I watched Moana. I thought it was really bad. I am going to do a review which will contain spoilers.
One big theme is like this:
The overall meaning of the movie is as follows (notice this is basically good):
Society is stagnating and failing. It can’t go on without any change. But it resists change. Moana is young and naive and willing to think outside the box. Her dad tells her to stop, but she does it anyway.
Change is scary, but Moana chooses to be heroic. She has setbacks and doubts, but keeps trying. It’s hard, but she doesn’t expect to be pampered. She isn’t looking for a stress-free life on easy street. She succeeds at harnessing the power of the scary unknown and brings it back to her society which begins a new era of flourishing. By courageously facing and solving scary problems, Moana was a pioneer, and her individual actions changed the world while the bulk of her society did nothing.
from Curiosity – Moana Review.
Or like this (my own words):
Some problems require bold explorers to journey into the unknown and fight for solutions. Society needs some heroes to buck the trend and rescue the princess. A life of conforming – a life which is predictable – does not and should not (completely) satisfy a hero like Moana. Edge individuals push boundaries and advance territory. They raise the floor. They take on dangerous challenges. Conformity is safe and low-risk, but it is not exciting enough for a hero who has a big appetite for adventure. Moreover, universal conformity is actually unsafe and high-risk.
That stuff’s pretty decent. By leaving the reef, Moana started living her own life – although she should’ve left under much more deliberate conditions! – and this was consistent with her being a savior, staving of death/famine, and reigniting the whole tribe’s voyager impulse. I was pleased that the movie ended with the tribe venturing out into the ocean.
A second big theme is like this:
We need to stop being so arrogant trying to control nature (Mother Island). If we treat her gracefully and return her to her undisturbed slumber then we can avert disaster. If we want the heart of nature for ourselves, then we will face nature’s wrath (the lava monster/general spread of…deathness?) and a scourge of deprivation (no fish). Maui’s initial daring and desire for power doomed the world. He should’ve known his place and not stolen from Mother Island. Before that there was balance and prosperity.
The second theme is about environmentalism. I think that you can’t use both of the above themes without addressing the tension. I.e. What are we allowed to do with nature exactly? We can find new land but we can’t raise our own structures if displacing a tree? We can take what the island ‘gives us’, but we can’t harvest the earth, pick it apart, experiment on things, remix them? What are the rules?
A third big theme is about discovering who you are. This empowers the characters. The idea is that once you discover who you are, you are in the right place.
It is a bad theme. It is actually re-inventing a model of conformity where Moana should align herself more closely with something descriptive (who she is) as a kind of absolute standard. Really she should be inventing herself and creating knowledge about what she should do/what is right. Who she is is not already ‘out there’, is not already lurking somewhere in the depths of her mind, to be suddenly happened upon – and if in some sense it is, why is that who she should be?
There was a really weird bit where Moana subdues a lava-form Mother Island by reminding her of who she truly is? Why does mother island have self-awareness like that? That doesn’t service any representation except mysticism.
The ocean water is a metaphor for the unknown, the Other, for thinking outside the box, for being a pioneer.
from Curiosity – Analyzing How Far I'll Go. This seems about right.
Of note, the ocean is ~always on Moana’s side. It basically does whatever she wants. It’s a safety net that protects her from harm. It always gives her help and she doesn’t have to do as much work to solve her problems herself/manage consequences. The movie bigs-up how dangerous/brutal the sea is – true, given the representation – but then Moana barely has to wrestle/contend/negotiate with it. She doesn’t have to make a big effort of understanding and manipulating it. It ends up being a relatively cute-sy personal force that is looking out for her.
This is wrong. The unknown is not on your side, though you may be in your element while navigating it, and though it may be your calling. The movie is presenting too pretty a view of the unknown, or its being too inconsistent/ambiguous about what the ocean really represents.
The realm of monsters is like a criminal underbelly. There are lots of dissonant colours. There are lots of warped, mangled creatures. There is a lack of constraints/rules. This is chaos. It is dog-eat-dog. It is a clash of personalities. There are a lot of cutthroat individuals who are out to get one another.
Moana and the chief don’t really have critical discussions. The chief gives explanations, but he is really just reasserting that a boundary exists. Moana then rebels against the boundary. Relevant: Curiosity – Discussion and Boundary Based Relationships.
The tower of stones on top of the island, where a new stone is added by each successive chieftain is:
- a dependent chain;
- linear, in the sense that each next rock makes about the same amount/kind of change; and
- more unstable as more rocks are added.
These are all metaphors. At the end of the movie Moana puts a shell from the ocean on the top of the tower which is her own twist.
You have to bang the drums to discover the tribe’s secret history. This means: seek, and ye shall find.
You have to follow the bottom of the hook constellation to find Maui. This means: you should have focus to orient yourself to your goals in the unknown.
The Grandmother gives her necklace to Moana. This is about transferring obligation. This is about investing the promise of life in another person. This is about continuity of values.
The Ocean chooses Moana. She is not complete of her own will/reason.
Moana gets stranded on an island where Maui happens to be living anyway. This conveys that luck is (often?) important for achieving your goals.
Maui’s tattoos are dynamic. They have personalities and Maui gets a new one when he has a new adventure. The tattoos represent memories/the past/former selves. The idea is that Maui has an interactive relationship with them/it.
Maui needs to reconcile himself with his past and his conscience before he can be powerful again.
The yes and no relationship between Maui and Moana is structured and represents a general class of relationship development.
The grandma’s ghost is a metaphor for the influence of the memory of a loved one/the model of them you have developed in your mind to consult with.
Why is Moana the chosen one? She’s curious and determined but she’s not very serious, impressive, or skilled.