“Moana,” Men and Masculinity
Moana is out on video so I bought it for my niece and nephew. As we watched it I was surprised at the truths it told about men and masculinity.
In the story (spoiler alert), Princess Moana’s island began to die because the island goddess, Te Fiti, lost her heart in a struggle with the demi-god Maui, who stole it to enhance his power.
Moana learned that for the island to live, the goddess must regain her heart, so she set out to return it. On her journey she met Maui — who was sometimes friend and sometimes foe.
Maui, Moana and “me over you” vs partnership values
Maui reflects both the good and ill of masculine behavior.
He’s not a bad guy, but he carries an ego that can get in the way of his better intentions and the path of true good — like when he stole the goddess’ heart to become more powerful. We’ve all heard about the male ego and the male fight for power, right?
Maui holds the protypical “hierarchal’ mindset that puts him above others. He felt superior to Moana — not because of his gender but because he’s a demi-god after all, and she’s a mere mortal.
His superior attitude and desire to enhance his power reflects those domination values.
On the flip side, Moana reflects “partnership” values. She wants the best for her people, not just what’s best for herself. Despite Maui’s brash attitude, she works with him and finds ways to be diplomatic in her approach. She is strong and independent, but never feels superior to Maui, or like she wouldn’t need him.
Against Maui’s machismo Moana is more in touch with her whole self — both her “feminine” and “masculine” sides.
Moana to Maui: You are more than your weapon
In his quest, Maui used a magic weapon that was almost entirely destroyed by a lava demon. It seemed to symbolize his conquests, success and power — in fact, his worth. Maybe his fears and struggles were symbolically papered over by that weapon. Without it he felt defeated and lost. How could he be the great Maui?
Even a demi-god has insecurities.
But in a heart to heart Moana told him that he is more than that weapon. And there’s more to his worth than being powerful in that way. She saw him for who he truly is and not the facade of bravado he put on. She told him that he could help people, which was her task.
She was saying, “Yes you have insecurities and weaknesses and you can be vulnerable.” While he saw that as bad, she showed him his heart, deep down inside, stripped away from the material and the ego.
It’s not the talent someone has, or abilities that make them wonderful, it’s their love, personality, heart, character, and compassion that holds true worth.
That conversation parallels real life. In my experience guys don’t talk about their problems because we are so often ego-driven and feel like we can’t be vulnerable or dependent.
But she got him to express his tender, feminine side, which helped him to heal. With her partnership mindset, Moana counseled and consoled Maui.
And he helped her too. In the beginning Moana didn’t believe in herself. But he showed her how to steer the boat, which built her confidence. And over time his assertiveness and confidence rubbed off on her.
Their relationship — learning from each other — shows how men and women can support each other and help each other heal and become whole.
“Power over” versus “power with”
Then there’s the difference between how Maui and Moana sought to solve the problem — Maui thru brute strength and Moana thru her heart.
Maui sought to battle and overpower the lava demon, and wasn’t effective.
But Moana realized that the creature had lost its heart and saw that returning it would bring redemption.
So much symbolism here. First I think it symbolizes how, unfortunately, men’s aggressive mindset suppresses our tender side. Men often have rage at the forefront, when deep inside we are actually sad or hurting, but blinded by rage.
The answer is not to combat with rage, but to be in touch with our compassion.
Women are often better at this, it seems. Maybe it’s because women are encouraged to be more nurturing. So Moana discovered that the lava demon had lost it’s heart and reached out with compassion to heal it.
The creature was actually the goddess who was angered by what was taken from her.
It makes me think of how most women I know personally have much better communication skills than men. Maybe it’s because of our culture, but in a confrontation women seem more likely to either use reverse psychology or talk it out. It’s listening: “I know why you’re upset, you have every reason to be, but this is why I’m helping you…” It disarms an angry person and works better than confrontation.
Moana disarmed the angry lava creature because she showed she cared. That’s all the creature needed to be complete again — for someone to see it’s pain and show they cared.
And then the tender inside, once covered up by anger, can heal.
Behind it all Maui has a good heart. He just needed to peel back his insecurities and let go of the bravado he put forth to boost his ego. In the end he grows more empathetic and caring.
Maybe there’s a lessen in there for us men.
“Bob” made this comment on a post, which I edited.