Cultural criticism drives Disney to stop selling ‘Moana’ costume
  • Saturday, January 19, 2019
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Hawaii News

Cultural criticism drives Disney to stop selling ‘Moana’ costume


    Disney said Wednesday it would no longer sell the boy’s Maui Halloween costume. Pacific Islanders have compared the depiction of a Polynesian character to blackface. The getup features full-body tattoo art adorning Maui, a lead character in the upcoming animated movie “Moana.”


Disney said Wednesday it would no longer sell a boy’s costume for a Polynesian character that some Pacific Islanders have compared to blackface.

The getup depicts Maui — a revered figure in Polynesian oral traditions and viewed by some Pacific Islanders as an ancestor — who is a character in the upcoming animated movie “Moana.” It has a long-sleeve brown shirt and long pants featuring full-body tattoos. It comes with a fake shark-tooth necklace and green-leaf “skirt.”

Disney’s online store had offered boy’s pajamas and a men’s T-shirt in a similar design.

But those products were no longer available Wednesday.

“The team behind ‘Moana’ has taken great care to respect the cultures of the Pacific Islands that inspired the film, and we regret that the Maui costume has offended some,” the company said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize and are pulling the costume from our website and stores.”

Chelsie Haunani Fairchild said it’s off-putting to have a child wear the skin of another race.

“Polyface is Disney’s new version of blackface. Let’s call it like it is, people,” Fairchild said in a video she posted on Facebook.

The Native Hawaiian college student said in an interview the costume doesn’t honor or pay homage to a culture or person, but makes fun of it.

Fairchild, who is attending school in San Antonio, Texas, later said she accepted the apology, but it didn’t change what the company did. She said Disney stopped marketing the outfit only because people spoke out.

“Moana” is due for release in November. The animated feature is about a teenager who sails through the South Pacific to a fabled island. She meets Maui, who helps her explore the ocean.

The Disney online store began selling the costume recently, just in time for Halloween. The listing noted the getup had “padded arms and legs for mighty stature!”

Tevita Kaili, a professor of cultural anthropology at Brigham Young University- Hawaii, said he was happy Disney responded to the criticism and pulled the product.

He said the costume featured tattoos that would be used in Polynesia by chiefs, adults and those committed to the community. They’re removed from their cultural context by appearing on a Halloween costume, he said.

For example, the outfit has triangle designs used to symbolize sharks. These would normally be used by families who consider sharks to be ancestral guardians, he said.

Kaili himself views Maui as an ancestor, like many people from his home island of Koloa in Tonga, where a temple is dedicated to him.

Kaili said stories handed down about Maui snaring the sun or pulling islands out of the ocean are just metaphors for how he discovered new islands as he sailed the ocean.

“For most of us in the Pacific, in Polynesia, we see Maui as an important ancestor to us — as a real person,” he said.

The costume earned international condemnation.

Marama Fox, a co-leader of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori Party and a member of New Zealand’s Parliament, said the costume is a case of cultural misappropriation and an example of a company trying to profit off of another culture’s intellectual property.

The movie itself, she said, appears to be playing into stereotypes.

“It depicts Maui as a bit of a beefy guy, and not in a good way. That’s not the picture I have of the Maui who fished up the North Island, and had a number of feats attributed to him,” she said.

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  • STOP this insane Political Correctness! Next someone will complain of ‘whitie’ getting a suntan. Or “whites” getting Hawaiian etal tats.

  • Several separations from reality. The actual native Hawaiian. The missionary version of the Native Hawaiian. The Disney version of the latter portrayed as a cartoon character, jut like Mickey was not an actual mouse, but a cartoon drawing labeled as a “mouse”. Today, no one really cares or understands except an actual native or an actual native’s actual ancestor. Jean Baudrillard would be delighted that Disney is illustrating his analysis of contemporary electronic “culture”. Disney’s illustrators need a refresher course in Baudrillard and Wittgenstein.

  • Next we’ll hear they’re pulling the Barrack Obama mask. Can’t have white folks pretending to be black/white on Halloween.

  • “…that some Pacific Islanders have compared to blackface.” Who are these Pacific Islanders? A web search only found two; Chelsie Haunani Fairchild, a Native Hawaiian college student on the mainland and a BYU-Hawaii anthropology professor Tevita Kaili (a Tongan). Hardly a groundswell of protests. Wonder what they will be wearing this Halloween? Think Disney should reconsider.

  • Just seen fairchilds video rant on you tube and what a mouth she has ” f ” this and ” f ” that about the costume and cultural ” blackface “. Hell…… she looks like a frick’n orangatang! If your gonna rant about something at least represent your culture and yourself professionally.

    • Yep, I also Viewed “Chelsie Haunani Fairchild’s” video what a Rotton Fowl Mouthed W_it_cH. What about the “White Amazon Princes” on the Poster Behind her. Is ‘Chelsie Haunani Fairchild’ not a Hypocrite? What is she about 1/3 my age, ans considers Herself to be an expert!

  • “Oh, No!! They’re stealing our history and legends for crass commercialism. They should pay us a royalty on each costume sold!” Sheesh!!!

  • Her Youtube is basically incoherent, She seems unable to put a sentence together and her only punctuation is obscenities. I didn’t have 8 minutes to waste waiting for her to get around to whatever her point was after listening her introduction that she had just come back from tennis and hadn’t washed her hair.

  • Where were all of the yappies years ago when little ones were dressing up like “Lilo” or “Pocahontas”? So many people overly sensitive over a non-issue. Let the children dress up as people the can look up to. I’d rather they dress up like “Maui” than “Pimp Daddy” or some drug dealer.

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