Andrea Nicole Torres

“Moana,” is one of the few Disney princesses to be a Person of Color (POC), the second to not have a prince to rely on, and a movie that has affected my view on life significantly since I saw it for the first time over Christmas break.

Moana is a Hawaiian princess living on an island in which the people fear the ocean due to it’s immense power. Ever since she was a child, she had a strong connection to the ocean and always longed to go out and see just how far it goes. How exactly does this children’s movie affect a 17 year old girl?

It is because it was released during my senior year.

As I approach the end of senior year, many decisions are to be made and responsibilities to be taken care of, the biggest one being my future. Ever since the 8th grade, I have wanted to leave Jacksonville and go see what the world has to offer.

Like Moana, I cannot leave. Like Moana, I feel an obligation to be with my family and do what they expect of me: stay home, study at the University of North Florida, and live at home in the meantime

When I watched Moana, I was struggling with my own decision of whether or not I was comfortable with staying home. I feared the feeling of entrapment , and after watching the movie, Moana taught me that my family is the most important thing to me. Her duty to her family and her tribe, and her passion to risk everything she had for their safety reminded me that no matter how far away I want to go, I will always want to come back to my family.

Moana, unlike me, ends up leaving her island to search for Maui, a demigod who caused the darkness to rise. Her duty is to get him to return the heart to Te Fiti, the mother island that provided life to all other islands. She learns what it means to be independent, courageous, strong, and most of all, that even if she ends up staying on her island, the ocean will always be there.

She faces struggles, such as constantly fighting with her duty to her island and her desire to leave, what her father expects of her,  Maui leaving her when they are close to returning the heart, but she does not give up. Her determination inspired me to keep going and reach all of my goals and dreams.

I connect strongly to her fight with her father throughout the first half of the movie. Her father, when he was younger, had the same desire as Moana to go to the ocean, and when he did, he lost a friend. He wants to save Moana from that burden, but does so by reminding her that she is to become Chief of the island. It still isn’t enough to sway her.

My mother and I fight all the time now about whether or not I am ready to leave home after college. She worries I will do all the things I shouldn’t do, which is rational for a parent to think when their child is growing up so quickly. But, the never ending to struggle to show her that I will be responsible, and that I will eventually need that push into adulthood, reminds me of Moana’s struggle to show her father that she needs to leave to save her people.

This movie taught me that I will have time to explore the world, but now, as a young adult coming into a new chapter of my life, my home and my family are the two things I will need the most. Moana’s grandmother plays a huge role in Moana’s decision to leave her island to save her people. My Abuela (and my mother) play a prominent role in my decision to stay.

Being a huge Disney lover, it means something when I say “Moana” has changed my life, and not even exclusively in terms of college, but in how I view myself.

Life as a young Puerto Rican woman still presents challenges today. Disney’s decision to have a young POC princess allows me to feel respected and appreciated, and has brought me to feel pride in who I am.

Moana has changed me, and has made me realize one very important thing that she makes very clear in one of the songs called, “I am Moana (Song of Ancestors),”the lyric stating, “The call isn’t out there at all/ it’s inside me. And come what may, I know the way…”

With only three months until graduation, this movie has prepared me for the next stage in my life: college, and I have never been more excited.