An Open Letter To ‘Moana’

I wrote this narrative poem inspired from the film Moana (2016), in my opinion one of the best Disney animated films since Lion King (1994).


The first time I watch Moana, I am in awe. It’s a spectacle to see that Disney actually made a film about a princess who’s not subjected to the Male Gaze and she’s of colour!

Warrior, battle-born, adventurer, explorer with all the fight, like Lagertha and Merida, as I hear the palpitations in my chest.

I smirk when she explores the concept of origins through song and dance. ‘Where You Are’ through customs and cultures of Motunui,

I stay quiet when they talk about old traditions;
I stay quiet when they talk about village mentality;
I stay quiet when they talk about safety and seclusion;
I stay quiet when they talk about coconuts and trees;
those vexations, confusion, frustrations, illusions –

as if my own family didn’t have versions of these conversations before they left the sunlit Caribbean for England’s wind, rain and cold.

She dreams like I do, travelling far away as the ocean calls her name. The world is wide and exploration pulls young minds and souls.

I wince when something bad happens to her, dragging a brown body storming down Middle Passage – a rain dance gasping under swash.

At night, I catch her looking into the the sky – thinking, wandering… wondering what will happen if she fails to the sound of splish splosh.

(Moana, Walt Disney Animation Studios)

But Maui promises that he is one of the good ones. In her dreams, she walks though her village promising to make the woods great again.

And if she fails, it’s byebye Motunui; it’s an X on Maui. The same X on her parents. She asks him to meet her halfway, to reach across oceans,

bending continents in half… from sheer determination, to not walk over future generations of dead Polynesian bodies in order to compromise.

You know at night, I remember the first time I watched that film – the song and dance thumb bites to the Male Gaze and patriarchy,

plus representation in front and behind the camera. It’s a safety net, that Moana is one of the good ones.

That she’s strong, that she will get back to the paradise she calls home having restored the Heart of Te Fiti, 

And

It. Will. Be. So. Fucking. Worth. It.

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