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Why Moana May Be Disney’s Most Progressive Princess Yet

Originally published on June 26, 2016

Two weeks ago, Disney released its first genuine look at its upcoming animated film, MOANA. Complete with animated tattoos on demi-god Maui as he shows off his awesomeness for a confused Moana, accompanied by a snippet of music co-created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the minute and a half teaser trailer has enough excitement set in motion to create even more anticipation for its fall release.

Just from what I’ve heard about the film when it was first announced two years ago, it’s already set to be something special. Moana will be Disney’s first Pacific Islander princess who, together with Maui, sets out on a journey across the ocean, in search of an island that may or may not be real. However, it is recently where I realized something that just may make this upcoming film even more extraordinary: Based on what’s been revealed so far, it doesn’t look like Moana will have a love interest in the film.

Now that is saying something for a character that will likely be the next Disney Princess; a franchise made up of female protagonists from a number of other Disney films. While the character development of these beloved women have deepened and developed as new ones are introduced overtime, the one thing that has remained consistent with a vast majority of them is that they almost always wind up with a love interest by the end of the film. Really, the only exception currently is Merida from the Disney/Pixar film, BRAVE. (In case you’re wondering, no, Elsa from FROZEN doesn’t count. Apart from the fact that she’s a queen, she and Anna are not official characters of the Disney Princess franchise.)

So you might be thinking: Okay, so even if Moana doesn’t wind up with a love interest by the end of the film, she won’t be the first. What’s the big deal?

Well, as a matter of fact, this possibility will still be a big deal if proven correct. Apart from the fact that she’ll be the first princess of color without a love interest, but she’ll also be the first non-Pixar, full-fledged Disney princess without a love interest.

There might be some people who may speculate over whether or not she’ll wind up with Maui in the end, but honestly I really don’t see that happening. To see a fully grown man (voiced by fully grown man Dwayne Johnson) fall for a teenage girl (voiced by high school-aged Auli’i Cravalho) would both look and sound all shades of wrong. If anything, I am more interested in seeing a friendship develop between the two over their time navigating together. Besides, shouldn’t Disney catch up to Hayao Miyazaki’s standards by now, in terms of not always having the guy and the girl get together in the end?

Of course I’m toying with speculation, for there isn’t enough information out there yet about whom some of the other characters are in the film. But honestly, it really would mean a lot to me, as I’m sure it would be with others, to see a headstrong female protagonist make it through a film without finding a love interest by the end. While love stories can be sweet and worthy of tugging heartstrings if done right, it’s also been an ongoing trope for female characters pretty much since the beginning of film.

If MOANA can break that mold for its young protagonist, then she just may be Disney’s most progressive princess yet.

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