Cultural appropriation

Moana, Tumblr, and Cultural Appropriation

I’m not responding to the post because I do believe it has good intentions… cultural appropriation is a big problem after all, and there are some points I do agree with. But…

Originally posted by scottymccall

Moana was an amazing film with two wonderful colored protagonists. It does take some creative liberties with souteast asian cultures, but then again it doesn’t seem to be aiming for an accurate representation of a single culture. 

Every single Disney fairytale so far has meshed influence from a variety of different cultures and time periods, and while a general location might be the root of a movie’s given art style, we should not expect these movies to reflect the real world 100% of the time.

The Disney fairy tales are escapist fantasies where an audience member can forget their troubles and imagine, if only for an hour or two, that they live in an idealized world of music, adventure and fantasy, and where time has next to no meaning. Anachronisms aren’t mistakes, they’re a sign of a completely separate timeline. One which resembles our own, but is ever so slightly more exciting.

Disney treats Moana exactly the same way they treat other Disney princess movies, which happens to be a good thing, believe it or not. The world needs more positive colored protagonists in genuinely good movies, and even if the movie fails to accurately represent a single specific culture, its definitely a step in the right direction. Maybe now that Hollywood knows that a Southeast asian princess is capable of bringing in some big box office, other movies more faithfully representative of these cultures can be made. 

But Moana still has to be that precedent. 

Imagine, for a moment, that Moana came out exactly as it did, but general audiences hated it. Some of the most extreme reviews came from the same people who criticized Overwatch’s Tracer for being gay, or Miles Morales for being black. Cries of “I’m so tired of this SJW bullshit”, and “where’s my representation!” come from millions of white boys across America, Europe, and Australia. Congratulations, Tumblr, the movie that you happen to hate so much due to “cultural appropriation” is an absolute box office bomb, and you’ve successfully aligned yourself up with the right wing f*ckboys you claim to be against. All the while Hollywood sees this loss as proof that audiences don’t want colored protagonists.

Now, in these peoples defense, I do see one really big issue with Moana.

Originally posted by vanessaivess

Maui is an amazing fictional character, Flawed, but likable, and voiced by the always charming Dwayne Johnson. His introduction song “You’re Welcome” is one of the biggest highlights of the movie. Not to mention, its nice to see a character with this body type depicted as handsome. On a more geekier note, colored cosplayers everywhere have another great character they can accurately dress up as for conventions without being called out.

But he’s still meant to be representative of an actual folkloreic figure. I am by no means an expert of this type of mythology, but based on what I’ve heard, he’s pretty dang inaccurate. Apparently the Maui of mythology was young and lean, as opposed to the beefcake he’s presented as in the film.

I imagine to some people, seeing this character is like a Christian seeing Jesus in sunglasses and on a motorcycle, beating up literal demons. The concept is cool, and I like this character, but why is he called Jesus? The real Jesus would never do that. 

Though Maui is a public domain character who, legally speaking, people are allowed to interpret however they like, it might have been in Disney’s better interest to just rename this character so that he’s a wholely fictional creation, partially inspired by the mythical Maui, but still his own character.

And I think having that mindset in general is great way of approaching this movie. Art doesn’t have to be representative of the real world to be considered good, and I can think of a million things worse than Moana.

But this is all coming from the perspective of one specific person, and I never claim my oppinions to be 100% correct. Do you guys agree with me? Or am I missing something?

“I am Native American from the Omaha tribe in Nebraska. My Indian name means ‘shooting star.’ I wish the world knew that we do still exist. And, no, we don’t all live in tepees. When I see people in headdresses or Native American accessories, I feel disrespected. They don’t know the meaning behind it, how we wear it, or what we do to earn it. This is a real eagle feather. It doesn’t just fall off an eagle and someone says, ‘Oh, here — it’s yours.’ You have to earn it in my culture. I feel powerful when I wear it, more confident, and more connected to my ethnicity. I’ve never been embarrassed about being Native American. I take pride in it. I love how spiritual we are — it’s like we’re in tune with the Earth and the universe. I know there’s no other culture out there like mine.”

Daunnette Reyome

As much as I loved Moana, I have to remind myself that Polynesians likely feel about it how I, as an Eastern Asian, feel about Avatar: the Last Airbender. As much as I adore atla, I always end up taking a moment to sit back and go “Ah, that cultural hodgepodge…..” 

It always strikes me that non-Asians probably would only see one culture in the Fire Nation or the Earth Kingdom whereas I see several in any given scene. That being said, please keep in mind that Disney took elements of several Polynesian cultures and thrust them together in this movie. Take a moment to use Moana as an opportunity to do proper research and genuinely learn about different cultures.

  • *People are disrespecting the requests of the Standing Rock water protectors by refusing to help with chores around the camp, refusing to clean up after themselves, coming to the camp dressed up in stereotypical Native attire, taking photographs in areas that are off limits, and disrespecting the ceremonies, culture, and land, bringing drugs. So much so that the Standing Rock water protectors have released statements on the matter and listed guidelines on their websites on how to be respectful ON THEIR FUCKING LAND and quit treating it like Coachella Music Festival.*
  • Some asshole: Okay but at least they are there! Who cares what they're doing on the land as long as they are there showing solidarity! Let them get high and dress up, it's not that big of a deal.
  • Me: Shut up.

Friends don’t let friends wear redface.