Despite Claims of Authenticity, Disney’s Moana Still Offensive

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FEATURING TINA NGATA – Just in time for Thanksgiving Disney has released its much anticipated new film, Moana. Set among Pacific islands, Moana tells the story of a young girl with magical powers, played by Auli’i Cravalho, and the demigod Maui played by Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock.

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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Tina Ngata, is an indigenous rights advocate, environmentalist, and educator for New Zealand’s largest indigenous university. She delivers degree level education on the links between indigenous heritage, rights and environmental wellbeing.

4 thoughts on “Despite Claims of Authenticity, Disney’s Moana Still Offensive

  1. Moana was an amazing movie with beautiful music, art, diversity, and culture. 😍❤️️👌 Be glad that Disney at least included something that wasn’t white and is exploring more culture and diversity. But nooo you just wanna complain. Are you trying to feel better about yourselves by putting this masterpiece down? Lmao. The real fans of Moana and Disney will protect this show with all of our passion!

  2. Stand with Standing Rock: MOANA – interesting show, I can understand the point of view and in a world of thinking people, this film would/will spark further study. The flip side of MOANA is the art – what is art? MOANA is a metaphor for Standing Rock, it is uncanny. Pre-colonial, native peoples are faced with total environmental destruction by a creeping black crud that is the flip side of life, a smoking, burning demon (the Petroleum Age). This demon is the result of man’s quest to steal the secret of life, to have it for his own. The MOANA heros win through a recovery of heritage and the peaceful act of giving it back. Literalist will decry the film’s construction, but the artist will see the remarkable coming together of the body of work with the times in which they were conceived and realised – phenomenally great art. The proper use of MOANA for the social justice activist is to bring demonstrations to the film for Standing Rock, get a group of kids with Standing Rock signs and march on down to your local cinema, go in and see the film. The redeemer myth, I’m not Polynesian, I expect the story to not be an exact replication of anything (same protest occurred in Greece with HERCULES), but it is powerful, it demonstrates the depth and nuance of non-christian mythology. A third point of view, voiced by my 16-yr-old daughter, MOANA is shocking, a violence against women, punk film. For her (and she loved the film, however, pointed this out to me as way beyond being a feminist send-up). No other Disney Princess film shows the Princess being repeatedly roughed up by an enormous young, immature-acting male, the roughing ups are literally acts of attempted homicide – throwing somebody overboard in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with intention of sailing away is murder. A lot going on in this film.

    1. Interesting viewpoint by your 16 year old. My 3 year old daughter must have taken notice as well because on several occasions she said “Mommy, is Maui mad at her? Why did he throw her off the boat? Is he being nice to her now?” Adults are much more used to seeing violence than children are and upon further meditation on this, there was a lot of violence and anger toward her, even from her father. As a whole I enjoyed the movie, but that is definitely something to be aware of.

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