Moana + the Christian Life
Fresh off its American Music Awards win for Favorite Soundtrack, Moana will be our focus for a special Friendsday Wednesday Movie Review. Have some free time on your hands and a lot of small children in your house this Thanksgiving? Here's what my favorite Disney Princess, Krista Corbello, has to say about this instant classic! I'd say I've taught her everything she knows, but she started out pretty awesome. Enjoy.
"Wingapo!" I’m Krista, Aunt Katie's former intern & former Programming Assistant at Our Lady of Wisdom, home of the Ragin’ Cajun Catholics! Since you’re probably wondering, Yes, Katie Austin was/is the best boss ever. I owe so much to Katie for believing in me as a student, as a co-worker, and as a cool big sis/aunt, and I’m so grateful to join her for Friendsday Wednesday. I was LIT’RALLY jumping for joy when I was invited into the beautiful Ask Aunt Katie community in this way!
Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I. Love. Disney. (My neighbor’s first impression of me was “Big Disney fan, huh?” No lie.) So it’s really no surprise that I would write about Moana. There are countless reasons why I love the film: the musical score, written by LIN MANUEL, the culture of the village, PLUS a princess who’s a Pacific Islander like me!
Of course, with a Disney movie, good music is a given. There’s so much more. It’s deeply meaningful, and I think it explores so much in the Christian life. There were several times that the film made me cry. (Although I am a crier.) As an ENFJ, I carry the burden/blessing of being so empathetic, which means I identify with characters and experience serious character empathy. (Hence, the tears.) Following Moana’s journey throughout the film was moving, and I loved her character arc so much!
These are my Top 5 “I Cried & Here’s Why” Moments:
(WARNING: Spoilers ahead!)
(Editor's note: already crying.)
(1) When Sina Helps Moana Prepare to Leave the Island
First of all, I cry when others cry. (People, animated people, animated non-people, girl on the street, etc.), so that doesn’t help at all. But also, it’s such a tender moment with Moana and her mom, Sina! Moana’s about to sail onto the ocean BY HERSELF to save her island. She’s dreamt of being on the ocean her entire life, and it’s caused a bit of a chasm between her and her father. Her mom, on the other hand, is so understanding of her dream but also understanding of her husband’s concern and his woundedness from his past with the ocean and the loss of his friend. She’s so wonderfully understanding and empathetic! What a woman! (Sidenote: I see the father as someone who has lost his faith after experiencing tragedy.) Sina is probably crying because her 14-year-old is about to embark on a journey that will likely include much tribulation and danger, but she’s encouraging her to go anyway because she knows it’s Moana’s calling. Sina's support in this split second of a scene is how I imagine Mary felt knowing what Jesus’ hour would mean and how she prepared Him for it. It can’t have been easy, in fact I think it took much strength to let go of control in the situation!
(2) When Gramma Tala’s Stingray Spirit Guides Moana
Okay, woah, so many feelings from this moment. Gramma Tala, the spiritual figurehead of her family, is one with the island, and because of the curse, the island is dying, which means Gramma is dying. Her last words to Moana were instructions of what to say to Maui, and you can see how important those words are to Moana when she practices them repeatedly. In the "How Far I’ll Go" Reprise, the music swells and you see the stingray spirit glide across the ocean to lead Moana on her journey. As Moana’s eyes fill with tears, you see a new sense of purpose and determination, and I love that she is so inspired by the example of her grandmother. I like to think of Gramma as the communion of saints, setting alight a path of holiness and individuality, forever encouraging us to do what we are called to do, even after death!
(3) When Moana Rejects Her Calling
“You have the wrong person. You have to choose someone else.” Oh, man, haven’t we all been here before? We feel God calling us to do something, our family or friends, or in Moana’s case, Gramma, encourages us to do it, and we fail. When you want something for so long and it really looks like it will work out, but it just doesn’t or doesn’t seem or feel like it. Moana chose to go on this mission, and in this moment, she’s choosing to reject it. The ocean totally lets her, too!
In the next scene, Spirit Gramma arrives to comfort her. Moana says, “I tried, Gramma, I couldn’t do it.” Gramma gives her permission to fail and even give up and says “If you are ready to go home, I will be with you.” She’s so supportive of Moana in her moment of weakness, in her moment of “no.” Many times in life, I had this unrealistic expectation of myself that I had to be better, stronger, wiser, smarter, you-name-it-er, and I know that as a child, so many grown-ups constantly told me “You can do _____ if you just _____.” As a result, I felt like I wasn't allowed to fail. I love that I had the encouragement to dream big, but also, I wish I would have had the opportunity to fail and that be okay, too. Embracing failure is how we can be better, stronger, wiser, smarter, you-name-it-er. Allowing this moment of weakness embraces our human nature of imperfection, and I love how it’s shown so gracefully and beautifully in this scene.
(4) When Moana Finds Her Identity & Reclaims Her Vocation
After having the opportunity to say “no,” Moana finds the strength to say her big “yes!” Not driven by obedience, but as a declaration of her identity and a response to a call. Her Gramma asks, “Do you know who you are?” and she responds with a myriad of trivia: “I am a girl who loves my island, I am the daughter of a village chief,” but then digs deeper, “I am everything I’ve learned and more...the call, it’s inside me.” She puts a musical exclamation mark on this self-discovery by crescendo-ing to the final lyrics of this song, “I AM MOANA!” She then dives into the sea, fixes her damaged boat, and ventures back to Te Fiti to restore the heart on her own.
As someone still on the path to self-discovery, I have wondered, questioned, doubted, and reclaimed my “little-v” vocation(s) often. As Moana sings, our calling is “like the tide, always falling and rising.” There is failure and weakness, yes, but there is also strength. Again, this makes Moana such a deep “princess,” with ebbs and flows just like human nature! Not a “picture perfect” princess!
(5) When Te Fiti’s Heart is Restored
Moana, who is now able to see her identity, now knows that Te Ka’s true identity is Te Fiti. Te Fiti, of course, being the selfless, life-giving, goddess of creation we see in the beginning of the film, and Te Ka, being the exact opposite: a destructive, vengeful, volcano of death.
Te Fiti is not herself without her heart. This is something that was taken from her without her permission, and I see her as the wounded in our church. Te Ka hurls herself at Moana when given the opportunity, but Moana stays so collected because she is so secure and confident in her newfound identity. (Anyone else think she deserves an Oscar for that scene?)
“They have stolen the heart from inside you, but this does not define you. This is not who you are. You know who you are.”
What beautiful words and what wisdom from such a young princess! What I see here is authenticity & how contagious it is. When we fully embrace who we are, without the burden of duty or obedience, but out of love, we can lead others to this authenticity. We can love others through their suffering or trauma (like how Moana loves Te Feti!)
Krista Corbello serves as Youth Programs Co-Director at Louisiana Right to Life. Her innumerable gifts include music, #kristaligraphy, and being a professional princess (no, but really) with Kellie’s Characters. She definitely chooses all! Other words that make up the word cloud of Krista's life are Aunt, Dr. Pepper, Community Theater. If you want to make her day take her out for a burger with buns made of grilled cheese sandwiches--IG: kristarcorb.