I saw Disney’s Moana today and cried. If you have not seen it yet, I recommend a good Google search, dollar theater, or getting it the moment it comes to a Red Box near you. It was everything I possibly could have hoped for from a modern Disney movie and more. It had a more mature tone, action, funny anthropomorphic entities, and NO PRINCE love story thrown in the last-minute. I found myself relating to Moana more than any other Disney character since Aladdin the animated series.
Note: This is not a movie review. This is a reflection/response. Only the slightest early spoilers that a Google search would ruin are included. If you want to see the movie fresh, check this post out later.
I was not exactly sure what to expect from Moana. I did not really keep up with the previews or trailers, I was just glad to see another nationality heroine arise. I also do not know how accurate it was to Islander culture so, I was completely coming in blind. I just saw the first trailer with baby Moana and fell in love.
Baby Moana International Trailer:
We eventually see the cast of characters. The loving parents, “village crazy lady”/wise woman/grandmother, random animal comic reliefs, and the rebellious Moana. She was always the old girl out, adventurous, and called to the ocean. The story itself was great but the character that made me cry at every turn was Grandma Tala.
Grandma Tala reminded me so much of my own grandmother. She was comfortable in her own skin and let the village call her whatever they wanted. She always let the water roll off her own back *drum rimshot*. I loved her wisdom and care she had for Moana. She never spelled everything out for her. She pointed her in the direction and told her to follow her calling, no matter what everyone else wanted for her.
The reminded me of my own Grandmother. When I was going off to school, she constantly wanted me to not worry about her or the family at home. She wanted me to do what God planned for me, and not get stuck in Detroit. When my family wanted me to go to University of Michigan or Michigan State University (both amazing schools), she wanted me to do what I thought was right. She knew I had to leave, otherwise I would never fulfill my destiny.
MEDIUM SPOILER: If you don’t want ANY of the plot spoiled, turn back now. You’ve been warned.
Paralleling my own life, before Moana truly builds up the courage to face the forbidden and forge her own path, Grandma Tala dies. In the few moments before she passes, Moana says that she cannot leave her behind. Grandma Tala says to her, “There is nowhere you could go that I won’t be with you.” I was mush afterward. I tried to shed a tear in secret but those words echoed in my heart.
I left for college in 2005. I went to school, fell off of my path, got back into school, and finally graduated in 2015. I wanted to come home to be with her. I wanted to go see her more often. However, every time I said I was going to come home, she said, “You have business to take care of there. Don’t worry about me.” I was going to try to go to graduate school there, she told me no. She wanted me to go where nobody in my family ever went, to live a life they never dreamed. It hurt me to leave her behind, but she is still with me.
Part of me felt like I took too long. I felt that if I never left school in the first place, I could have been there more for my grandmother. She wouldn’t agree with me though. The last time she I saw her, she was completely at peace. She saw me graduate and told me not to stop. I keep her picture above my desk to have her with me when I’m struggling.
The most difficult thing about going off to school is that you leave and feel like you miss so much of your family lives, the young ones growing up and old ones moving on. You may not be there, but they are always there for you. Sometimes, the purpose of going out to the world to bring something back to the people you left behind. You bring them a new life and new chances for fresh beginnings because only you can. I believe elders know this and that’s what makes them great, the love and clarity they give us.
Any family members or friends that always pushed you to be better? Any stories you’d like to share? What struggles or successes have you learned on your own personal adventures? Share in the comments below?