Disney’s Moana, set in Polynesia, is a “delightful” move that addresses “some of the central tensions of advanced modern life,” writes Greg Forster on Jay Greene’s blog.
Moana is raised in a closed, tradition-bound society but longs to explore and discover, which she can only do by leaving her island behind. We, living in an open, scientific society, long for stable sources of identity, meaning and purpose, which is why we like to watch movies that take place in ancient times and places, when people knew who they were.
Moana discovers that her tradition includes exploration. Her ancestors built the boats.
“We are explorers reading every sign,” sing her ancestors, but also: “We tell the stories of our elders in a neverending chain!”
“We set a course to find a brand new island everywhere we roam” but “when it’s time to find home, we know the way!”
“We know where we are, we know who we are!”
Moana’s traditionalist father “thinks safety is to be found by retreat into a closed system of tradition,” writes Forster. “But traditions themselves speak against this; they point outside themselves to the higher things that traditions exist to serve.”
The movie is doing well at the box office.