Moana for us
represents many things — harmless entertainment, some might see it as a
documentary providing a missing piece in a cultural identity puzzle.
Some see Moana in a pedagogical role, a teaching tool that will help
others learn more about us. And some of us see Moana as an extension of
the Disney moneymaking apparatus and evokes a painful ongoing pattern of
colonialism, imperialism, exploitation, homogenization, cultural theft
and appropriation in the Pacific.
All are true and problematic all the same.
there is a danger when we say that we must take one side or the other.
This absolutist point of view is divisive, and to unjustly label family
and friends employed by Disney or those who work in cultural
entertainment as cultural prostitutes is detestable.
bigger truth is this: we live in a complex age of inevitable
consumerism and capitalism. This is the world that is imposed on us, so
we occupy this world as involuntary or voluntary participants, as
colonized people, in colonial settler roles, as transnationals, and as
members of diasporic communities around the world. Capitalism is
demanding and unforgiving. Engagement for many of us is out of
the flip side, we can also be critical of Disney’s capitalistic aims
and side-eye their claims of doing justice to our stories, without
having to be dismissed as “haters.”
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.
said, as we go to the theaters, I hope we will make a conscious choice
for just one time, as I know many of us will see it multiple times, to
transcend being mindless consumers and become resisting spectators, and
recognize that the eye candy we see on the big screen are really just
surface, readily accessible manifestations of deep cultural treasures
that Disney, nor any outsider, can never touch. These treasures can only
be felt by the heart and by our own lived experiences.
when we see the character of Moana overcoming great odds on the big
screen to save her village, even at the risk of losing her own life, we
aren’t witnessing anything new that we don’t already know about
ourselves — love, sacrifice, determination, resilience, family,
reciprocity, conservation and stewardship of the planet are the
hallmarks of our rich oceanic culture, values that have existed long
before Disney mined our stories, values that can never be replicated in
box office ticket and merchandise sales.
This is it, this is the most baffling question I have ever gotten. You know in my post, where I said “chose to colonize half of the non-European world and slaughter, rape and/or enslave millions of black and indigenous people”? Well, I meant that they chose to colonize half of the non-European world and slaughter, rape and/or enslave millions of black and indigenous people.
Just in case it’s not clear…
The Portuguese Empire was the first colonial empire, spanning almost six centuries from the capture of Ceuta in 1415 to the handover of Macau in 1999 and the grant of sovereignty to East Timor in 2002.
The Portuguese were the first to engage in the New World slave trade in the 16th century.
Between 1418 and the 1470s, the Portuguese launched a series of exploratory expeditions that remapped the oceans south of Portugal, charting new territories that one explorer described as “oceans where none have ever sailed before.” In 1526, the Portuguese completed the first transatlantic slave voyage from Africa to the Americas, and other countries soon followed. Shipowners regarded the slaves as cargo to be transported to the Americas as quickly and cheaply as possible, there to be sold to labour in coffee, tobacco, cocoa, sugar and cotton plantations, gold and silver mines, rice fields, construction industry, cutting timber for ships, in skilled labour, and as domestic servants.
The major Atlantic slave trading nations, ordered by trade volume, were: the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch Empire. Several had established outposts on the African coast where they purchased slaves from local African leaders.
Long known as a tolerant country successful at integrating immigrants, Portugal has begun witnessing an increase of neo-Nazi activity, it was reported recently. “Immigration and crime almost always go together,” said Mario Machado of the far-right National Front, adding he was “proud to be white” and urging the government to expel Portuguese citizens of African origin or ancestry.
Indian Act speaks of the realities of colonization - the effects of contact, and its often-broken and untranslated contracts. The piece consists of all 56 pages of the Canadian Federal Government’s Indian Act mounted on stroud cloth and sewn over with red and white glass beads. Each word is replaced with white beads sewn into the document; the red beads replace the negative space.
I’m writing a story set in a “reinvented” Earth where basically religion ceases to exist because they believe in a different higher power that has been proven to exist.
However, one of my character’s is Native American and the other Chinese and I’m worried that dropping religion would conflict with existing beliefs within their cultures, if that makes sense.
Why does something being powerful guarantee everyone will drop everything else and choose to worship that instead? Considering how many different ways there are to be Baptist, which is just one specific kind of Protestant Christianity, I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that an entity shows up and our incredibly diverse and argumentative species ALL follow it.
Some Christians might see it as Satan. Even if a Jewish person was pretty convinced it was God they might still argue with it. Some issues you may want to address as you work through your idea.
The assumption here is that everyone in the story will believe in that deity without question. However, there may be a million explanations for the appearance of said deity, and some people may refuse to believe. There are many different ways to perceive something.
To answer your question directly: I know of Chinese Christians who still hold some traditional beliefs, such as refusing to have guests whose relatives have recently passed, and even integrating their religion into Chinese New Year, where there are Bible verses on red envelopes. There isn’t any reason the characters in your story have to do away with their traditions entirely.
