. Moana doubted herself after the ocean befriended and chose her for a mission, thinking it a dream, probably at the encouragement of her pragmatic parents. Knowing when to believe a child’s account or act on a child’s belief about himself is difficult, but this reminded me of the account of the prophet Samuel’s calling. Thinking Eli called him, he kept responding to see what Eli wanted. Finally Eli realized God was calling Samuel and helped the child know how to answer and what steps to take afterward. I couldn’t help but wonder how Moana’s story would have been different with a more supportive father. He would have helped train and prepare her, and maybe the islanders and the spirit Te Fiti would have endured less suffering. Instead, Moana found a father figure in Maui, who taught her how to navigate and sail (wayfind).

The best part of the movie was the playful, dolphin-like personality of the ocean, and Moana’s faith that could move mountains (literally). I appreciate devout characters in any narrative and had a lot of respect for Moana acting on her beliefs by seeking out Maui to return the ring to Mordor heart to Te Fiti, when it seemed the rest of her village was skeptical.

A final high point: the Mad Max coconut pygmies and the way they were toppled from their ships like the Ben-Hur model ship and toy figures.

The banner photo by me and the sunset photo by Austin English were taken during the same 2010 trip to Western Samoa.

One thought on “My Mild Critical Analysis of Moana

  1. Wow, what a thoughtful analysis. I have not seen the movie, but my girls (17 and 14) have and love it. After reading your analysis, I’m now very interested in watching it! Thank you.

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