This weekend, my kids and I went to see Moana, finally. I’ve been wanting to go since it came out, but with all of the illness and holiday madness, this was our first opportunity.
Ever since, I’ve had the soundtrack going almost non-stop, and I keep coming back to a few sets of lyrics and themes that resonate with things going on in the US right now.
SPOILERS FOR MOANA TO FOLLOW (But they’re necessary to discuss why the songs fit).
Even from the beginning of the movie, with “Where You Are,” there is this cognitive dissonance between a society that seems happy and settled and cared for, but that is based on fear and isolation, and is surrounded by darkness. This song is upbeat, but just like Moana’s father’s insistence that she belongs here, we know the peppiness is a lie. Moana can’t say that happiness is where she is, because her truth is in her grandmother’s words. Something is broken at the heart of Motunui, and it’s the same thing that is broken in the world–Te Fiti has lost her heart.
Motunui is the America shaped by fear. The one that allowed terror and a false sense of security to strip it of freedom and compassion. The one that insists that everything we need is here, when our entire history clearly disputes the fact.
“We Know the Way” reminds Moana of her people’s past.
We are explorers reading every sign
We tell the stories of our elders in a never-ending chain
We set a course to find
A brand new Island everywhere we roam
We keep our Island in our mind
And when it’s time to find home
We know the way
That’s us, too, or it has been. I flipped the stanzas from the song because the past is the undercurrent in our story. We’re on this great voyage known as democracy, an experimental republic, sailing to new lands with the stories of our Founding Fathers to guide us–for good or ill. We try to keep our “Island” in our minds–the ideal of that democracy, so that we know the way home.
But somewhere on our journey, we got lost. We got stuck. Things got scary, and people died, and we made bad decisions that isolated us, and now we’re digging down into those decisions instead of realizing that what is driving us is fear.
And of course, in Moana, Motunui is just a reflection of the true problem in the world–again, that Te Fiti has lost her heart.
We, the United States, are like Te Fiti. We’ve transformed into Te Ka, lashing out at everything that comes close to us, erupting with violence at the slightest provocation, or, as was the case this weekend, acting even when there’s no reason to at all.
But as Moana says in “Know Who You Are:”
They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
You know who you are
America, this is not who you are. Don’t let Trump and Bannon steal the heart from inside you. The things they do–the things they are telling you you are complicit in–do not define you. Do not define us.
You know who you are. You know who we are. That Island–that beautiful dream of democracy, of equality, and justice, of the voice of the people, of freedom from tyranny–is still inside of us.
“I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)” (with additions/alterations by me in bold)
I know a
girlpeople from an islandnation
SheThey stand sapart from the crowd
SheTheylove sthe seaEarth and hertheir people
SheThey make s herthe whole familycountry proud
Sometimes, the world seems against you
The journey may leave a scar
But scars can heal and reveal just
Where you are
The people you love will change you
The things you have learned will guide you
And nothing on Earth can silence
The quiet voice still inside you
And when that voice starts to whisper,
MoanaAmerica, you’ve come so far”
“Do you know who you are?”
Who am I?
I am a
girlnation who loves my islandpeople
girlcountry who loves the sealiberty
It calls me
I am the
daughterproduct of the village chiefa hundred nations
We are descended from voyagers
Who found their way across the world
They call me
I’ve delivered us to where we are
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I’ve learned and more
Still it [liberty] calls me
And the call isn’t out there at all
It’s inside me
It’s like the tide
Always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart
You remind me
That come what may
I know the way
Liberty is for all of us, no matter our religion, our gender orientation, our sexuality, our ethnicity, our race, or any other silly thing you can think of to divide humanity.
Freedom and liberty require compassion, empathy, and an open heart. Because anything else is slavery–slavery to fear, to bullies, to anger and violence, to hatred and oppression.
But just like Moana, I’ve spent most of my life playing it safe in Motunui. No longer. My books are my ocean. That’s why, when the next segment of A Merge of Magic releases, it’s going to look a little different than I originally intended. The story has grown. It’s no longer just Viola and Ian’s story. It’s Rachel and Helena’s story, too. They’re two lesbians, in love, protesting for women’s rights at the turn of the 20th century. Because the fight is not over, and I’ll never know how far I’ll go until I get out there onto the water.
“How Far I’ll Go – Reprise”
See her light up the night in the sea
She calls me
And yes, I know
That I can go
There’s a moon in the sky
And the wind is behind me
And soon I’ll know
How far I’ll go
All song lyrics © Mark Mancina, Opetaia Foa’i, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and excerpted from the Moana Soundtrack page on Disney Wikia.