Disclaimer: I apologize if my thoughts seem to be everywhere.
I absolutely loved Whale Rider. I thought it was such a heart-felt film about a young girl’s struggles as a girl, and how she finally receives acceptance. The film itself really depicted her journey on overcoming every obstacles that she faced.
Being a girl
Doubts against her ability to achieve
What I found interesting was, rather than other people in the community rejecting her because of her gender, it was her own grandfather that rejected her. I kept wondering what the significance of this was. Maybe it was to emphasize the length and width of how hard it is for a women to be recognized because even in a family household, finding that recognition (for Pai) is hard. I also found Pai’s grandmother and Uncle’s rebellion against Koro to be interesting. Their rebellion was simply supporting Pai’s desire to learn what the other boys were learning on how to be a chief.
One passage that I really liked from Gonick’s article “Indigenizing Girl Power Here” was this passage…
“It is quite easy to see how Whale Rider fits the new ethos of femininity, with its young irrepressible female protagonist who holds such strong convictions in her own future. When Koro assembles the first born boys to begin their training as potential leaders, he tells them: “you will be tested for your strength, your courage, your intelligence and your leadership.” It is only Koro who is unaware that Pai has already begun demonstrating each of these characteristics in her quest to gain his recognition.”
Gonick continues this by giving different examples…
1. Pai exemplifying her leadership when she rode her bicycle alone and surpassed the bus.
2. Showing her strength and courage when she knocked down the spear against Koro’s favorite student
I also thought that Pai showed the most courage when she rode the whale in the end. I remember her saying, “I was not afraid to die”. The fact that she was willing to risk her life to save the whales exhibited such great strength. All these examples of Pai’s strength, courage, and leadership breaks typical gender stereotypes against women. Through Pai (though only a child), we can see that women can accomplish anything that they put their minds to and even surpass the men.
What killed me most about this film was the scene at Pai’s last concert when she wins the award and starts giving the speech about her grandfather. That really got my eyes brimming with tears because you can really see how much she loves and honors her grandfather despite his rejection. On top of that, it really shows how much Pai really wanted to please her grandfather the most. I could feel her sadness and her disappointment that Koro wasn’t there. Also, I felt her longing for love and acceptance that she wanted from Koro. I think that scene was the hardest for me to watch. It also made me extremely angry at Koro. I think that the director was brilliant in using a child to carry a female protagonist role. Not only does it touch the audience on a different level but it really shows that women’s struggles for recognition in society is not only in adulthood but also begins at childhood. From the time this movie premiere until now, I believe that the views of the capability of women have changed for the better. However, I can’t deny that there’s still some kind of oppression on women. For an example, what we talked about in class about women directors.