It has been three months since we took my daughters to see Moana in the movie theater. Its been three months since I ugly cried in a Sunday afternoon matinée. Three months since I terrified my husband with the amount of tears and gasps for air that escaped my face. I am not a woman known for crying often during movies. The only sure-fire way to elicit a tear filled response from me is with a standing ovation. I’m a sucker for a group of people on their feet, clapping in unison to show their pride, but otherwise, tears for movies typically elude me. As a point of reference, I failed to cry at both the Notebook and Marley and Me. I have been told I have no soul.
Three months later with countless views of the Moana DVD and it has become crystal clear that this movie is the emotional equivalent of being punched in the face. I am no more prepared for the onslaught of tears today then I was during my first viewing. I foolishly believe that with every new showing I will be able to stave off the emotional assault.
My lack of stability when watching Moana has made me draw into question why this movie, above so many others, is causing such a visceral reaction. I am almost ashamed to admit that it has taken me so long to clearly see what was so evident within this film.
This movie is an absolute testament to the beauty and strength of the female spirit. So many have listened to me drone on about my love of Disney but my need to keep the princess cult at bay for as long as humanly possible. My love for Disney knows no bounds, but I have been waiting, not so quietly, in the wings for them to give me that realistic, inspirational, strong girl that I can be proud to have my daughters emulate.
Moana is a girl who IS strong in body AND spirit. A girl who breaks the mold instead of conforming to it. A girl with a strong sense of family, duty and tradition who is encouraged by her family’s wise matriarch to embrace the voice within, in search of finding her purpose. A girl who’s lucky enough to also have the unwavering support from her mother, in spite of her parental reservations. An entire film for children that celebrates what women and girls can do when they are loved and encouraged by one another.
In another refreshing turn, this movie required zero romantic under tones to tell the tale, and yet remained a story centered on love. Moana formed an intricate bond with her family and companions throughout her journey. A bond woven so tightly with love and trust that she was immeasurably strengthened. Most importantly she learned to listen to her inner voice, trust those instincts within and love the person she is at her core.
In the end, the biggest takeaway for me is not the visual beauty, character strength and infectious music, although I am certain the musical mastery of Lin Manuel Miranda is only aiding the emotional response. What levels me every time is how our heroine gains the ability to see beyond what is initially perceived. To view what appears to be an impassable reef and feel fear, but more importantly challenged. To view a demonic adversary and look beyond the exterior to see what is at the heart of them. To see beyond what is visible & know that despite the hardships that befall anyone, there is a story to be heard & and a beauty in listening.
Disney has nailed this portrait of strength, love and enlightenment. They have earned our wild praise and deserve to have us all stand to our feet and applaud their success and express how truly proud we are of what they have created.
Cue the tears.