Disney’s bulky demi-God enrages some Polynesians as Maui trailer released

    Disney has run into flak over its depiction of the Polynesian demi-God Maui in a new film, Moana.

    A number of people have complained because in the film Maui is extremely fat.

    Samoan rugby player  Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu has hit out at the film, saying Disney had “taken our story.”

    “It’s the smiting of our great ancestor Maui,” he told the BBC.

    “It’s like smiting Jesus to make Snow White look good.”

    And Tongan-born MP Jenny Salesa has stepped into the controversy, telling her Facebook followers that “this negative stereotype of Maui is just not acceptable.”

    “When we look at photos of Polynesian men and women from the last 100 to 200 years, most of our people were not overweight,” she wrote.

    This is not the first time Disney has drawn fire for its depiction of non-westerners.

    Arab audiences were outraged by Aladdin, which was regarded as deeply insulting to Arab culture and to Islam.

    Notoriously, the theme song contained the words:

    “Oh, I come from a land/From a faraway place/Where the caravan camels roam/ Where they cut off your ear/If they don’t like your face/It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”

    Under pressure, Disney reluctantly changed the ear cutting line but left “It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.”

    Arab-American scholar Jack Shaheen, whose book and film Reel Bad Arabs chronicle decades of racist depictions of Arabs in American films, described Aladdin as “abhorrent” and “defamatory.”

    Disney also fell flat on its face in China where Mulan, which took US$300 million worldwide, barely made US$30,000 when it was shown in Mulan’s home town of Hunan.

    Many  of those who saw it regarded it as showing a complete misunderstanding of Chinese culture and simply being an American film with a few vaguely ‘Asian’ additions.

    The Chinese government effectively sabotaged the film by allowing it to be shown only after the school holidays.

    And when Disney did have a chance to make a point about racism, it backed away. In the film Lilo and Stitch, which is set among the indigenous people of Hawai’i, a scene showing Lilo getting her own back on white, racist, tourists was left out of the film.

    The main points

    • Disney has run into flak over its depiction of the Polynesian demi-God Maui in a new film, Moana.
    • A number of people have complained because in the film Maui is extremely fat.
    • Samoan rugby player rugby player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu described it as “the smiting of our great ancestor Maui,” he told the BBC.
    • And Tongan-born MP Jenny Salesa has stepped into the controversy, telling her Facebook followers that “this negative stereotype of Maui is just not acceptable.”

    For more information

    Disney’s Moana: Anger over ‘fat’ depiction of Polynesian demigod (BBC)

    Moana trailer

    Disney magic fails Mulan in China (Baltimore Sun)

    How Is Disney’s Mulan Perceived in China? (Huffington Post)

    It’s Racist, But Hey, It’s Disney (New York Times)

    Arab Caricatures Deface Disney’s Aladdin (Los Angeles Times)

    Deleted scene from Lilo and Stitch

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