Anthropocene terror in two girl-centred narratives: The leitmotifs of mythological time, colonisation and monstrosity in the films Whale Rider and Moana



Anthropocene, terror, colonisation, monstrousness, girlhood, Moana, Whale Rider, Greta Thunberg


The place of children in societies is a question that we have been grappling with in many forms, maybe nowhere more creatively and visibly than in the products  of our imaginary complexes, such as films. Educational theorist and cultural critic Henry Giroux  (2012) describes a contemporary crisis about youth and considers youth as potential cultural and pedagogical ‘border-crossers or outlaws’. Our complex contemporary engagement with the concept of youth coincides with an increasing awareness of, firstly, the genderedness of our world and, secondly, of anthropocene planetary ecological states of crises. In this article I consider two girl-centred films, both with young female protagonists, where the convergence of these discursive forces is depicted in the narrative context of the current renewed appreciation for indigenous cultures, particularly those of the global south. The films are New Zealand director Niki Caro’s Whale Rider (2002) and Disney’s animated film Moana (2016). There are clear similarities between the films, and the Disney creators have openly credited Whale Rider as influential in their creative process. I particularly consider how these two films, when read together, engage with ideas of cyclical mythological time, the leitmotifs of exploration, gender and colonisation, and with the trope of monstrousness or monstrosity as metaphors for paradoxical and complex living in an age of increasing complexity and anxiety.