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…
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.
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?