movies

Why Disney’s Moana is our new favourite role model.

Disney's Moana
Thanks to our brand partner, Disney's Moana

Growing up as a young girl in the ’90s, to say that Disney movies were part of my childhood would be a vast understatement. Disney movies were my childhood.

Whether it was Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin, there was very little no suspicion about what would be playing on repeat in my VHS player every day after school or over the weekend.

"Disney movies were my childhood." Image: Giphy.com

As a now 27-year-old, I’d seen ads for Disney’s latest movie Moana, and I was immediately struck by something. Something different. Looking into Moana’s eyes she looked strong, confident and sure of herself. She looked at me with a smirk on her face and an oar across her shoulders. I wondered to myself, what did she know that I didn’t?

Moana sat at the front of the scene, not at the back. She demanded my attention and I immediately wanted to know more about her. She was so striking that I barely noticed a large man to her side with his arms crossed in front holding a hook.

That’s why when I was given the chance to go the cinema and watch the movie for myself, I was busting to go. There we sat, myself, my mum, my sister and my niece. Three generations of women all with their boxes of popcorn waiting patiently to see the same movie.

We were introduced to Moana’s grandmother, Gramma Tala, who told a tale of Te Fiti, an island goddess who gave out the force of life from her highly coveted heart.

That’s when it was stolen by a demigod named Maui and the island of Te Fiti began to crumble. Gramma Tala tells of a person who will be chosen to journey beyond the reef, find Maui and sail with him across the ocean and to restore the heart to save the people of the island.

At this point we are introduced to Moana, who even as a young child burst with life, laughter and exuberance.

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Even as a child, Moana is bursting with life, laughter and exuberance. Image: Disney.

As Moana grows she feels conflicted, being told by her father Chief Tui that she will one day be the leader of the people of the island and must learn to keep her feet planted on the ground. Moana longs to venture past the reef and find herself on the encouragement of Gramma Tala.

As I continued to watch the movie, I found myself becoming more and more invested in Moana. I was taken aback by her character because she wasn’t looking for a prince to come and sweep her off her feet. She didn’t need someone to come along and save her from her wicked step mother and ugly step sisters.

Moana longed for something else. All she wanted was to find herself. She commanded her own story and the people around her. She was a leader without being ‘bossy’ and she expressed her feelings clearly without being ‘emotional’.

When Moana first encountered Maui and their journey to restore the heart of Te Fiti progressed, it was Moana who picked him up and made him believe in himself. This was despite Maui being an all-powerful demigod who could transform into any animal with the power of his hook. Moana, a mere mortal, was able to instill him with strength and belief.

That’s exactly where Moana’s power comes from. She knows what she wants and goes for it but she doesn’t leave anyone behind along the way, not even a dim-witted chicken.

She won’t take no for an answer when it comes to her biggest journey, finding herself. While Moana is tasked with saving the people of her island, her biggest hurdle is finding out who she really is.

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"I found myself becoming more and more invested in Moana." Image: Disney.

Moana is the sort of movie role model so many of us could’ve done with while growing up. If there’s one thing that really sets Moana apart from all other characters it’s that she isn’t a princess.

Moana even tells Maui herself that she is the daughter of a village chief and not a princess when he tries to label her as one. She tells Maui she wants to be a way finder on the sea, to be able to learn to voyage herself and steer her own path.

And really, isn’t that what we as women are all trying to do? We don’t dream of being princesses in towers, we dream of being strong independent women who can forge their own path. We want to learn what makes us yearn, what we want to do with our lives and plan how we’re going to get there. We’re all voyagers of our own destiny which is why there is a little bit of Moana in all of us.

When Moana finally restores the heart of Te Fiti with the help of Maui, she asks him to return to her island with her, telling him her people will need a master way finder. To this, Maui simply replies: ‘they already have one’.

Moana is a reminder that we as women get to choose our own path and sometimes it’s as simple as looking inside and believing in ourselves. She is a strong and independent leader who isn’t just a role model for the next generation of young girls. She’s a reminder for all of us - young, old and everything and anything in between - that we choose our own path and we are the masters of our own future.

So tomorrow, the first thing I’m going to do when I get into work is stick a picture of Moana on my laptop. There she will sit as a daily reminder that no matter what it is we want, no matter how tall the mountain or how far the voyage, we don’t need anything but ourselves to get there because we can make it there on our own raft.

Why do you want to see Moana?

This post was written thanks to our brand partner Disney Moana.