The age of sexist princess movies is over and none too soon. After decades of Disney princesses waiting patiently for their princes to save them, we have recently seen a wave of stronger female leads in films like Frozen and Brave. On November 23, Disney’s newest film Moana opened in theaters everywhere, and critics and moviegoers have already fallen in love with the film and its title character, Moana.
Moana tells the story of a 16-year-old girl named Moana (played by newcomer Auli’I Cravalho), who takes matters into her own hands when a curse is placed on her island in the Pacific Ocean. Going against her father’s wishes, she takes to the sea to find demigod, Maui (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), so he can reverse the curse placed on her island and people. After finding Maui, the two set out for the journey of a lifetime.
A refreshing touch for Disney movies, Moana lacks a romantic storyline. Instead of depicting a girl who falls in love with a handsome prince, Moana tells the story of a brave young woman who selflessly puts her life in danger to save the lives of those she loves. And, while on her journey, she also discovers more about herself.
John Musker and Ron Clements, the directors of this film, are no strangers to the world of Disney princesses. Together, they have directed The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Princess and the Frog. While Ariel, Jasmine, and Tiana were all strong and passionate women, critics were quick to point out that none of these characters could have achieved what they set out to do if it weren’t for the men they fell in love with and their hyper-sexualized bodies.
While Ariel did disobey her father to achieve the life that she always wanted, she sold her voice in exchange for a body that would let Prince Eric fall in love with her. And while Princess Jasmine is extremely independent and spunky, she used her looks and sexualized body to distract the villain Jafar and get what she wanted. While these characters are seen as heroines in their own right, some of their actions teach young and vulnerable audiences that they can achieve what they want only if they are conventionally beautiful and use their bodies to their advantage.
However, Moana puts an end to these problematic ideas. What defines Moana is her strong will and good heart, not her waistline.
In an interview with Black Hollywood Live, Clements discussed how Moana experiences something more meaningful and important than a girl who falls in love with a prince.
“I think in a way, she’s trying to save her world and save her people so the stakes of her mission are pretty huge and she’s just a sixteen year old girl on this quest. So in a way, I think her story is a little bit more of like a hero’s journey compared with Ariel or Jasmine. She has to become this person that, she hopes deep down inside, she has the strength to become,” he said.
Is it possible that Moana could become as big of a phenomenon as Frozen? It is too soon to tell. One thing we do know for sure is that there is nothing better than having strong and independent female characters that young girls can look up to and embody.
Sign Up For Our Newsletter