Do all eldest sisters have that nightmare wherein your parents suddenly die and you’re faced with the responsibility of raising your younger siblings alone? Well, knock on wood but we’ve all had that shudder-inducing thought. I remember my plan well—take a job at a call center to pay for my younger sisters’ education, sell all my mother’s jewelry and focus all my attention on keeping our family together.
That nightmare happened to Nani Pelekai, Lilo’s older sister from Disney’s animated movie Lilo and Stitch. Although Lilo was the spunky protagonist who won our hearts with her love for the adorable alien Stitch, I couldn’t help but take lots of second looks at Nani. Her strength just spoke to me and told me that if ever something bad happened, I too could power through and work hard to keep my family together.
So here are 10 reasons why Nani is the best big sister of all. Move over, Elsa.
1. She took the responsibility of raising her little sister head on – Raising a six year old while still being a teenager is no easy task, yet she still took it on. She probably had to sacrifice her education, her love life (David’s butt and fancy hair aside), and her social life to make sure she and her sister could live together. Nineteen is nowhere near ready to raise a child yet she played the cards she was dealt with.
2. Her situation and enemy was scary, admit it – How do you kill a dragon? Pierce a sword through its heart. How do you convince the government not to take your sister? Lots of paperwork, appeals to judges, and a whole lot of governmental procedures. One can easily beg a king for forgiveness, but I don’t think it would work for a social worker. She could have even gone to jail with no one to appeal on her behalf if things had gone too far. Nani knew what she was up against if Cobra Bubbles did succeed in taking Lilo away, and thank goodness he didn’t.
3. She loved her sister – Lilo was a very difficult child with peculiar tastes. Yet it’s apparent that Nani would fight tooth and nail to protect Lilo and make her happy.
4. She worked hard to prove herself – Nani had to face Cobra Bubbles in an effort to convince him that she was a suitable guardian. There was no true love’s first kiss to end a curse, nor a kingdom who would trust her instantly just because she was of royal blood. Disney is often full of princes and princesses who could get anything with minimal effort.
5. She wasn’t afraid to be let loose and have fun – Nani never stopped being afraid that her only family might be taken from her. But she knew if she kept on worrying, she would destroy herself. She was fun enough to let Lilo have a pet, or to go out and surf when she felt frustrated.
6. She never let poverty get in the way – Their family’s only source of income was Nani’s waitressing. Even though she jumped from job to job, she was smart about her finances. She and Lilo managed to keep the house, have food on the table—even some money for a dog.
7. She knew what she wanted, and never stopped until she got it – She wanted to keep Lilo with her, and she stuck to that goal to the very end. That heartbreaking scene when Cobra Bubbles told her that maybe she needed Lilo more than Lilo needed her clearly struck a nerve. She knew that she was the best thing for Lilo, and she took it as a challenge to show that.
8. No one ever gave a thought to what she sacrificed – If Nani and Lilo’s parents had been alive, Nani might be in college or working to pursue whatever dream she had. She also clearly likes David, but knows her sister is her number one priority. From what I see in the movie, she never really has girlfriends.
9. She encouraged Lilo’s imagination and creativity – She indulged her sisters the little joys she could afford to give her: the camera which only saw the fat ice cream man, the Elvis records and of course, Stitch.
10. She made sure Lilo could have a good childhood – Remember the “The manager’s a vampire. He wanted me to join his legion of the undead” spiel? I found that pretty hilarious yet heartwarming. Nani never shared her burdens with Lilo because she wanted her sister to have an innocent, legitimate childhood. She found creative ways to relay bad news because she knew that her problems weren’t supposed to be Lilo’s problems.
Is her character realistic? Probably, and probably not. The odds of a lower middle class nineteen year old successfully raising a six year old on her own are slim to none, especially in this economy. But her character shows us that behind the magnificent castles, the defeat of dragons and the glass slippers, there are real problems and real people with no fairy godmothers. Though Nani, in the end, was blessed with a beautiful Alien family.