Moana, You're Welcome


One of the perks of living in a city that much of the businesses and commerce revolve around the entertainment industry is being able to watch a free advanced screening of an upcoming theatrical.

Now I am not going to do a review on Moana that is from an academic or political standpoint or a from a filmmaking POV. I've had discussions and read critical-thinking posts about Moana, thought about them and kept those thoughts in my pocket as I watched it. So first thing to remember, it is a cartoon, an animation, a crew of hundreds interpretation of a story based on folklore.

I went to see it because decades later past my childhood, I get to see a Disney heroine I can relate to. I saw MY face and faces of my family on an animated feature. I saw an island, sky and ocean of a land so familiar to me. I heard accents that make me smile because it made me thought of my grandmother and my auntie and my cousins in Oahu.

Now let me first say that I am not Polynesian but Filipino. The fact of my people being Pacific Islander is also debatable. But many Filipinos migrating of the Republic of the Philippines find their way in the Pacific Ocean and find home in areas similar to the climate they are used to. Hawaii being one of them. Hey, it makes sense to me! My family is part of the island where the front yard is a jungle and the backyard is the ocean. I can see why my family would want to make a home in Hawaii.

Moana is a 14 year old daughter of a chief. Rather than following her blood right and take position in ruling her village, she listened to a soul-calling that only got louder and more pronounced through the movie. She was unapologetically brown, athletic, both hard-headed and soft-hearted. I so appreciated seeing this heroine maintain her warrior spirit and her feminine energy.

Maui played by Duane Johnson on the other hand, was opposite of Moana. He was arrogant and exudes confidence, AND FREAKIN' HILARIOUS! I know there was controversy on how they drew Maui, making him look like an obese islander but I didn't get that from him. In fact, I loved that character! He was a complex character which gets revealed little by little throughout the movie.

As I stated earlier, representation is very important and Maui reminds me of many men who have his stature and aesthetics. Like everything else, beauty standards need to be challenged in both sexes. Why does Maui have to be an exact replica of The Rock when we already have references of hot islander men like the Rock, Dave Bautista and Jason Mamoa? Why can't someone like Maui, drawn the way that he is, is also seen as worthy for representation?

"Moana", in true Disney fashion is filled with awesome songs. I am already looking towards buying the soundtrack! One of the best surprises in which I had no clue was going to be in the movie, is Jehmaine Clements of "Flight of the Conchords!" His song is hilarious!!

Overall, I enjoyed the movie very much. Sure there was academic and political debates going on for proper representation on Polynesian culture but I feel Disney is getting better in doing their research and having a good mix of entertainment and proper representation. And sure they had trouble in September when they released a Maui brown-skin suit for Halloween but with no debate and resistance, they pulled it off the shelves as soon as they saw the PI community was not happy with it.

All I know, is that many ambiguously brown Asian and Islander girls like me can cuddle up with a doll at night that would look exactly like them.

I know I am way past childhood, but I intend to collect all the Asian and Pacific Islander toys that I can.

I get to see Moana one more time on opening night and this time, I will be on the look out for Easter Eggs.

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