Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather discuss heroism, story structure, culture, and gender in the latest animated film from the Walt Disney Company, Moana.
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- Moana on Wikipedia
- Harvey Cedars, NJ
- Redneck Riviera on Urban Dictionary
- Santa Monica Bay
- Balto (film), Balto (dog)
- Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, first essay, sections 13
- The Monomyth (a.k.ka The Hero’s Journey)
- “The Hero’s Journey” on Overthinking It
No talk about the ocean is complete without a reference to “Atlantic City” starring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon.
“You should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in those days.”
This didn’t make the show, but in the pre-show conversation, we pointed out some parallels between Moana and, what else, Terminator 2.
Moana = Sarah Connor
Moana’s dream = Sarah’s dream
Maui = Ahnuld
The connections aren’t THAT strong (especially since Maui can shapeshift, making him more of a T-1000), but it gave us the excuse to come up with these Maui/Terminator crossover quotes:
“I know now why you sail…but it is something I can never do”
“I need your stone, your chicken, and your catamaran”
“I need a tropical island vacation”
Whew! I was blown away (but thankfully not turned to ash) when Moana had the T2 nightmare, and re-blown away when the podcast ended without mentioning that. I’m glad the retread didn’t scar my kids like the older scene did to my 10-year-old self, along with the “don’t drink from the carton” kill. I’d seen T1 years before, but its only scene I recognized as transgressive was John’s conception.
Love you guys and I liked the film but man was it problematic, I KNOW YOU DON’T LIKE THE TERM WRATHER BUT I’M GONNA USE IT!. To well actually Fenzel Moana is not Hawaiian, this is part of why a lot of Polynesians have a problem with the film, Moana and her island are a hodgepodge of different polynesian cultures.
ALso Maui is still revered, his cult is not dead yet, he hasn’t joined Hercules yet XD.
Te Kā, “the lava witch”, is also difficult because she’s so closely patterned on Pele, or Madem Pele, also still worshipped. So you can see why some are upset. Consider that the Hawaiian language was illegal until the early 1990’s.
Not to mention the effed up marketing, selling a Maui costume? Weird.
To be positive, I really liked the film. ALl of the songs were good, Tamatoa’s song was especially fun. I’m surprised y’all didn’t mention the Bowie impression. I loved Dwayne in it, never knew he could sing :D and Auli’i Cravalho’s performance was a joy.
Also fun fact Moana was changed to Vaiana in Europe, Vaiana in France and Spain and the movie to Oceania in Italy, because the name Moana is closely tied to a famous adult film actress in Italy.
I admit I have very little knowledge of the Polynesian cultures at question here, but I think you’re setting an awfully high bar for this movie to clear to avoid being disrespectful / sacrilegious. Do you see any way a movie like this could have been made without being so “problematic”?
Also, you say that “a lot of Polynesians have a problem with this film.” Can you cite some sources?
Well isn’t that the problem? How do we know so little about these islands we invaded? There isn’t one single Polynesian culture. It’s like lumping in Korea, Mongolia and Kazakhstan into one, similarities abound because of region yet they’re not the same.
Remember Hawaiian was illegal until the as late as the 90s.
As for religion these too were also banned, this is where cultural appropriation comes in, I see you guys have a tough time getting it. It’s basically that having banned or severely restricted native religion and then using it as the invader sees fit.
How could they remedy this? Ummm hire polynesians? Not just a few advisors when ultimately the makers are white men.
Like I said Maui’s cult isn’t dead, unlike Herakles’. Pele is still highly revered and her uncanny similarity to the made up Teka is… troubling.
Citation please ;) here ya go.
On Polynesians having severe misgivings about the prject, there was this really ill advised costume. Not good.
On the criticisms
On the skin suit and the political implications of being a colonized person (hey this can connect with Westworld what with the commodification of people!)
Praise but more criticism
This relates very closely to the east coast OTers. Similar but much worse implications with Matoaka aka Pocahontas. Where are the Powhatan? They’re still around but only acknowledged during the founding myths.
