Of hundreds of Disney characters out there, it is Maui from Moana that tells us the story of all too many children (and adults).
If you’re anything like me, and I guess that you are if you are reading this, Disney movies have become more of a free-and-always-available-babysitter rather than an actual movie you can sit and enjoy. For this reason, I, too, was rather surprised to find a heartbreaking, completely not perceptually-challenging character in Moana, of all movies.
Following my little blurb on the subject on my Facebook page, I decided to actually take the time and to do what every good scholar would do – make popcorn and watch the movie. But before we go into that, let’s talk about the first thing we thought when we came across that Maui dude – I, for example, thought to myself “who is this buffoon and why the hell is he so in love with himself? He’s not even that good looking”! The latter surely is a matter of personal taste, but I’m sure that the glaring smile and the sense of entitlement got to you, too.
Maui: a Show for Humanity
“Yes, yes! Maui always has time for his fans!”
I see what’s happening here
You’re face-to-face with greatness and it’s strange
You don’t even know how you feel, It’s adorable!
Well it’s nice to see that humans never change
Open your eyes, let’s begin
Yes it’s really me, It’s Maui! Breathe it in
I know it’s a lot, the hair, the bod!
When you’re staring at a demigod
What can I say except “You’re welcome”?
For me, that first impression became even worse past that show of self-admiration, when Maui fools Moana into the cave, locks her in, and sails away with her boat, leaving here there, well, to die (if it wasn’t a Disney movie).
But then it gets interesting. Maui, it turns out, does have a conscience that speaks to him through his tattoos, screaming to him that his treatment of Moana is unacceptable, but he pushes it away, threatening it would sleep in his armpit. Funny – I admit, but it tells us something about how Maui feels towards those humans, who he said that never change. Can that be the reason to his initial vengeance towards Moana? We will soon find out.
As Maui internalizes Moana’s presence on the boat and her persistence in persuading him to restore the heart of Te Fiti and save her island, he finally admits.
“I am not Maui without my hook” he says – so why are you so proud? Or, could all that be a show?
Maui’s Dual Truth
As Maui keeps his refusal to return the heart of Te Fiti, Moana cleverly notices his tattoos, that seem to be speaking the words of Maui’s heart, the words he himself would never say.
“You’ll to be a hero. That’s what you are about, right”?
“Little girl, I am a hero”.
“Maybe you were but now you’re just the guy who stole the heart of Te Fiti. The guy who cursed the world”.
The people’s tattoo looks at Maui, begs him to agree to the plan and restore what Maui once was – a hero. If you look close enough, you’ll even see a little glimpse of a sad soul in his eyes. But only for a second, and only after reading this.
He then comes to his senses, agrees to regain his status of the hero, but only after his hook is returned. As without it, he is nothing, remember?
Maui’s True Story
After getting the hook back, Maui learns it no longer works. Or, in other words, he learns he can’t work it like he used to. He then shuts down, completely closes to Moana, and refuses to talk. Her attempts to connect seem to aggravate him further and further.
“I can’t help you if you don’t let me” Moana says, and with these words talks to Maui’s heart for the very first time in over 1,000 years of isolation.
“I wasn’t born a Demigod” he then reveals. “I have human parents. They took one look at me and decided they didn’t want me. They threw me into the sea. Like I was nothing”. Maui’s tattoos repeat the story. “Somehow I was found by the Gods, they gave me the hook. They made me Maui”.
The Gods gave Maui the power, but they didn’t give him the connection, the one thing all human beings crave for, live for, die for, and kill for.
“And then back to the humans I went. I gave them islands, fire, coconuts. Anything they ever wanted”.
Moana then brings it home. “You took the heart for them. You did everything for them. So they would love you”.
“But it was never enough” Maui admits. He was never enough.
And that feeling, folks, of never being enough, is the feeling behind that deed that almost annihilated the entire population. We could continue focusing on the deed, like most of us usually do, but where would we get unless we consider the reason for which it was done? The experience of extreme loneliness, lack of worth, and the belief that “if I will only did this, they will finally love me”.
Unlike so many other children out there, Maui was lucky enough to meet Moana.
