Make Way for Moana

written by Jamie Anderson
June 26th, 2017

I’ve seen Moana about four times…maybe five. Six? And oh. My. Gosh. I love it so much. Moana came out in 2016 and is the newest Disney Princess movie. But Moana is unlike any other Disney princess that has ever been on the screen.

Moana Is The Hero 

In most Disney movies (notable exceptions are Brave and Mulan and… kind of Frozen) the men save the day. Even if the female character(s) are badass and can handle themselves, the men usually push them out of the spotlight. This is called the Trinity Syndrome.

“The Dissolve” explains it like this: “For the ordinary dude to be triumphant, the Strong Female Character has to entirely disappear into Subservient Trophy Character mode. This is Trinity Syndrome à la The Matrix: the hugely capable woman who never once becomes as independent, significant, and exciting as she is in her introductory scene”.

But in Moana, she is the protagonist, and eventually the person who saves the world. (Spoilers) She is the one who puts back the heart of Te Fiti back, stopping the darkness.

Photo credit: Disney Wikia

Yeah, Maui helps, but he doesn’t save the world like he was originally supposed to. He helps. He’s the supporting character.

There is No Love Interest

Sure, love in a movie is cute and sometimes funny, but it’s in just about every Disney movie. Usually, it’s the only thing the female characters do. They fall in love. That is their purpose. Even Rapunzel, the lovable lead in Tangled falls in love during her life-changing adventured to find out who she is. But in Moana, there is no love interest. It’s never brought up. She doesn’t say love is bad or she doesn’t want to marry, it’s just not there. Instead, she has a fun, platonic relationship with Maui, almost like a sister-brother relationship.

Whoo! Independence!

Moana (and other characters) are Properly Proportioned and Animated

Disney Princesses are always thin. Skinny hips, bigger boobs, thigh gaps, you know what I’m talking about it. Skinny Minnies. But that isn’t realistic at all. That tradition changes in Moana: she looks like a teenage girl…because she is one! Thighs, hips, muscular arms. Her parents, who are older, had wrinkles and laugh lines. They had tattoos and piercings. They looked like people! Yay!

Moana is Not White

If you do some research, you know that a lot of the Disney stories originate from different places in the world, which is great. But there is not a lot of diversity, particularly in casting for the voice actors. Moana is the first Polynesian “princess.”

Photo credit: Disney

(Technically, daughter of the village chief. Anyways…) Disney is slowly expanding their stories to include and focus on women and girls of color. Shout out to Hawaiian-born, American actress Auli’i Cravalho who voices Moana. Hurray!

Lastly, Moana is Actually a Good Leader

The princesses that are born into it are never seen being taught how to lead. We just assume the man in their life is going to take over? Lame! In Moana, we see her being taught to lead. And she’s good at it. She accepts her role, too. She solves problems, saves her island (and the world), teaches everyone how to sail on the open ocean, thinks of her people, and is shown teaching children, saving animals, and helping others through pain. Do you see what I’m saying?

In conclusion, I love Moana. By far, she’s my favorite Disney Princess. If you haven’t seen it yet,  you have to.

Photo Credit below. Moana vs. Ariel. Featured photo from Google Photos.

Image result for Moana vs other princesses

Wonder Woman, Gamora, & Nebula: Redefining Female Roles in Action Films

written by Kelsey May
June 21, 2017

Crying during a movie’s climax is a pretty beautiful experience. You’ve been so moved by the film that you cry during the very moment the director worked hardest to convey emotionally. For me, Wonder Woman (2017) held a very special gift: a bad ass female lead. Diana was the strongest character in the film, able to throw tanks and jump the height of three stories. She was one of the only woman, a norm in action movies, but she was the best fighter. She was determined, unlike her Amazon family, to help mankind end the war. And with her kind heart, bravery, and fighting spirit, she did.

I grew up watching action films. It was always a point of pride that I loved the Matrix and Bourne trilogies, that I could quote lines from Ocean’s Eleven by age thirteen. I didn’t watch “chick flicks” (although they tend to be highly amusing); I watched The Italian Job and Taken, bonding with my step-dad over the adrenaline-pumping films. The women in these movies are often great fighters, but they aren’t the focus. Ever. They’re sidekicks, afterthoughts, supporting roles, comic relief. I never complained, mind you. I didn’t realize that women were missing until I was sitting in the theater a few weeks ago watching Diana lead her group of soldiers and misfits against German troops. All of a sudden, tears were streaming down my cheeks, and I turned to my husband and said, “She’s a woman.”

I’m glad that films are being more intentional about cultivating positive, realistic characters, especially for their female characters. The other 2017 action film that’s done a great job of including women without needing them to be defined by their relationship to men is Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017). Gamora and her sister Nebula have one of the most compelling storylines of the second installment. Viewers (those who haven’t read the comics) learn that during their childhoods, Gamora and Nebula were forced to fight each other. The loser had part of her body replaced by machinated parts by their father, a cruelty that tore apart Nebula’s identity as well as her physical body. The film (spoiler alert) depicts the two of them resolving their childhood hurts and competing to be better, a learned behavior leftover from their fierce matches.

Photo credit: Digital Spy

I was so touched to see the two sisters discover how they’d both been wronged by their father’s cruelty and work to forgive each other. Competition is all too often the reason that two female characters talk in a film, and that tends to be over a man or romantic partner. Guardians Vol. 2 passes the Bechdel Test, a standard which measures whether women exist in a film simply to stoke male characters’ egos or whether they are given speaking roles that deepen their characters to a purpose beyond romance. The beginnings of love and respect that stir between Nebula and Gamora by the film’s close and the beautifully sculpted role of Diana in Wonder Woman gave me hope that directors and writers are thinking of their female characters in important, realistic storylines and are including them in the bigger pictures of their films.

Wonder Woman image credit: New Brighton “Light Cinemas”