I’m going to be blunt about this. Your story basically exactly parallels what happened during colonization and forced assimilation of Indigenous peoples around the globe. Our religions have been bent and beaten within an inch of their lives because Christians forced us to stop believing in our Creator, and believe in their god. Only, instead of the scraps of hope Natives have in our current existence, you have the assimilation be successful.
You are not working in a situation where this is a hypothetical. Christians can and have forced dozens and hundreds if not thousands of groups to assimilate; some religions have died, some have been beaten within an inch of death, some have adapted. Some cultures have had religion imposed on them where there hardly was one, while others have had their whole belief systems and in turn their whole cultures nearly destroyed because of this exact situation.
This type of plot is incredibly harmful, Christian-centric, and mirrors colonialism on an extremely grand scale. From my perspective, you have basically generated the exact situation colonizers believed to be the “reality” (one actual proven god, all others should stop believing what they do and follow the one proven god) and erased all the damage in its wake, instead having hundreds of peoples already hurt by this exact logic follow along because “that’s what’s real.”
No. We have our own religions; our own Creator is what’s proven to us, and while sometimes it might overlap with the Christian god, other times it doesn’t, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is, however, buckets wrong with erasing Indigenous religions who have already been hurt by people insisting there is only one and we must follow.
So what I think this ask is saying is “If I had a world where everyone believed in a proven ‘higher power’ and therefore religion ceased to exist, would it be problematic if my Native American character and Chinese character *didn’t* lose their religions?” Or am I misreading the question?
From a logical perspective, I think it’s ridiculous to believe that all religions would cease. Believing in this new higher power, proven or not, doesn’t cause all religion to cease - in my opinion, it replaces it. It’s the new religion.
And honestly, we know what happens when a new world order tries to make the whole “one religion” thing happen.
But plenty of books/settings aren’t logical and require massive suspension of disbelief, so let’s pretend for a minute that the whole “all religions have ceased and everyone believes in a new higher power” isn’t unfeasible.
(1) A cultural belief isn’t necessarily a religion. Superstitions, urban legends, folktales, cultural beliefs, all this stuff is a part of cultural traditions but they aren’t necessarily religious. Some may have their roots in religion, but many people from many countries have cultural beliefs that exist alongside their religious ideologies.
It isn’t offensive for a person to have cultural beliefs and traditions alongside their religion. Plenty of religious people have found ways to incorporate their cultural beliefs into their religion and their religious beliefs into their cultures.
(2) There isn’t a Chinese “religion”. I’m unsure but pretty confident in saying there isn’t a pan-Native American “religion”. There isn’t anything about Chinese culture itself that dictates that Chinese people have to have a religion or they can’t leave a particular religion.
So I’m a little hesitant when this ask is wondering if “dropping religion would conflict with existing beliefs in their cultures” because it seems like you’re assuming that there’s something about Chinese culture or Native American culture (okay that phrase hurts to write - there is no monolith Native American culture…!) that insists that Chinese or Native American people have to believe a certain way.
Not all Chinese people are Buddhist (and being Buddhist means different things to different people). There’s a huge diversity of religion and spiritual thought among Chinese people and Chinese diaspora, both today and throughout history.
So unless this new non religion is going to erase all cultural AND religious belief, it’s not weird for a religion to exist alongside cultural beliefs.
BUT here is where this premise breaks down for me, personally. If these Native American and Chinese characters are still holding onto some of their previous beliefs, (religious or cultural) then not enough time has passed for this world non-religion to have taken over in a gradual, non threatening way.
And you can’t retcon the new world nonreligion into existence by saying “Oh what if this new entity revealed themselves thousands of years ago”, well then, Chinese cultural beliefs would have evolved alongside that, right?? There just isn’t any way for this to work out. Skeptics exist. People who are entirely devoted to their beliefs exist. Those people aren’t going to disappear. You can’t make those people change their minds in your text without brainwashing them in your text.
So, like other people have pointed out, there’s basically no way to have this new world non religion exist without basically destroying other people’s religions. To replace them with a new one.
To people who don’t have a sacred belief system, this isn’t a big deal. But to people who DO have an understanding of what it means to hold something sacred, to people who have had their sacred beliefs taken away and suppressed through violence and oppression, this is not an okay story. To people who have had to keep the light of their beliefs shining through incredibly dark times, this story basically takes the real life work they’ve done and blows all those lights out entirely.
So, in my completely non expert and totally unasked for opinion (because I’m not Chinese or Native American), the problem here isn’t this idea of trying to make religion and cultural beliefs coexist - they already do in real life. But this very premise probably comes from the perspective of someone who is privileged enough to never know the struggle of trying to keep your religion and cultural beliefs alive in a world that won’t accept them.
Many of the religions being erased in this story already don’t have a place in any stories. But I think you are making the mistake of believing that if EVERYONE’s religions just disappear because of this new non religion, it’s fair and okay. And I just don’t think that’s true.