The Other Thing About Moana

But (of course there is a ‘but’ isn’t there) this is the year 2016, famously dubbed as the year where everyone is offended by nearly everything. I heard a woman behind me in the theatre say “What kind of movie is this, encouraging children to run away from their parents if they are not being allowed to do something!”. Her children probably do watch Tom and Jerry and Chhota Bheem , which are relatively oh, so realistic!

Another thing I have heard about is cultural inappropriation. One of the arguments for this was that Maui was a “lithe, almost teenaged heroic demi-god”, who is portrayed as goofy, buff demigod in the movie, which apparently takes after the stereotype that Polynesians are fat (what about Moana, grandmother Tala!). There was also some kind of problem with the use of coconut as a primary resource in the islands, which also an “insulting steretype”. Well, if that was what grew on those islands centuries ago, then coconut was by all means probably staple!

There are also protests from the Pacific Island communities with banners that read “Moana is not a Disney movie… It is our grandmother, the Pacific Ocean…”. Firstly, I don’t see why the movie is offensive in terms of Moana (which means ocean, by the way) because at not point is she shown to be weak. In fact, I love the idea that a girl named after the ocean, was chosen by the ocean to save the world (although, a little narcissistic on the ocean’s part, I suppose!)

Another issue someone raised was that despite the story being about “browns”, the movie had been “white-washed”. The movie apparently still deals with “white problems”, and does not address the “brown problems”. I do not understand this, what is that even supposed to mean? On so many cultural levels that does not make any sense! How is a plot revolving around a Polynesian myth, white-washing?

Lastly, some people expressed disgust at what they called “white hypocrisy”, given the timing of the release of the movie; the protest of the indigenous people at Standing Rock (the Dakotas). They seem to need a brief lecture on the production procedures to understand that the movie has been in works for months and it’s mere coincidence that the release of the movie clashed with the Standing Rock issue. Oh, and the tribe from the movie and the native people involved at Standing Rock are entirely different peoples.

I do respect the people whose sentiments have been hurt, but it is important to keep in mind that it’s a children’s movie and not a documentary. Small inaccuracies that have the potential to be blown out of proportion are present almost in every movie, and therefore, reading too much between-the-lines is simply too exhaustive for the mind, and anything will seem possible (for instance, The Lion King could be deemed racist just because the villain was coloured darker than the rest; the simple explanation behind that is that the colour palette used for Scar consist of dark colours simply because it resonates a certain intimidating and wary presence).

Moana is a great movie, with a great message; offended are those who think too much.


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