Moana and Cultural Diversity

Article by Kylie Cyhn

The highly-anticipated movie, Moana, has recently come out. It is gaining a lot of attention as it is  becoming known as the only Disney movie that doesn’t include a love interest, but rather focuses on the main character, Moana, and her own personal journey. Disney has been critiqued in the past for negatively influencing children as many films were not open to different cultures and backgrounds of people all around the world. Therefore, Disney has attempted to diversify their movies, and include different cultures and backgrounds, especially in Moana.

There are mixed responses to this movie, and whether Disney has succeeded in diversifying their movies and expanding the audience’s awareness of the different cultures in the world. However, in the Bearcat community, the response to this movie is mainly positive. Bearcats feel like this is a direct display of diversity and different cultural backgrounds.

“Disney has succeeded in trying to expand their diversity, because I felt that it let the audience have a better understanding of other cultures,” said Nicole D, a freshman. “For example, every chief in the village placed a rock on the top of the mountain as a tradition. Then they would get tattoos that would symbolize something of importance to them. This really showed the audience that although the traditions may seem different, or strange, to some people, it is of great importance to others, as it is important for everyone to keep an open mind.”

Carina S, another freshman, agrees.

Disney has improved their diversity issues by bringing the Polynesian culture into this movie, as not only does it promote diversity and representation, but has brought new stories from the Polynesian culture which has made this movie an amazing one to see,” Carina said.

Another freshman, Agnes R, thought that Disney was “faced with a difficult decision from the beginning.”

“It’s often hard to address different cultures and traditions in a tasteful manner, without seeming stereotypical,” said Agnes. “But it’s definitely still important that they do their best, and do branch out, addressing different cultures and traditions to make sure they are still diverse in their stories. Disney did do a good job, and we have to keep in mind that this is still a children’s story. Also, Disney has the issue of their female characters always being portrayed as weak, and needing the help of a man. So, I think this was a perfect tribute to the changing dynamic, with more gender equality and female empowerment. I feel this movie is kind of following Frozen in suit, with a strong female lead that is not saved by her prince.”

As stated before, Moana is known as the first Disney movie without any love interest of a sort, and by doing this, Disney is not only attempting to expand their diversity, but their interpretation of gender equality as well.

Diversity is very broad and at times difficult topic to address, but Disney’s initiative through Moana certainly seems to be a promising step forward in using technology and art to expose more people to different cultures and backgrounds.