Moana was shaping up to be this holiday season’s cultural war clusterf—k. A series of dumb controversies were getting social justice warriors prepping their typing fingers to write slews of nasty things about the movie and the colonialist corporate giant Disney that dared to make it.
That is, until the film actually came out. Moana has faced nothing but resounding applause with some critics labeling it the “perfect Disney film.”
And this is bullshit. I was expecting pandemonium in the streets, bedlam at Disney World, Michael Eisner tarred and feathered. Not this warm buzz of satisfaction.
So much anger and outrage went into the marketing of Moana. It began with people freaking out over the fact that the Rock’s character was fat, calling him a stereotype of obese Polynesian men. Then a poorly designed Moana Halloween costume was accused of both cultural appropriation and brown face. Then just weeks before the release a group of Polynesian academics and filmmakers called the movie “cultural theft,” “American imperialism,” and “literally Hitler.” Well, maybe not that last part. But, regardless, the film had raised expectations it would be the worst thing to happen to the Polynesian region since the betrayal of Liliuokalani, the last queen of Hawaii.
But SJWs actually liked it.
— jen yamato (@jenyamato) November 23, 2016
Moana is my newest, and least problematic fav
— Angélica (@angelicacesar) November 28, 2016
While the film has been widely praised, it still received a bit of criticism from Polynesians — mainly due to the idea that Disney was capitalizing on an indigenous culture and that they sort of melded a few island cultures into one narrative.
Moana is not a perfect film and the root of the film’s shortcomings directly relate to the uncomfortable fact that this film that we claim is about US was birthed from the minds and voyeuristic gaze of two white men, and that this practice is still acceptable in 2016…
…What saves Disney’s Moana from the shit-show train wreck it could have been is the work of the Oceanic Story Trust and the breakthrough performance of its star, Auli’i Cravalho.
Disney actually got together a group called the Oceanic Story Trust, made up of Polynesian academics, anthropologists, and experts to make sure they didn’t completely bastardize the culture. They sort of succeeded, along with the help of Polynesian script writers and voice actors.
You can’t make everybody happy — but Moana seems to be getting pretty close.
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