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Moana in an ecofeminist lens

Disney’s 2018 production Moana offers a whole new alternate narrative to the white damsel in distress waiting for her prince charming. Although Disney has made efforts previously to have an inclusive character, nothing has struck a chord like Moana. It not only talks about women and women leaders but also about the relationship between nature and humans. The conversations between Moana and her grandmother serve as an integral part of the narrative. As opposed to pitting women against each other and tearing them down, it shows a new era where women uplift and empower other women. Her relationship with her grandmother is what gives her hope and courage throughout the story. Maui is introduced as a self-obsessed and entitled person with a very fragile ego. This is a direct interpretation of man and man’s selfishness. Maui’s hook where his powers lie is again a phallic symbol which helps him steal the heart of Te Fiti. Though Maui himself is a victim of patriarchy and greed, he still chooses to exert his power and steal the heart of Te Fiti in hopes of being accepted by society. Eventually in the movie, he opens up about how he was abandoned, thus explaining his insecurity and the need for acceptance. His tattoo is a symbol of his conscience which he pushes away often and goes about in his selfish ways. He learns from Moana to do good things for the greater good and not for his own need for acknowledgement. Moana as a leader both to her tribe and to Maui is successful and leads them in the right direction. The ecofeminist lens can be particularly noticed when we realise that Maui has a very anthropocentric belief. The anthropocentric view says that man is the central being and everything around him is for his pleasure. This view often leads men to exploit nature and thus everything around them. Te Fiti, the goddess of nature is very caring and could “create life itself”, but once Maui steals her heart, the islands turn into dark infertile soil that can destroy life. It takes a cultural ecofeminist approach to see Mother Nature as a creator of life, and a symbol of fertility. Cultural ecofeminism is where women embrace their relationship with nature by establishing similar characteristics as nurturers and that women should be empowered for nature to thrive. Te Fiti’s change into Te Ka is a global warning that nature will become a threat to human life if its natural state is disturbed by men who are never satisfied. Maui’s appearance at the end to help Moana suggests that it takes giving up the patriarchal phallic privilege that society gives men to save the earth and restore peace. This is inspired by several real-life ecofeminist movements across the world with the Chipko Movement as an Indian example. Moana restoring Te Fiti’s heart changes the idea of the man being the rescuer. Even though Maui stole the heart, Moana restores it since women as life givers and nurturers have been more in tune with nature. This is a very relevant narrative to instil in today’s children to be able to identify factors that harm the environment. It is high time we make efforts towards restoring the earth to its natural course just like Moana and Maui did. Let’s think about our contribution to nature and take steady steps towards sustainable practices in hopes that Te Fiti forgives us.

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