The Walt Disney Company has gone to tremendous pain to make sure their upcoming animated film Moana is true to the South Pacific legend it’s based on, and is appropriate and culturally sensitive. But as they do, Disney shot itself in the foot (proverbially speaking) when, last week, they unveiled the Halloween costume based on one of the movie’s characters, the demigod Maui voiced by Dwayne Johnson. Many people have accused Disney of promoting “brownface” for the full body suit recreation of Maui’s tattoo-covered build, and now the company is confessing that they’ve screwed up and are pulling the costumes.
“The team behind ‘Moana’ has taken great care to respect the cultures of the Pacific Islands that inspired the film, and we regret that the Maui costume has offended some,” a Disney representative told the Huffington Post on Wednesday. “We sincerely apologize and are pulling the costume from our website and stores.”
Controversy began brewing when Disney started making the costumes, and similarly styled pyjamas, available in stores and online last week. Like the character Maui, its designed as a full-body suit covered in tattoos with a necklace and skirt made of leaves. Critics said that Disney was “wearing an other culture’s skin” in a very real sense, and even as Disney is making an effort to due outreach, it’s still reflecting the incredible power imbalance between media corporations and marginalized people, like the South Pacific’s indigenous communities.
“I understand that Disney is trying to be inclusive and also trying to show that their characters are diverse, but there’s an imbalance of power here,” said Tēvita O. Kaʻili, an Oceanian sociocultural anthropologist at Brigham Young University Hawaii to HuffPost. “A dominant group is getting to wear and become part of a marginalized group without any sense of its history, culture or even its struggles.”
Ka’ili added that the with the Maui costume “people will be able to put on the brown skin and be somebody brown without understanding the experience of someone who is brown.” Disney, belated, has agreed. No word if they understand though.
Moana opens in theatres everywhere in November.
Source: Cinema Blend