Moaning Over Moana: Cultural Misappropriation

Disney will finally have another princess of color, this time an islander from the South Pacific! This is the first we have seen from Disney since Lilo & Stitch, which was a beautiful movie about ohana (family) and acceptance.

Moana is new and refreshing in many ways. First, she is a princess of color. She is strong and independent. She will not have a love interest! And she has a lot more “realistic” of a figure (no super tiny waist and bug eyes). Disney fans have a lot to look forward to this revolutionizing princess, and costumes for the movie have come out before it has even been released!


And as quickly as these costumes came out, they are now gone. Not sold out, but pulled from shelves.


A fiery backlash was received when the costume was released, claiming “Polyface” because of the dark skin color of the costume, that also has the tattoos of the character Maui and a grass skirt he wears in the movie. Because of the skin color of the costume, it was seen as cultural misappropriation, a label we often see especially around Halloween time, when people wear “black-face” and cover their face in black paint to represent a Black character, or Native American headdresses used in costumes.

Cultural misappropriation is a delicate matter, while some do it and are ignorant to the races they are offending (black-face definitely being insulting), some do it to celebrate culture and ethnicites (like children dressing as Native Americans at a school play). I believe Disney simply wanted to represent Maui the best way as possible, which meant his skin color on a costume for him. I don’t believe Disney ever meant any harm, since the costume is identical with the tattoos and grass skirt to match. Hopefully, Disney will produce a new Maui costume that will be more sensitive to the Islander culture, so children can represent their love for Moana this Halloween! moana-trailer

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