Whale Rider may be just a movie, but the story it tells is very profound. Many ethnic communities that have suffered colonialism have had devastating impacts on their culture and people. Many of these communities are still trying to reclaim and revitalize their way of life, but it is difficult when certain practices have been lost. In the case of Paikea or Pai, her grandfather is so stuck in tradition of what a man and woman are suppose to do that he rejects his granddaughter at every turn when all she wants to do is be accepted by the one person she loves most. However, the rest of her family see how great she is and encourage her every step of the way. They want her to rise above the position that her grandfather tries to enforce on her. It is not till he almost loses her that he knows just what a treasure she is.
This story hit very close to home for me. I am a young American Indian woman trying to learn what I can about my culture so that I may be able to help revitalize it. While it is true that certain traditions cannot be done when you are a woman, but that is only when a woman is pregnant or on her moon cycle. This is due to the fact that we want to protect the unborn baby and when women are on their moon cycles we are cleansing ourselves of negativity. Some native communities are trying to be progressive so there are certain activities that women are allowed to participate in now compared to pre-contact. The difference from then and now is choice.
The bravery that Pai demonstrated throughout the story is amazing. From the moment that she was born, she has had to show courage to not just children her age, but to fully grown adults. Not many could do this and in this day and age the courage that was displayed by Pai needs to be seen more from the youth of ethnic communities to make a stand. The movement is spreading and I have become even more determined to show courage in the face of people in my own tribe. I can do this by first educating myself, and then come back to my people to help them try and better themselves. I have a cause to fight for and even though the road ahead will be difficult all I need to do is continue to be brave just as Pai was. This movie was worth all the buffering I had to endure to learn from a young girl who was willing to die on a whale for her beliefs.