I’m going to try to word this nicely, but if I do offend you, I’m sorry. This is really important to get across to you as someone whose image will be affected by this movie.
The problem with how you’re thinking is everyone’s problem with Disney when they try to create films with minorities. You’ve already started off on the wrong foot by using “Pacific Islander culture as a whole.” As in one culture. Moana isn’t just a Pacific Islander, she’s Polynesian. She is specifically Polynesian, which is different from the other two Islander groups (Micronesian and Melanesian). By settling for just Pacific Islander, you are accepting the homogenization of a race of people, which is downright disrespectful. Moana is specifically identified as Polynesian; the movie is full of Polynesian mythology, so I think it’s reasonable for me to expect them to get any cultural portrayal correctly.
They could even go a step further and identify what kind of Polynesian Moana is, since the islands are also different from one another, but since it’s talking about ancient Poly legends, I’m okay with not exactly saying where she’s from (though I’m 99.9% certain she’s Maori, judging by her last name, Waialiki.)
This is not just a fantasy. They are putting a fictional character in a real culture with real lores and traditions. You wouldn’t want to misinform the people. It’s important for Disney to realize that this image that they are creating, while it serves as entertainment for us all, also sticks to the groups whose image their films are reflecting. It’s dangerous for my own image living as a Samoan in a place like America to have a powerful company like Disney tell people this is what Pacific Islanders are like. Everybody already thinks that I hula, wear leis and grass skirts, and drink coconut milk. And why is that?
"Oh, you all look the same."
"Hawaiian, Samoan — same difference."
ANOTHER EXAMPLE: LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT HAWAIIAN AND TAHITIAN DANCE. PEOPLE ACTUALLY MISTAKE TAHITIAN DANCE FOR HAWAIIAN HULA BECAUSE OF THIS KIND OF CARELESSNESS. AND NOBODY CORRECTS IT.
People fail to realize that Pacific Islanders, Melanesians, Micronesians, Polynesians — we are separate peoples. We are separate cultures. Yes, we do hold similar values and customs, but that does not take away from the fact that each culture has its own unique traits.
Moana is not slightly influenced by Polynesian mythology. This is what the film is centered around. I don’t want outsiders thinking of Polynesians as something they are not because of poor research. I want people to know who we are and be familiar with our lifestyle, without being tainted with the European labels of primitive and tribal. This is important to me because my people aren’t ever represented in media, and on the rare occasion that we are mentioned, the media does it wrong.
So, in short, contrary to what you’re saying, it is Disney’s responsibility to do my culture justice.
If you’re going to choose that as your topic for presentation, then you’d better do your damn research.
*INSERT STANDING OVATION*
"Next time? I don’t remember asking."
”It’s ‘cause it’s my turn.”
Posting this over a month later but my birthday gift from Sephora & Make Up Forever! 💋