When it comes to watching Disney films as adults, there’s a distinct perspective that emerges. Disney, known for its enchanting tales, often centers its stories around young characters, particularly in the Disney Princess franchise. These beloved narratives have faced criticism for featuring heroines who are quite youthful, especially considering some of the mature themes woven into the tales. However, not all Disney Princesses are created equal when it comes to the issue of age.
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Enter Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), who, at sixteen, falls somewhere in the middle of the age spectrum among Disney Princesses. Her age may initially raise eyebrows, but the way her story unfolds helps mitigate some of these concerns, at least on the surface.
Moana’s cinematic journey, presented in the aptly titled film “Moana,” sets itself apart from many Disney classics by steering clear of a traditional romantic plot. Instead, it offers an exhilarating adventure in which a young girl takes on the monumental task of saving her world. Along the way, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and connects with her ancestral heritage.
At first glance, this simple summary may seem to address the age-related issues common in Disney films. After all, Moana’s story doesn’t culminate in a fairy tale wedding. However, it’s worth noting that Moana’s youth still raises some valid concerns. The narrative hinges on a teenage protagonist navigating treacherous challenges, grappling with the loss of her grandmother, and ultimately undertaking a mission to save her entire world. Moreover, can we genuinely accept that a sixteen-year-old is ready to embark on a perilous oceanic journey with an immortal demigod she’s never met?
In “Moana,” Disney takes a different path to address the age-related concerns that often arise in their classic tales. Yet, it’s fair to say that while they sidestep some of the more traditional issues, the matter of Moana’s age remains a topic open for discussion.
Disney Princesses Have an Age Problem
Moana’s Age Isn’t Ideal for the Story
While the overarching narrative of Moana seems to fit her age, there are indeed some noteworthy issues tied to her youth. For starters, the storyline revolves around Moana’s impulsive decision to leave her home, teaming up with a complete stranger, and embarking on perilous quests, all while she’s never ventured beyond her island before. There’s an inherent danger in setting sail, especially when she lacks the skills and experience, simply relying on the ocean’s friendship. And let’s not forget her habit of defying her father’s rules, which is a common trait among teenagers. Moana, like many adolescents, perceives her father, Tui, as depriving her of her desires. Yet, it’s her grandmother, Tala, who unveils the harsh truth about her father’s fear, based on a tragic past event.
Of course, Tui’s obstinance in refusing alternative solutions to their dwindling food sources is another issue. But Moana’s rash actions put her life at risk without much forethought. This ties into the larger theme of responsibility thrust upon her young shoulders. Surprisingly, the film presents several adult characters, including Moana’s parents, who are community leaders, yet they remain passive. Maui, the demigod responsible for the chaos, joins the journey but leaves Moana to bear the ultimate responsibility of returning the heart of Te Fiti.
Moana’s sense of duty doesn’t stop there, as the film concludes with her positioned as the new chief, a role of significant magnitude for someone her age. While Moana undoubtedly possesses leadership qualities and ushers in a new era for her people, it does raise the question: Why is she shouldering such a monumental responsibility when her father is still present?