The animated Disney film Moana came out on DVD/Blu-Ray last week; we hadn’t had the chance to see it in theaters, so we bought a copy and watched it at home. It is a gorgeous, wonderful movie, with a strong heroine, great music, and the most amazing animation of water that you’ve ever seen. Disney put a lot of thought into its portrayal of Polynesian culture and people, and while I have read thoughtful criticisms of some of their choices, the overall response seems to have been quite positive.
On top of all that, there is a smaller aspect of Moana that was a joy to watch: Moana’s hair. She has long, dark, wavy hair—and it behaves like real hair. When she gets washed up on a beach, her hair is sandy and salt-poofed. When she jumps or turns, her hair sometimes gets in her face. And so when she’s getting ready to do some tricky sailing, she ties her hair up in a bun.
It was absolutely delightful to see a female character whose hair did not magically stay in place in all contexts.
I have straight, blonde-ish hair, so I’ve never suffered from a lack of “people who look like me” in movies, nor have I ever had to face the conscious and unconscious racism that can creep into people’s assessments of what constitutes “professional-looking” hair. It’s still frustrating, though, that the cultural expectation for long-haired women of my age is that we wear it down, without clips or headbands or obvious hairspray to keep it in place. And this is definitely a thing in popular entertainment—seriously, don’t even get me started on Supergirl’s hair.
My hair simply does not stay in place. It gets in my eyes when I walk outside, when I play with my kid, even when I’m just sitting at my desk typing. If I were superhero-ing or navigating a ship across the Pacific, you can bet my hair would be tied up.
It was so nice to see this in a movie!