Polynesians blast Disney's Moana for cultural appropriation and fetishisation


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"While Moana has been touted as being Disney’s most authentically crafted film about an indigenous culture, critics have pointed out that the company’s massive commodification and marketing apparatus threatens to undermine any claims of respect for native communities. Indeed, Disney’s disastrous pre-Halloween rollout of a Maui “skin suit” costume displayed the mega corporation’s agenda: to repackage nonwhite cultures for mass consumption."
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Why Not Moana? from wearemanamoana on Vimeo.
Ngati Porou environmentalist and indigenous rights advocate Tina Ngata discusses some of the concerns around Disney's Moana.

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"“This morning, I heard radio DJs harping on Hawaiian women who expressed concern and critique about the costume. I heard callers saying, ‘This is an opportunity to teach others about Hawaiian culture.’ Here are the facts of the matter: The film was not initiated nor will it be owned by Hawaiian, or Samoan, or Maori, or other Polynesian people. The story was not written by screenwriters of our communities, nor illustrated by artists of our communities. It was not written in nor will it be translated into any of our languages. The profits will not benefit our communities nor advance our languages, institutions or local economies. This is straight-up cultural appropriation.

—J. Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua, editor of The Value of Hawai‘i series and UH Mānoa associate professor in social sciences."
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"Teresia Teaiwa, a senior lecturer in Pacific studies at Victoria University of Wellington, said she was concerned about the portrayal of Maui.

“Before Disney, I’ve seen a lot of other representations, and Maui is a hero,” she said. “I think it’s clear from the trailers I’ve seen that he’s a buffoon in Disney. It’s a dramatic shift. He was a trickster but not a buffoon.”"
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"Underpinning and continuing to inform this entire project is an enduring modern and colonial desire for romanticized primitivism and a colonial nostalgia for lost innocence. If romanticized primitivism describes modernity’s long-standing want for the supposedly pure and innocent way of life said to exist in places like Polynesia, colonial nostalgia is the same longing but in the form of a lament over having destroyed such purity and innocence through its own history of colonial encroachment and rule in the region.

If the indefatigable desire for noble primitivism is also a desire for the supposedly positive aspects of Polynesia, its distant cousin, colonial nostalgia, grieves over having done things in ways that pre-empt the possibility of actually possessing Polynesia completely.

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We know, then, that colonial predators like Disney will do what it must to take what it wants. While some Islanders have resigned themselves to capitulating, or mitigating some of the potential damage, and others find opportunity, handsome consultant fees and commissions, fame, fortune and glory, a growing number of us strive to see past the veil of enchantment and not participate in self-destruction. Far from seeing Disney as a gold standard for powerful storytelling, we are beginning to see the insidiousness of swallowing too much colonial toxicity, of ingesting too irradiated marine food, of uncritical buying into Disney’s happy fantasies. Why in the world would we now wish Disneyfied culture to swallow the rest of the world?"
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"[T]he Disneyfication of Polynesian tales produces shallow versions of deeply complex indigenous stories. This appears to be the case with Disney’s mining of Polynesian stories by extracting the god Māui and discarding his complementary deity, the goddess Hina.

It is a pernicious problem of destructive disconnection that is ever plaguing the colonial extractive industries in their mining of oil, precious metals and rocks, phosphates, cultural stories and symbols, and seabed minerals.

[...]

The important lesson for Oceanians is that this is our story, our cultural heritage. It does not belong to Disney. It belongs to us. Disney lacks the cultural depth to tell our stories, but we are the protectors and tellers of our cultural heritage. Let us tell our story in our own way, with complexity, symmetry, and beauty."
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Does representation matter, ONTD?