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14 Reasons Why Moana Is The Best Disney Princess

The absolute greatest, hands down.

As a Pacific Islander, I was beyond excited when I first heard about Moana. Our first Polynesian princess! But I was still a little apprehensive. After all, Disney doesn't exactly have a stellar record with strong female characters or portraying other cultures accurately.

Moana standing with Maui, Pua, and Heihei

But after watching the movie, I was blown away! Even though the film combines the cultures of many Pacific islands, it stays true to our spirit. And best of all, Moana is a total badass! Years later, she's still my favorite Disney princess, and here's why:

Moana smiling

1. There's no romantic love interest.

Moana smiling

Some Disney princesses like Cinderella and Snow White rely on a man to save them. Other princesses like Ariel specifically set out to find a man. And some, like Mulan, have awesome adventures, just to end up with a man at the end. But Moana is special, because she don't need no man! She's on her own journey to figure out who she is and her place in the world. It's so important for little kids to have heroines like her to look up to, so they realize that romantic love isn't the only kind of love worth having. Moana's adventure is all about love for her family, her home, her way of life, and ultimately, herself.

2. She's the perfect example of female empowerment.

Moana grinning while she holds onto her boat

Despite her dad's reluctance to let her into the ocean, Moana listens to her heart and stands up for what she believes in. She ends up saving her family, Motunui, and all the islands of the South Pacific! She proves that she has what it takes to lead her people. Moana is a wonderful role model for young girls because she teaches them that they can accomplish their goals even if others doubt them.

3. Family is everything to her.

Moana grinning at her mom and dad

Unlike some princesses who ditch their families for a man, Moana holds her family close to her heart. Even though her father disagrees with her path in the beginning, she doesn't give up on him. She returns after her adventure, and she reconnects her people to their roots. And her relationship with Gramma Tala is so special! It makes me tear up every time I watch the film.

4. Moana has more realistic body proportions than other princesses.

Moana standing on the sand

Finally! She's still slender, but she has a more muscular build than any other Disney princess. Check out those calves! Animation directors Ron Clements and John Musker said they wanted her to "physically hold her own for what kind of stunts [they] wanted her to do and the physicality of the role." Yes! Hopefully, Disney will continue this trend and give us more characters in ALL shapes and sizes!

5. She reminds us to respect our elders.

Moana dancing with her grandma, who is touching Moana's chin

In the Pacific Islander community, we treasure our elders. They are filled with wisdom and experience that we young folks can't quite grasp yet. They deserve our utmost respect. Moana's relationship with Gramma Tala encompasses this. And after her grandma dies, Moana is open to receiving her memory and encouragement. This demonstrates how our elders and ancestors can live on through us.

6. Moana works hard to learn a skill.

Maui teaching Moana to sail

Unlike most other princesses, Moana has to develop and master a skill to accomplish her goal! She doesn't really know how to sail in the beginning, but with Maui's instruction, she slowly improves. It's a great reminder that following your dreams takes hard work and resilience, but you can achieve it if you don't give up.

7. She is the most compassionate Disney princess.

Baby Moana covering a baby turtle with a leaf and a bird looking angrily at them

The movie starts with baby Moana helping a tiny turtle make it to the ocean without being eaten by birds. Even as a little kid, she has the biggest heart! Then, she risks her life on this wild adventure – not for fame or glory or riches, but to save her island and her people. There's not a selfish bone in her body.

8. Moana is a wonderful friend.

Moana and Maui giving each other a high five

After being abandoned by his parents, Maui is plagued by self-esteem issues. He doesn't believe he has value without his hook. But Moana helps him down the path to self-confidence and self-respect. I can't think of another princess who has such a positive impact on her friends.

9. She values her people's history and learns from it.

Moana teaching her father to sail

Polynesian wayfinders used the stars and ocean currents to navigate the Pacific for thousands of years. Moana discovers this, and she immediately recognizes that this is a way to help her village in the present. I love that she brings the voyager aspect of her culture full circle.

10. Moana wears traditional dress throughout the entire film.

Moana standing with her parents in traditional attire, including a headdress with beads and feathers

This is huge! Disney based Moana's outfits on the traditional clothing of different Pacific islands. And let me tell you, the PRIDE I felt as a Samoan woman when I saw Moana in her tuiga (headdress) was off the charts! Dressing Moana this way educates viewers while showcasing the beauty and creativity of Pasifika cultures.

11. Her name is symbolic.

Moana touching the ocean, which is hanging over her magically

The word "moana" actually means ocean in many Polynesian languages. So when the ocean chooses her, it's very fitting. It's almost as though she was born for this!

12. Moana doesn't kill Te Kā. Instead, she heals her.

Moana reaching out to Te Kā

Usually, the good guy defeats the bad guy during an epic battle. Only Moana, so compassionate and empathetic, would think of strolling up to a powerful monster and hoping to restore her heart. Since many Polynesians view the ocean as the source of life, it's also beautifully symbolic that the girl whose name translates to ocean is the one to bring Te Fiti back to life.

13. Her songs are powerful.

Moana hugging the spirit of her grandma

Unlike some princesses who literally sing, "Someday, my prince will come," Moana's songs are about self-empowerment. In "How Far I'll Go," she accepts that she's special and decides to follow the ocean's call. And with my favorite song, "I Am Moana," she connects with Gramma Tala and her ancestors. The song reminds her about who she is and gives her the strength to continue her mission.

14. And finally, Moana respects Mother Nature.

Moana leaning her head against Te Fiti

The slow destruction of the environment in the movie parallels what's actually happening to our planet today. Pacific Islanders are indigenous people who care deeply about our homes, and I love that Moana shines a light on that. She risks her life to save her island, and we could all learn from her dedication to preserving nature.

What do you love about Moana? Let me know in the comments below!

Check out more of our posts celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month here.

BuzzFeed / Kathy Hoang

TV and Movies

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