By Kiara Torres
Within the last couple of years, Disney has been making strides toward incorporating more representation of minority cultures throughout their princess cast. This year alone, Disney released a television show starring a Latina princess named Elena of Avalor and “Moana,” a film inspired by Polynesian culture.
“Moana” revolves around Polynesian mythology based on the indigenous culture of the South Pacific. Moana is the 16 year old daughter of chief Tui Waialiki of the Motunui Island who goes on a sailing mission on the quest to help save the people of her island from famine.
On her journey, she meets Maui, who accompanies her on adventures that include fiery creatures and impossible odds. Maui is a demigod with human and godly characteristics who appears in one of Hawaii’s most popular creation myths. The mythology states that he passes the secret of fire to humans, draws the Hawaiian archipelago together, and slings the sun so that it moves more slowly.
Along with teaching its audience Polynesian culture, “Moana” and her viewers also learn a crucial lesson about the importance of her identity.
Moana defies the traditional role of a princess. She states, “I am not a princess!” to which Maui replies, “If you wear a dress and you have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.”
Not only does she deny being a princess, but she also lacks a love interest and focuses on being a heroine, which influences strong female characteristics for young audiences.
“Moana is such an amazing character. She’s brave, she is empowered, she knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to get it, and I think that is something that I can relate to as well,” Auli’i Cravalho, the voice of Moana, said to People Magazine.
Unlike other films based off of other cultures, Moana has a cast that reflects the Polynesian culture accurately. There are many voice actors of Polynesian and Pacific Islander descent like Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, and Nicole Scherzinger.
In the United States, Pacific Islanders make up 0.5 percent of the population according to the Department of Health and Services Office of Minority Health.
Although this race makes up only a small percentage of the population, representation remains important for Polynesian children because a princess of their race can make them less self-conscious of their appearance and more proud of their culture.