Moana is an ‘Anti Princess’ and why that concerns me

So remember how there was buzz awhile ago about Moana possibly not being in the Disney Princess lineup? Well, turns out there might be a reason for that.

Turns out, in the movie, Moana explicitly makes it clear that she is no princess. At least, if TIME magazine’s interview with the directors is correct. The point of the movie is that Moana is going to be a HEROINE, and is markedly different from the classic Disney Princess TM with a thicker build and no love interest.

I think what’s going to happen is that, if Moana is successful enough, the movie will have its own separate franchise, kind of like Frozen‘s. That’s…actually kind of awesome! I just hope they don’t overkill it.

That said, I have a few problems with the direction they’re taking Moana’s character.

First off, what does John Musker mean by “I don’t know that any of the other princesses we’ve been involved with we’d describe as badass.”? What does it mean for a female character to be a badass? What’s the requirement? I know not every Disney heroine has had the opportunity to navigate the seas, fight giant monsters, and save the world with a hot as hell demigod, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do incredible feats in their own right.

Also, what’s really bothered me about Disney lately (and, to an extent, other animation companies) is that there’s this pervasive attitude of ‘we can’t make our female lead dainty and soft spoken and gentle! she has to be TOUGH and TAKE NO SHIT! she’s not like OTHER girls! she’s not waiting for her prince!’ and all that shit. Like…we get it. You’re ashamed that animated princesses in the past haven’t exactly been able to save the day. Shut up.

And what’s worse is that sometimes the character’s so-called badassery feels very forced, to the point where she’s often not as well-rounded or developed to her male counterparts. And I’m a little scared that this is what’s going to happen with Moana. I’m worried that they’re going to push her whole badass and “I don’t want to be a princess or fulfill my assigned role in life” at the expense at making her a really fleshed out character. I’m pretty confident at this point that they’re not going to build her up as this competent fighter who ends up being the damsel in distress at the end (a very common trope, can’t let the ladies be TOO independent!), but still.

I’m hoping, at the very least, she’ll be written similar to Mulan. She was an excellent soldier who saved the day and didn’t focus too much on romance, but she was still a well-written and enjoyable character. You could feel the pain she was going through and how she loved her family but also needed to love herself more. She wasn’t abrasive or too aggressive, and she could be awkward, but not to the point where it got annoying. Mulan is a fantastic example of the ‘strong independent woman’ done RIGHT, which is unfortunately something that tends to get lost with writers.

Now, of course, I have to remind myself not to be too harsh on Moana’s character if she doesn’t live up to my expectations. Remember, Moana is a Polynesian heroine, and the best people to critique her character are going to be Polynesian women. I don’t want to let my biased Western view of things taint the character.

Still, at this point, I can’t help but feel more excited for Maui than for Moana herself. From what we’ve seen and heard from Maui, I can already tell he’s going to be a dynamic and interesting character. I wish we had more info on Moana besides her being a badass.

Hopefully my interest will change soon, or the movie itself will prove me wrong. The movie is only about three months away, so, hop to the hype campaign, Disney!


Author: Laura Alexander

My name is Laura, I use they/them pronouns, and I'm a recent graduate of the Social Service Worker Program at Sheridan College. I'm on the autism spectrum (Asperger's) and I have a passion for film and animation, social issues, and helping others, all of which will be featured on The Flying Red Robot blog. Please read the about page before commenting or following. "Big Hero 6" is my favourite movie.