Exploring within in “Moana”


“Moana” follows the chief’s daughter in her quest to find Maui, the stolen heart of her crumbling island, and her own true destiny. (Photo Credit: Disney via DwayneJohnson/Twitter)

Warning: possible spoilers ahead!

As Moana tells Maui, a demigod of nearly all creation of land and sea, she is not a princess. As the daughter of her island village’s chief, Moana is a young woman who will someday assume her father’s position as a decision-maker and figure of wisdom. When she chooses to adorn herself in the feathered headpiece and robes of a chief, she will place her own stone upon a stack resting at the island’s highest point.

While Disney has, a few times before, portrayed young women as possessing roles other than that of a princess, Moana is a fresh example of what a girl can aspire to be. Moana is proud of her rich heritage and aspires to hold up the position of village chief. She is respected by the others on her island through her clear-headed goals and advice. However, Moana dreams to explore what lies beyond the reef surrounding her island. While her father insists that she can find happiness where she currently lives, Moana craves something more. After discovering that the village’s ancestors were brave voyagers who sailed across the world in search of new land, Moana is determined to solve the current plight of her island: a task that requires her to sail as those before her did. A complete lack of fish in the surrounding reef drives Moana to find Maui and restore the stolen “heart” of the island, a small stone given to Moana by the sea itself, therefore restoring it of its once lush trees and abundant fish.

Although the story of “Moana” may reflect some other familiar Disney films, such as Frozen, Moana is a character of her own. She stands up for herself and her ideas, even when her father and mother try to convince her that some dreams aren’t worth pursuing. Moana continues toward her island to return its heart even when Maui abandons her and tries to convince her to quit, leaving her to face Te Ka, a monster composed of fire who guards the crumbling island, alone. It is Moana who realizes that it is Te Ka who can receive the heart, so even when Maui returns to save her, Moana ultimately transforms the blackened and smoldering island to a green and beautiful one.

The story follows Moana as she develops from an infant into a courageous and determined young woman who acts as her own hero. While she stands as a role model of young girls fostering their own ambitious dreams, Moana represents an adolescent young woman who questions how she can balance her love for the ocean and exploring with her responsibility as the upcoming chief of her village.

Along with her exploration of her island’s culture and the vast ocean before her, Moana comes to look within herself and finds a strength and a destiny that she never knew she possessed. With the help of her grandmother, who inspires Moana to believe in herself and to set sail for the first time, along with her inner desire to discover, Moana learns where her heart really lies. She risks her life and finally gets a chance to sail in an attempt to save her island’s dwindling food supply, and in doing so, also inspires her village to continue their tradition of exploring the world around them.

Besides beautiful animation and a soundtrack and score that will leave viewers humming for days, Moana brings to life the inner turmoil faced by many high school students. She must learn to find a balance between what she wants, which is both dangerous and frowned upon by those close to her, and what she feels she must do.
With finals looming, it is important for Mercy girls to remember to take time for themselves and to find the median between what is required and what is desired. Moana is the perfect way to relax and explore within this holiday season.