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I watched Moana for the first time yesterday. I’m kind of ambivalent about it, since I can think of some good and some bad messages, and as a 32-year-old, wasn’t all that captivated by the story (though I appreciated the quality of the animation).
Maybe because the setting is more tribal and not so Western, and maybe because of Disney’s motif of sort of refuting some of its earlier fairy tales, I was partially hopeful that this would be a story less about following your heart and more about courageously and sacrificially submitting to the leadership and community you were born to.  I was disappointed.

 

It wasn’t the demi-gods or coconut-demons or fire-monsters or reincarnated/ghost grandmas that most concerned me about this movie; it was that message of how to find out who you are meant to be: Disregard your parents and authority figures.  Be inspired by stories and legends.  Find some distant ancestors whose way of life is most appealing to you, and believe it’s an integral part of you.  Don’t prepare; just literally let yourself be thrown into something, and then pursue it with all the publicly rebellious determination you can muster.

 

One thing that complicates this for a Christian is that some of Moana’s discernment is based on the spiritual encounters she has.  There is no true God and Savior Jesus Christ in this movie, so other things stand in for the role He plays in directing our lives and gracing us to fulfill our “destinies”.  If the water-spirit that is so influential in Moana’s journey were actually the Creator God of the Bible, her story would be less concerning.  But it isn’t, and I believe that there are other spiritual forces in the real world, not only in fantasies, that stand-in for the place God ought to have in our lives.  And these beings are not good, not neutral; they are in evil opposition to the loving Lord of the universe.  What kind of message is it sending us and our kids to trust these kinds of spiritual experiences to direct us?

 

Moana did keep in mind and heart, always, how to serve and care for her people.  This is one of the better aspects of the “find your purpose” theme.  I was telling my brother that if they’d written the story of her father encouraging her to be different from him, while holding these same values of service to the tribe, I’d be way more excited about all of it.

 

Also a positive, in Moana, Disney has released another film that demonstrates the need for teamwork.  Moana and Maui each come to realize that they are more effective with each other’s help, and that the other does really need them in order to save their world.

 

I think I am actually most intrigued by the character of Maui, who wrestles with his own identity questions.  When we first meet him in person, we quickly recognize a dominant trait of arrogance, but later we learn that this is sort of a cover, a compensation for a deep insecurity.  The complex ways these issues affect his choices are fascinating; and over-all, I think they send a good message to audiences.

 

In the end, Moana does have a suitably communal argument for everyone having something to contribute, be it a peculiar chicken, a teenage girl, a demi-god with or without his hook, an experienced leader, or the village crazy lady – and the value of embracing what others have to offer.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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(read before Part 2)

 

Saturday night I went with some friends to see Prince Caspian, the sequel to CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Of the seven Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian is my favorite.  I try not to think of allegory unless it occurs to me when I read CS Lewis.  So my appreciation for the story is quite apart from any meaning of the novel.  The story moves quickly, and there are fascinating characters and a glorious victory. 

 

The movie, as Hollywood is wont to do with my favorite things, greatly altered the book.  The basic plot was there, and some of the same events.  I dare say the duel was taken call by call from the book.  A major battle was added, and important events were out of place, which puts a very different spin on the themes of the book. 

 

One point is the same in the book and the movie.  Narnia has been invaded by a tribe of humans called the Telmarines.  They killed or exiled every talking animal and mythological thing when they conquered, and have for some generations denied the existence of dwarves, fauns, centaurs, and talking mice along with anything supernatural.  King Miraz rules a world he understands and controls.  And in the story all of a sudden everything they never believed existed came marching up in front of their face.  

 

What a picture of our country!  So content in our insistent denial of the supernatural, we wander along in a world we think we can control.  If there is a God, he doesn’t interfere with the natural course.  If God does redeem the soul, He does not give any power to the Christian.  If a Christian has power, it is just excellence in normal gifts and talents.  There are no demons and no miracles.  Waters do not part.  Men do not come back to life.  Angels are legends for Christmas trees and graveyards.  Dreams are not prophetic.  Judgment is never more than consequences or human vengeance. 

So we seem to believe. 

 

If God sent undeniably fantastic events and figures upon the world, what would we do? 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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