I Am Moana


New year, new opportunities.  I've been seeing "365 new opportunities" trending on social media ever since 1st January.  I'm writing this on 3rd January having already squandered 2/365 in duvet days.  Oh well, can't win 'em all.

So for Christmas last year (feels so stupid saying last year when it was mere days ago) I was blessed to be able to go home.  I often say that I'm an introvert stuck in an extroverts body and I similarly feel like I'm a home-body stuck in a travellers body.  I feel like my personality type manages to strike an equal balance between all personality types.  I hate meeting new people.  Hate it.  It gives me anxiety.  Yet because I know and am aware of the stress it gives me I try to approach the new person in the room because I don't want them to be suffering in the corner alone as I know I would be and then people think I'm outgoing.  I hate being the centre of attention and yet I love show-business.  Love being on stage.  My personality clearly didn't get the memo to just choose a type and stick to it.

I love home.  I love being with my family.  I hate that we don't all live in the same city.  At this rate the same continent would even be nice.  I love eating my mum's cooking and hanging out with old friends.  And yet I have the travel bug.  I love exploring new places and eating new foods.  I have a desperate need to see the world.

Over the break I had the pleasure of watching "Moana" at the cinema.  I forgot that when you go to the cinema to watch a kids film unfortunately you have to tolerate kids in the auditorium but even with the crying baby and the toddler that decided that running around in front of the big screen was more fun that watching it I had the best time.

Now if you've lived under a rock for the past year or, like my mother, have been seeing adverts for "Moana" not knowing it's a film, here's a quick low down of this movie.  No spoilers.

"Moana" follows a young Polynesian girl, Moana, daughter of the Island chief, on her quest to save her Island and the world, kind of.  She has lived on her island her whole life and obeyed the island rule to never cross the reef.  She has followed in her father's footsteps and has begun to prove she will be a great village chief.  But there's a problem: the island is dying.  Maui the demi-god stole the heart of the creation goddess Te Fiti and unleashed darkness on the world.  Moana must find Maui and take him across the ocean to restore Te Fiti's heart.

There are several reasons why I love this movie: 

Firstly, I heard about this movie last year when my friend and colleague shared her excitement that Disney have created their first Polynesian "princess" (Moana is not a princess she is the daughter of a chief and she specifies this).  My friend is of the Maori people of New Zealand and could very easily be Moana's mum.  I swear they based Moana's hair on her; this woman has the most incredible hair.  Now don't get me wrong, there is not a one-size-fits-all for oppressed and marginalised peoples.  But, because I have a close and personal understanding of being underrepresented I can join in the joy of others when they finally get their time in the sun.  Moana, like Tiana, Jasmine and - tentatively - Pocahontas, shows a change from the traditional pale skinned, euro-centric Disney princess and I'm all for it.  Diversity is beautiful.

 She  is  Moana

She is Moana

Secondly, Disney got the casting right.  For the most part they used people from the Pacific Islands - ranging from Hawaii to New Zealand, not falling into the trap of using big names to sell box office tickets.  We'll let them have Dwayne Johnson.  And they did their research.  I thought the story was beautiful and the representation of Pacific Island legend and the people was respectfully done but it's not my culture so what do I really know?  However I talked to my above mentioned friend and she said it was spot on.  Well done Disney.

Thirdly, Moana is a role model I can in good conscience allow my three-year-old niece to look up to.  She is young at sixteen but she is respectful to her parents.  She doesn't run away to marry a guy she's never spoken to (Ariel) but she leaves her island because she feels called to a higher purpose.  She leaves to save her people and she leaves after asking her dad for help and being rejected (he was just scared).  And she leaves with the blessing of her grandmother and the knowledge of her mother.  There is no love interest.  Not a single one.  Don't get me wrong, I love a love interest, but Moana is sixteen.  Also, and don't think me crazy, Moana is not sexy.  She wears a boob tube and her midriff is on show but she is not even slightly sexy.  No heaving Jasmine bosoms, or heaving Ariel bosoms, or heaving Pocahontas bosoms for that matter.  She is a sixteen-year-old Island girl and she looks like a sixteen-year-old Island girl.  TBF at least Pocahontas wore more clothes than Ariel and Jasmine.

Fourthly, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote all the songs.  Halfway through Maui's song "You're Welcome" when he started the rap break I thought to myself, "This sounds a little Lin-Manuelly" and low and behold there's his name in the credits.  Lin-Manuel, of Hamilton fame, is kind of the name of the moment and rightfully so.  Not only is he amazingly gifted, he's inspirational.  He's created musicals that celebrate diversity.  Hamilton is basically blind cast.  He's amazing and my talent crush of the moment.  If anyone wants to gift me with Hamilton tickets I would be eternally gratefully.

But most of all it was just a beautifully written story.  Yes the story is about finding yourself (as many stories are) but in my opinion I think it's more about knowing yourself more than finding yourself.  Moana is called by the ocean to restore Te Fiti's heart when she is a toddler and she carries this mission, this longing to journey out on the ocean, in her heart for many many years before she is able to own it.  Maui the demi god has spent his whole life trying to prove he's worthy of being a demi god.  Both Maui and Moana have found themselves they just don't know themselves.

The featured song of the movie is "How Far I'll Go" and it's a beautiful song, but my favourite is "I Am Moana" (basically a reprise of "How Far I'll Go).  There's this moment at the climax of the song where Moana stands at the bow of her boat and belts "I am Moana".  You don't understand how my heart leapt at that moment.  Cue tears.

Remember that part in The Lion King where Mufasa tells Simba to remember who he is?  "You are my son,"  he says.  "And the one true king."  Powerful stuff knowing who you are.

Moana is a girl who loves her island.  She is a girl who loves the sea.  It calls her.  Turns out, the call was inside her.  We all have that call inside us and sometimes it's hard to hear because we're not simple personality traits on some psychologists scale but we are complex human beings who love to party on a Saturday night as much as we love to curl up on Sunday with a good book.  And things don't always work out the way we want to them.  It feels like more times than not they go wrong.  But as Gramma Tala sings in "I Am Moana", "The journey may leave a scar/but scars can heal and reveal/ just who you are."

That call inside you is inside you for a reason.  It's your call.  It was meant for you and only you can answer it.  May this year be the year you follow that call deep inside you and may it help you get to know just who you are.

I am Enobong.