I mean ultimately it’s fantastic that there is a Polynesian princess now, being able to see yourself is pretty cool when you’re rendered invisible or an inhuman caricature most of the time. It’s tough.
Sorry for the late response, I always forget about the comment section.
To drive the point further and talk about the lack of diversity in the animation industry. :/
“He went on to explain how he and Ron Clements were “forced” (his words, not mine) to visit some Pacific Islands in an attempt to accurately represent a culture”
They’re being jokey about it to me it feels like a freudian slip. They felt “forced” to go to the islands, many of which our Nation invaded and pillaged.
Kung-Fu Panda really lucked out with their lazy research since the Chinese really liked it.
I don’t know Mark, is it too much to ask to hire a polynesian? Maybe it is.
Fabulous podcast guys!
I can relate to this film on so many levels, despite being an American from a landlocked European background; there’s a lot of archetypal stuff going on here, especially the bits about knowing who you are and loving yourself. Yes Maui has a distinct Hero Journey here too.
Disney didn’t call their lava goddess Pele… probably because they didn’t want to offend anyone (especially Pele herself)(don’t mess with the Goddess) by portraying That Goddess in a fictional setting. What they came up with was a fabulous portrayal of the Divine Feminine in her wrath, and her glory… a bit like the Celtic Goddesses who both destroy and build.
Also Thor film parrallelss (I never know how many rrrrs and llls to put in there): male hero, needs lesson in humility, has tool/weapon of mass destruction/creation, tool/weapon is taken from him, he’s on a mission with a Mortal Girl, learns compassion and humility, offers self as Sacrificial Hero (Thor facing the fiery thingie, Maui facing the fiery thingie), gets Great Big Hammer/Hook thingie back.
I have heard from multiple sources including most of the actors, musicians etc involved in the movie, that Disney took great pains to set up an Oceanic Trust to keep their portrayal of Polynesian cultures accurate. Certainly there will still be people who don’t like the portrayal of their culture in the film. I’m with Dwayne Johnson and Opetaia Foa’i here about the “mana” this film carries, this is going to get the rest of the world interested in looking deeper into these fabulous cultures.
I never thought of T2… which is one of my favorite films. And Ahhhhnold and the Rock are apparently buddies in real life…
Glad you liked the podcast!
Not to completely hijack this comment thread with Terminator stuff, but worth noting that The Rock has oft been rumored to appear in a Terminator movie, either as a replacement to or villain against Ahnuld. Which at this point is safe to say, ain’t gonna happen. (Terminator is proving itself to be remarkably resistant to rebooting, due in large part to Ahnuld’s performances in the original.)
The Thor parallels are very strong as well. It’s a different sort of hero’s journey, one that doesn’t quite fit into the Joseph Campbell monomyth template, but can still be mapped onto the more flexible Dan Harmon “story circle”:
1. You (a character is in a zone of comfort) – Maui’s backstory, up to the point of losing the stone and the hook
2. Need (but they want something) – Maui needs to get his hook back
3. Go (they enter an unfamiliar situation) – Maui meets Moana
4. Search (adapt to it) – Maui and Moana trek across the sea
5. Find (find what they wanted) – Maui gets the hook back
6. Take (pay its price) – Maui sacrifices himself and the hook against the fire beast
7. Return (and go back to where they started) – Maui gets his hook back
8. Change (now capable of change) – Maui is back to his old shape-shifting self, and also flying alongside Moana’s seafaring people
More on the story circle in this video (15 minutes, but well worth the time):
Cool! Also glad to see some intelligent dissertation on a good Disney film that goes beyond fangeeking!
Copying that story structure for future reference…
I’m a bit late to this party, but I cannot recommend strongly enough to all Overthinkers the book “Philosophy in a New Key” by Susanne Langer. Particularly, in this discussion’s context, the chapter on “The Roots of Myth” which is an essential counterpart to Campbell in general but moreover just happens to take Maui as a primary example and has a lot of fantastic analysis of the meaning of his various stories.