In social justice news, Disney is under fire today for another public outcry revolving around its upcoming film Moana. While many are happy to see Disney’s first ever film featuring a Polynesian Princess, activists have taken umbrage with the film’s insensitive depiction of Maui peoples – choosing to illustrate the film’s lead characters in a rubenesque body type. As if citing Disney for racial stereotyping wasn’t enough, the house of mouse just got whacked with a collective “Oh no they didn’t”, thanks to selling a questionable Halloween costume of one of the movie’s characters.
Last weekend, a costume of Polynesian god Maui, voiced by Dwayne Johnson in the film, consisting of a brown bodysuit with tattoos, became available for sale at the Disney Store and online.
“Your little one will set off on adventures in this Maui costume featuring the demigod’s signature tattoos, rope necklace, and island-style skirt,” reads the description. “Plus, padded arms and legs for mighty stature!”
Naturally, (some of) the Internet cried out with a unifying “No!” citing the selling the of the costume as an example of brownface. The costume, which also includes “screen art skirt with leaf accents” and “photorealistic teeth art appliqués,” has also been criticized for appropriating sacred Hawaiian and Oceanic traditions.
Now, looking at this costume, as an average person, you either understand the complaints or find yourself wondering what the big deal is – ” the easily-offended PC trolls are hurting for a cause”, right? Well, that depends on how much you know about Polynesian culture and just how far your perspectives have been challenged.
Is the costume in poor taste? Yes, yes it is. Is Disney is trivialising Pacific culture? Maybe. But consider that Moana has an Oceanic writer and an Oceanic songwriter, and 75% of the Central cast are from Oceania or Hawaii (Of the two non-Pacific actors, one is only voicing animals). The talent and creatives here, their opinions are maybe a tag more important than the opinions of those looking at a single costume, would they not? Of course, they could just as easily lampoon their own culture if it means a paycheck, so….
Let’s just call the whole thing insensitive rather than flat out offensive. There, that’s all.