Home / Fall 2016 / “Moana” the new black face: Disney thankfully recalls costume

“Moana” the new black face: Disney thankfully recalls costume

Moana, left, and Maui in "Moana," the soon-to-be-released Disney movie about a young Pacific Island princess who dreams of becoming an ocean navigator. Maui is a Polynesian demigod in the animated film. (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Written by Mayah Cantave, Managing Editor

In light of Disney’s upcoming release of the movie “Moana,” Disney has halted its sales of a costume inspired by one of its characters. The costume is based on the depiction of Maui, a main character whose attire is in the custom Polynesian culture. The costume featured pants and a long sleeve shirt covered in Polynesian tattoos to resemble Maui’s skin. The costume’s arms, legs and torso come padded to embody the physique of the character. Also included in the costume is a faux grass skirt and photorealistic teeth art appliqués.

Many people are outraged because Disney turned Maui’s brown skin into a costume accessory. Audiences around the world claim the costume screams cultural appropriation. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, cultural appropriation is described as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect its culture.”

Disney has so far proved to continually make efforts to include other cultural representations. Their efforts lack in not offending the cultures they try to imitate and represent even though representatives say they were conscious in staying as close to the actual culture traditions as possible.

Disney has since removed the costume from the stores and its website.

“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,” said Disney representatives. “We sincerely apologize and are pulling the costume from our website and stores.”

Disney’s decision to pull the costume was a smart and strategic plan hopefully meant to sway audiences before the release of the movie. Offending critics and audiences is not the best idea especially if Disney wants to make its movie a success.

The Maui costume is considered culturally offensive because the costume is replicating a culture not a costume. The brown skin of a character should not be a costume. It’s on the same offensive spectrum as the “black face” costume, where people covered their face, hands and body with black paint to resemble a darker skin person. Black face is used more to poke fun of a race instead of appreciating and respecting it. The Maui costume is essentially the same thing.

In the future, Disney should be more mindful of how they chose to market their characters. If all else fails the decision to buy Halloween costumes for children is up to the parents. Parents should take opportunities like this to teach their children about other cultures and traditions. Also, parents should take the time to teach their children how to respect others and to try their hardest not to offend. The best way to make a change is to systematically change the system. To teach others how to not be culturally insensitive or racist.

Lastly, when it comes to Halloween costumes, if you don’t like, don’t buy it.


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One comment

  1. Didn’t hear the Scottish complaining about Merida costumes in Brave

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