#DisneyWeek: Why Moana is So Important to Me

I begged my mom to take me to see Disney’s 2016 film Moana when I turned 18. That was the only gift that I wanted for my birthday. I waited 18 long years for this movie. I have never been one to ask for anything on my birthday, but I insisted on seeing the movie with my mom when I first heard it was coming to theaters.

My friends didn’t understand why I was so excited for this movie. “But, Paige, it probably won’t be that good. Disney can’t do better than Frozen, the first movie to show sisterly love.” First of all, that’s a lie. The first movie to show sisterly love was Lilo and Stitch, the iconic movie about sisters struggling to get by in Hawai'i. Lilo and Stitch was my first favorite movie, the scenes reminding me of the time I spent in Hawai'i with my mom’s family. As I got older, I realized that it depicted the real life, modern struggles of the locals as tourism took over the islands. Reality can be depressing.

I was able to see Hawai'i as I knew it, but I wanted to be exposed to the Pacific Island culture even more, outside of American influence. Since my mom never encouraged my learning about where I came from, I never looked into how to investigate for myself. Seeing the trailer for Moana, the vibrant colors and rich culture, I just knew that this movie was for me. I saw myself, Moana, the strong-willed girl that wanted to embrace where she came from. In her own words, “we were voyagers." The excitement when she said that, that realization of who she was, it was contagious.

The movie itself was life-changing. Moana was truly the princess that I needed. Not only was she strong-willed, but she was also struggling with living up to her parents' expectations by having to decide between following the path expected of her or following the path she wanted to make for herself. She experienced loss and failure, learning how to literally navigate foreign waters while figuring out who she was in the grand scheme of things. I wanted to be like her. I started putting more confidence in myself in unfamiliar situations and in my ability to make decisions on my own. I even embraced my body type and started growing my hair out because I could then embrace that what I looked like was normal somewhere in the world. 

If Moana could do this for me, imagine if there was even more diversity in the Disney Princess world. Young girls need representation in the media, and I hope that they are able to get that sooner than I did.