I have visited New Zealand recently and can tell you that there are more sheep than people there. But this isn't exactly news. What is kind of surprising in "Whale Rider" is that New Zealand's lack of people and distance from the "real world" has apparently resulted in a lack of modernity. Living out in the middle of nowhere, the New Zealanders, in this case the native Maori, haven't received the news that women are capable leaders.
In fact, if you told Koro (Rawiri Paratene) that a woman named Margaret Thatcher once led Britain, he would shit a brick. Consequently, Koro is devastated when his son, Porourangi (Cliff Curtis), is only able to produce a daughter. Koro needs a boy to continue the leadership of his tribe. His own son has proven a disappointment in that capacity.
The daughter grows up into Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) and displays an unusual interest in the ways of the male elders. Of course, Grandpa Koro discourages this because that's man stuff and Pai is a girl. Now, I realize that New Zealand is in the middle of nowhere and kind of behind on the times, but I also know they have electricity and televisions over there and must have watched an episode or two of "Police Woman" and seen evidence that women can, in fact, kick some ass when necessary. Perhaps Koro never watched television.
When some whales, who are supposed to represent the Maori ancestors, wash up on shore, the entire tribe realizes it's in trouble because the ancestors are unhappy that there's no leader and, well, what in the hell are they going to do with all that whale meat?
Ultimately, Pai must prove that she's destined to be the tribe's leader, which she does by promptly hopping on the whale's back, riding it out to sea, and invading the Falkland Islands.
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