In her Keyword essay “Gender,” Erica Hateley speaks of the reality that too often, girls are presented as “tag-alongs, subordinate to boys in initiative and daring…passive, emotional, and unimaginative” (87). Specifically, nearly every Disney princess movie involves a female lead character needing to be rescued by a strong, brave, dominant man. Therefore, a significant amount of these movies teach young girls that they are essentially dependent on men. However, Disney’s latest princess, Moana, represents something completely different.
In the Washington Post article entitled “Disney’s Moana is a Princess Head and Shoulders (And Feet) Above the Rest,” Carrie Dunsmore writes about how Disney finally has a strong lead female character who defies gender roles and expectations. The movie’s lack of a love interest for Moana portrays the reality that girls and women do not need men to conquer the world and save their island. Additionally, Moana is showing girls that they can be brave, strong, and independent just like the boys.
I think this idea of girls being able to do anything that boys can do connects to a specific scene in our reading of the American Girl, Kaya. During Kaya and Two Hawks’ long journey back to Kaya’s family, Two Hawks broke his ankle. In the following months, it was a long recovery, and one day, Kaya made it her mission to brighten Two Hawks’ day. She decided to help Two Hawks get onto a horse, and they would go riding. Kaya offered to help Two Hawks mount on the horse, but he initially refused help from a girl. Being a strong and independent American Girl, Kaya contemplates, “Did this stubborn boy think she wasn’t strong enough to lift him” (149)? Not only did Kaya take the initiative and the role of the leader in this scene, she showed readers just how crazy it is when boys think that girls are incapable of heavy lifting and helping boys out. Clearly, this scene connects perfectly to Moana’s values, for both of these girl characters know that girls can do anything they set their mind to. Thanks to the portrayal of Moana and Kaya, young girls understand that there is no reason why girls cannot take the lead, act brave, and save the world.