Different

SPOILER ALERT.

Sorry. I can’t seem to write anymore without giving away the ending. Well, that’s not entirely true, but definitely in this case. So if you haven’t watched Moana yet, DO NOT read this post. If you read thepricklypoetess’s post earlier this week, you were already encouraged to watch Moana. This is your final warning: watch Moana or have it spoiled.

Okay, great. Now I can get started with this quote:

“Let her come to me.”

–Moana, Moana

Simple enough without context. Not even that special or interesting. But in context–this was the moment that solidified Moana as one of my top three princesses. (Oh, right. She’s not a princess, or so she says.)

Here we are, at the climax of the story. Moana has partnered with, been abandoned by, and reunited with Maui. She has crossed the ocean and kept her comically inept chicken from dying. She has fought Te Kā, the notorious lava monster. She is standing on the edge of a cliff, staring down at where she expected to find Te Fiti, the goddess of life or creation. But Te Fiti is not there. She has vanished, and all we are left with is a gaping hole, a harbor or lagoon. No goddess.

Then Moana turns around and speaks to the ocean.

The ‘her’ is the lava monster (which I thought of as male up to that point). Everything clicks into place. Te Kā stops throwing lava and limps toward Moana in an epic rendition of the water parting which seems reminiscent of Moses and the Red Sea. Moana reaches out and touches Te Kā, placing the stone heart back into its place. Suddenly Te Kā is transformed, and we see. Te Kā is not unique from Te Fiti. One is not the other’s antagonist. They are, in fact, one. Te Kā is the broken, heart-robbed ending of Te Fiti.

There are lots of ways to take this touching twist. I’ll leave you with a few thoughts and let you explore your own ideas.

  1. Moana is a story of grief. Te Fiti has her heart literally ripped from her corporeal form. The result, after years of this robbery, is a menacing death that sweeps out across the ocean and affects far more than just Te Fiti. The grief of a goddess envelops the world. Consider Moana’s own grief: her grandmother dies as Moana flees the island. At the climax, two grief-stricken women meet; one a goddess and one a girl–their encounter changes the course of grief and reverses the death of the islands.
  2. Moana is a story of women. Te Kā/Te Fiti shattered my expectations. These types of twists are not uncommon, but this one caught me off guard. Te Kā was clearly evil, clearly twisted and wrong, even though a whisper in my mind reminded me that lava cooled is new land (I saw Moana in Hawaii, what can I say?). But when Te Fiti was revealed, I gasped with delight. She was a character of complex emotions that fully expressed themselves. Sure, she doesn’t get much screen time or character development; she is the goal of the film, not its subject. But there’s something to be said for the dichotomy uniting itself in one woman (see the Madonna-whore dichotomy in literature more broadly if you find this interesting).
  3. Moana is a story about defying expectations. This was a nontraditional Disney movie. Everyone’s saying it. Moana’s parents lived. Moana didn’t have a love interest–and I didn’t even realize it until someone said something. Moana didn’t wait for the man to save the day; she tried to fix his issues, and though she failed on her first attempt, she realized what she needed to do and did it. Moana is a decently-sized young woman with hair that actually flops and flies in her face. She is not who we have come to expect from Disney, but neither is that shift jarring. Moana is simply who she is, and she is different.

I’m sure there’s more that could be said. I have more I could say. But Moana speaks for herself, so I’ll just leave it at that.

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