“Maybe the ocean found you for a reason. Maybe the ocean brought you to the Gods because it saw someone who is worthy of being saved. But the Gods are not the ones who made you Maui. You did”.
Maui’s Inner Child
Moana speaks to Maui’s inner child; that hurt little child who had never felt worthy is now recognized, seen and heard, for the very first time. Maui’s little tattoo of him the gives him a hug. “Okay, okay, I love you too, buddy”. Did Maui ever love himself before that, truly? I don’t think so. It is here that we recognize that Maui’s previously depicted perception of self is false. It’s a show he must put up, for himself, for Moana, for humanity, a show he must live to survive. Until a true glimpse of hope, a single instance of belief directed at him. The first instance of what love might be. For such a drained soul, it is more than enough.
The Power of Connection
Maui’s tattoos begin dancing all positive future outcomes with sheer happiness and excitement and the hook – he can work it again! And you know what I always say about a strong connection and the feeling of met needs? It makes people happy, receptive to others, internally interested in meeting their needs.
“You know, the ocean used to love when I pulled out the islands, all these new lands for your ancestors to find. It was the waters that connected them all. And I think, that the ocean needed a curly, non-princess, to start all that again”.
“This is the nicest thing you’ve ever told me” says Moana and they both connect with a smile.
One Only Hurts When He is Hurt
But the journey isn’t so simple. Maui’s first encounter with Te Ka doesn’t end with a victory, and Moana’s insisting results in Maui’s cracked hook. He then gives up, “I’m not going back” he says.
“Without my hook I am nothing. Without my hook I am NOTHING”.
“We’re only here because YOU stole the heart” says Moana, and Maui does what any other hurt and aching soul is expected to do, he hits back: “no, we’re only here because the ocean told you you were special. And you believed it!” …”The ocean chose me”!. “Well, it chose wrong”.
And Maui leaves Moana to complete the journey on her own. But can a soul really reject connection, specially when it is the first, true and honest connection in a lonely existence of over a 1,000 years? Maui comes back to help Moana the precise moment she needs it and together they win over Te Ka, restore the heart of Te Fiti and, well, yea – save the world.
So Who is Maui?
Maui is the classic bully, who puts on a show of strength and happiness, when inside he is crumbling. Maui is that boy on the playground who pretends to be the happiest, yet comes home to an empty house day after day. Maui is that boy in the park who plays next to everyone else, but never with them, because he’s too smart to trust them again. Maui is that boy who makes the most noise, the most mess and everyone scolds him – yet love is the only thing he ever wanted. He was just never taught to request.
A hurt and aching sole who devoted his life to human beings, the ones who first abandoned him and later on conditioned their love to his deeds of service. Human beings that could not be satiated, no matter what Maui did – who always wanted more and more. Since the feeling of being a “hero” was Maui’s closest resemblance to love, he went on and on until that once deed, that eventually almost brought to the annihilation of that imaginary human society and his own 1,000 year long isolation.
The stories we tell ourselves as children, never wither.
There’s a Maui in Every One of Us
The story of Maui is the story of almost every grown up I know, every grown up you know. Me, and you, too.
Somewhere, back then in childhood, we all create beliefs for ourselves, beliefs that help us understand why we are treated the way we are treated. Beliefs that help us survive as children in the big world and shape the adults we will become.
Some children were only accepted by their parents if they were straight A students, they told themselves that they only deserve love if they succeed; so they become CEOs or give up trying altogether.
Other children were only accepted by their parents if they stayed out of their ways; they told themselves they were only worthy of love if they didn’t burden anyone. They learned to disregard their desires, they lost their voice.
Some children were constantly blamed, they told themselves they are only worthy of love when they aren’t to blame; so they either stop doing, or become serial “blamers”.
Other children were always require to service the grownups around them; they told themselves they were only worthy of love if they make others happy.
Our inner children need these beliefs to survive; they need these beliefs to make some sense in the world, to understand why the ones who are supposed to protect them at all costs, to love them no matter what, are treating them that way.
Breaking the Cycle
Unknowingly, and definitely not intentionally, so many of us carry these burdens way into our own parenting, conditioning the love that should never be conditioned. No matter what.
We can break this cycle. We can love again – our inner child, and our own children. No matter what.
None of us deserves nothing less than unconditional love.