Moana And The Matriarchy Will Save Us. [Spoilers Inside.]
I saw Moana last night, and I learned a lot. I believe that myths and fairytales are stories we tell ourselves to explain our place in the world. They give us a vehicle to explore our questions about our life paths. That’s why so many stories take place in the woods, or during a great journey. We are looking for a map to our destinies, for a key to follow during the transformational or transitional times in our lives. We used to sit around a fireplace to hear these stories; now we gather around a cartoon on a 3D screen, but that doesn’t make them any less potent.
Here is what I learned during Moana. I’m going to go really deep here, so please hang on.
1. Get a vengeance mantra.
Remember how in The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya practices what he will say when he meets his father’s killer? “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Moana has a mantra too.
“I am Moana of Motunui. You will board my boat and restore the heart to Te Fiti.”
Mantras are very helpful, whether you are swordfighting, or sailing through a storm. Get one if you want to live.
2. The patriarchy is trying to keep us small.
Moana is drawn to the ocean, but her dad wants her to stay on the island. “No one goes past the reef!” he says. Moana tries to do as she’s told and chief out with her dad in the village, but she just can’t. That’s because you are bigger than this provincial Pacific Island, Moana! The ocean has chosen you! You must break free of the patriarchy’s limits and meet your destiny.
Also, in this movie, the ocean is a sparkly blobby magic carpet friend who helps Moana whenever she needs it. I would be way better at surfing if the ocean had chosen me.
3. Magic hooks are no match for brains.
Maui is funny and super buff, with magical, opinionated tattoos. He’s also super obsessed with his magic hook. (I think we all know what that metaphor is about.) Maui, and Moana, are convinced that his magic hook will help them. In the end, it’s not the burly demigod’s prize accessory that saves the day, it’s Moana’s own courage and cunning.
Lesson learned: buff dudes are useful, but don’t let them call all the shots.
4. The matriarchy will save us.
The matriarchy, as represented by the ancient wisdom of Moana’s grandmother, will nourish your intuition. This is important, because the patriarchy is always trying to keep you small, safe, “inside the reef” as it were. But with the help of your intuition, you can become who you really are. In your darkest moments, when you are adrift in the sea of life, abandoned by even your friends, your intuition will show you the way.
Listen to yourself, and your grandmother, especially when she is reincarnated as a sparkly manta ray.
5. You are a lava goddess, and the lava goddess is you.
After Maui steals the heart of Te Fiti, Te Fiti becomes a vengeful lava goddess demon,Te Kã. Moana must defeat her to restore the heart of Te Fiti, but at the last moment, Moana realizes the heart belongs in Te Ka – they are the one in the same. Te Kã is a representation of our shadow selves, it’s only when the shadow self is united with the heart, the higher self, that Te Fiti can become the abundant life force we need. So, just when you want to burn it all down, you need to rise up. There is room for both, both are valid. The beautiful green island would not be possible without the destructive lava.
Do not war with the lava goddess within, welcome her as your ally.
6. Of all the animal friends in the world, why did I get a dumb chicken?
The animal sidekick in Moana is a chicken who pecks at rocks and wood, not at food. Sometimes this feels like a metaphor for life. What am I not getting? Why am I so stubborn? Why can’t I get out of my own way? It’s because a chicken in the ocean is out of it’s element, just like Moana is a young girl with a heavy burden, on a mission to save the world. Everyone expects the chicken to do what chickens do, but this is no ordinary chicken, and Moana is no ordinary girl. The chicken’s special/weird gifts make it a valuable ally, just as Moana’s innate courage, determination and bravery make her a hero. If she stayed home and became the chief she is expected to be, she could never become a voyager.
Next time you’re banging your head against a wall, think of what else you might be designed for.
7. You are your own wayfinder.
You can learn to sail and navigate by the stars, and the feminine divine (the ocean) will guide you, but ultiamately, you are your own wayfinder. When you are going after your dreams, you must lead with your heart, and steer bravely.
And, when you are saving your island, it is infinitely more practical to wear your hair up. How can you find yourself if your hair is always in your eyes?
(Images via Walt Disney Pictures.)