We need to talk about Disney’s latest heroine.
What are they thinking? First, we get an ice queen who rules on her own and refuses to be emotionally repressed. Elsa should be swilling merlot in her sweatpants like other unattached women of a certain age.
But Moana…come on, Disney.
Sure she’s pretty. She has beautiful dark skin and curly hair. Her body type is slim but strong, feminine but just so….healthy. She looks agile and competent, like someone who can do anything—but her feet would definitely not fit in a ridiculously small glass slipper. (See my helpfully annotated visual aide.)
Also, the role models in this movie are problematic. All Moana’s mentor figures are female, for one thing. What kind of quest is this without a bearded old man giving her clues how to find
the ring the sword the heart of the island goddess? What is this? The women’s march?
Her mother obviously loves and supports Moana’s father, but even she ignores her husband’s wishes and secretly helps Moana, just because the fate of the island is at stake.
Then there’s Moana’s grandmother, Tala. Also deceptive. She seems a wise old guide, then she ruins it by dancing like it’s New Age night at the rest home:
And just look at that tattoo. Freaking hippie.
There is also no love interest in this story. How is she supposed to sail all the way to the far island without a romantic interest to help her? Just this guy, who she has to nag into helping her:
What a shrew.
(It’s of particular note that Maui, the demigod she browbeats into helping her, has lost his giant fishhook, the source of his power. This is a clear metaphor for how the goal of feminism is the emasculation of all men.)
Moana sets off on her quest, past dangers she’s not really prepared to handle. Her success lies not in being a superhero, or a chosen one, or even the best witch at Hogwarts, but rather resilience and determination. That’s something she has in common with previous Disney heroines—rarely do they have a magic ring or sword that will save the day. The deciding factor is something internal—her heart, or spirit, or cleverness.
With examples like this, girls are going to start thinking they can accomplish anything as long as they try hard enough. That no matter how small they feel, they can do great things with persistence and maybe some allies.
This trend in books and movies of clever and brave heroines with agency in their own stories is a real problem for people who prefer the good old days when a woman kept house until she fell in love with a handsome prince and got married. Now she goes out after the thing she wants, and maybe she meets an ally who happens to be a handsome rogue or a gallant knight, or maybe she doesn’t. The one thing that’s certain is that there will come a point in her story where all seems lost, but nevertheless…she’ll persist.
Heck, yeah, feminist agenda.