Let me start by saying that Moana is one of my favourite Disney movies. The animation is incredibly detailed. Each main character has great depth in personality and complexity. And the storyline fit everything together like a challenging, but satisfying puzzle.

Perhaps my favourite part of the movie is Moana herself. The movie is acclaimed by children and parents alike for showing this brave, adventurous and outgoing girl following the path she is destined to make – sailing beyond the reef and restoring the heart of Te Fiti, helping demigod Maui and saving her entire village.

Almost everything about it is perfect.

But there is one problem.

When we watch animated movies we understand that we’re in a world where “reality” is stretched…sometimes more than a bit. In the movie Moana, we see the coconut tribe and don’t think to ourselves “Oh, that can’t be real!” because we’re already in the realm of make believe.

That being said, there are other things that are very similar to reality which help us relate to the characters and story. Often, these similarities are how individuals interact with each other: how Moana’s loving grandmother encourages her, how her father tries to keep her from going astray from his plan and how Maui grows by rethinking Moana and her destiny.

The movie’s writers painstakingly detailed ‘reality’ in character interactions, yet I struggle with the villagers’ interactions with Moana. Think about this girl from their point of view – a little pain-in-the-ass soon-to-be-ruler has a mindset that everything that the island has known and loved is wrong, she’s always disobeying authority and only when forced into a situation does she even consider listening…when her elders are watching.

Let’s pretend that the villagers followed the same social cues as in the ‘real world’. Would they really think it’s adorable how her only friend is a stupid chicken? Would they be so subdued when the future ruler of their world wants to follow a make-believe story? When crazy-adventurous-uncontrollable Moana comes back from her three-day disappearing act would they all run happily to the beach and sing songs? Would they be eager for Moana to be their supreme ruler? Likely not.

The way our world sees children who are adventurous, outgoing and spirited is quite different. And it’s pretty frustrating. First, we tell all of our friends and family about how these sorts of children can’t follow rules. We blame their parents, who we feel must be bad parents since they obviously can’t control their child. We blame society – the world around us that encourages this type of behaviour. Often we blame the child: “the one with too much energy”. And then label children as being “hyperactive”, like it’s a disorder.

This is the problem with Moana. We like to think that our community supports adventurous children, that we all love each other and get over our subtle differences to make a better world together. But that’s not reality.

Reality is we want children to be controlled and follow the path we’ve already planned out for them.

It’s time to forget about ‘spirited’ misconceptions. Forget the plan you think is right – it’s wrong. Forget the oceans and walls you’ve created – adventurous children can climb every wall and cross every ocean. Forget your real-life foes you’ll face when you trudge off the beaten path – most people don’t deserve your love.

Grab your child firmly by the hand and let them take you on an adventure to restore your heart and community.