Whale Rider (2002)



The plot of this film revolves around the struggles of a Maori community in finding a successor to lead the tribe. As depicted in the film,this group of indigenous people who were once warriors who fought in wars and survived the voyage of the seas, were now loosing their battles in preserving their tribal’s pride and culture. Modernity has brought about problems such as unemployment, smoking and drugs in the younger generations. Seeing the bleak future of the community, Koro, the present chief was unhappy the fact that his sons were disinterested in taking over his position and fear that the succession line will end in his very own hands. There is a urging need to search for a leader who can change the destiny of the tribe. However, hope becomes forlorn for Koro with the death of his grandson at birth. Koro refuses to accept his only granddaughter, Paikea as the leader of the tribe considering females never allowed to take the leader role according to the traditions. Despite Koro’s disapproval, Paikea continues to learn the ropes to be a chief without his acknowledgement. Paikea’s father, Porourangi on the other hand, continues to pursue his dreams as an artist, and decided to settle down with his new family in Germany.


This film has nicely captured the different stages and challenges of the three different generations confront according to Erikson’s psychosocial development model in developing their self-identity. In the following, I will discuss on how Paikea, Porourangi,and Koro’s character fits into the model.



Industry vs. Inferiority

One of the challenges in this stage of psychosocial development will be attaining self-competence. In order to achieve such sense of independence, there is a need to create an environment that encourage them to learn new things, praised for accomplishments from parents and teachers. When children were given enough opportunity to explore and master their talents and interests, self-confidence will develop.Although Paikea was not allowed to assume the role of the leader by her grandfather, she received much support from her grandmother whoalways sided Paikea when her grandfather said hurtful comments, Uncle Rawri, and friends (Hemi) who thought her taiaha. Paikea confidence and determination was partly due to these support that she received from them that allows her to become the chief of the Maori community later.



Intimacy vs. Isolation

Intimacy and isolation is a stage whereby acceptance and forming intimate and reciprocal relationships play a major role in establishing identity. A person is most vulnerable to rejection for love. When such situations occur, individuals would distantiate from people who intrude their personal space on the extent of intimate relationship. This form of behavior can be seen on Porourangi behavior after the death of his wife. While everyone was still mourning for the death of Porourangi’s wife and son, Koro already pressuring Porourangi to “try again” to conceive another son with other woman. Koro did not exhibit any support to Porourangi decision to not have any children in near future. Seeing no acceptance from his father, Porourangi decided to leave his family to pursue his dream as an artist. In this situation, Porourangi chooses to isolate from his family when they fail to accept his decisions.



Generativity vs. Stagnation

Generativity is a concern of guiding the next generation that involves work that contributing back to the society. Being aware of his old age, Koro is well aware that there is a need to find a competent leader to lead his community. He selflessly volunteered his time to train the boys cultural knowledge to prepare them to become leaders.

Ego Integrity vs. Despair

However, Koro was not happy when none of the boys that he trained was the right candidate to become the leader when they all failed to recover the rei puta that was thrown into the ocean. His effort has become fruitless. Koro was so disappointed with himself that he reclused from everyone else. According to the psychosocial development model, ego intrergrity versus despair represents the period where one contemplate their accomplishements in the life that they have lived. When one sees his or her life as unproductive with many unachieved goals and disappointment, despair occurs. One becomes dissatisfied with their life and this often lead to depression and hopelessness.


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