We have a few “girl” superhero costumes in the house. A puffy-sleaved lavender Batgirl costume and a Supergirl costume trimmed in red tulle and sparkles. But when my 4-year-old wants to dress up as a superhero and fight crime, she no longer reaches for these vestments of token girl power.
She dresses as a princess.
I had forever sworn that, should I be blessed with a daughter, nary a single tiara would enter my home. Having grown up watching Snow White get saved by a prince, and Sleeping Beauty get saved by a prince, and Cinderella get saved by a prince, and (well, you get the idea), weak damsels in pretty ball gowns make my skin crawl.
Then came Tiana. Disney released “The Princess and the Frog” when Zev was four, and it threw me. Zev was swept up in the music (and who could blame him?) but I was more focused on how an aspiring business owner who spent most of the film as a frog could leap into the princess pantheon. Yes, the fairy tale includes a handsome prince and a beautiful gown, but it actually concludes with the opening of a restaurant. That’s their “happily ever after.” A service industry tycoon marries a cute guy and puts him to work.
I figured that was a one-off. But the princess power didn’t stop in New Orleans. Pixar’s “Brave,” featured a fearless princess whose only flaw was that she didn’t listen to her mother. Then came Elsa and Anna of “Frozen,” sisters whose love for each other save the world.
Rapunzel in “Tangled” is still a damsel-in-distress who is saved by a guy, but she also ends up saving her savior. Plus, this was the first film in which I had ever seen a princess being asked if she’d like to be kissed. Usually the prince doesn’t wait for consent. (When you’re famous, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the dwarves.)
Over time, my opinion of princesses began to soften like Olaf by the fireplace. Some people really are worth melting for. And that someone is Moana.
The daughter of the village chief is braver than Mulan, more determined than Rapunzel, more self-aware than Elsa and more intellectually curious than Belle.
And my daughter wants to be her.
With a strong connection to her ancestors, to her community and to the story of her people, Moana is Polynesian but she could easily have been Jewish. She travels alone by boat to save her people, and by extension, the entire planet. She wrestles with a god. She proves herself a true steward of the earth. She even brings a little chicken with her everywhere she goes. How much more Jewish can you get?
But that is not why I love Moana. I love her because she is so brave and so admirable that not only does my daughter want to be her, my 6-year-old son does, too.
Instead of dressing up like Superman and relegating his sister to the perfunctory “-girl” superheroes, Oz argues with Sivan over who gets to be the leader of Motunui (“You will board my boat and restore the heart of Te Fiti.”)
I don’t remember a boy every fighting with me because he wanted to play the part of Aurora.
“I am MO-AAAAN-AAA!”
“No, I am Moana.”
“No, I am MO-AAAAN-AAA!”
Eventually, my son relents and takes on the “boy” roles in the film – stepping aside to allow his sister to save the world.
Originally published in OC Jewish Life http://jlifeoc.com/the-strong-princess/