Film ► Cultural Importance v. Appropriation



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Chuman

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I feel like its more important to open a dedicated topic rather than derail a thread about summons. so far its established that Hercules is fine, Pocahantus and Mulan are not fine, Maui is bad but Moana is not? I'm hoping to expand my own understanding as well as that of others, and debating it in an actual thread seems more fitting.
 

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I don't, the inclusion and characterization of Maui in Moana was already a culturally loaded stunt bordering on outright appropriation which I'd rather not see replicated (and arguably made worse) in KH. Moana herself would be OK I think, but as it stands Ariel's already filling in as the water-based magic summon, so maybe in a future title.
Not to derail the thread, but I strongly disagree about the appropriation. He doesn't have to be a water based link, his gimmick could be shapeshifting.

I'd pick him as a summon over Moana.
I'd love to see a Spiderman link. it'll never happen but I'll be damned if it wouldn't be perfect, and bring genie back. some wildcard, you-dont-know-what-to-expect link where his "wishes" are what he deems fit and could change the tide the battle drastically.

I'm legitimately very curious on why you think Moana is less controversial than Maui.
I mean that Moana would obviously make more sense as a water based link, but with Ariel already confirmed she's unlikely for this title.

Maui's depiction in the film has been divisive and as someone who isn't Polynesian I'm not claiming a firm stake in either side of the debate (except to say that I err on the side of caution when it comes to Disney and cultural representation, which is to say I'm always suspicious of the intent until proven otherwise); but the problem with including him in KH3 as a summon/link feature intersects with too many of the concerns over Disney adopting/appropriating him as an addition to their corporate IP which they can then brand and loan out to anyone they want to. Maui isn't a Disney creation, he's a central figure in Pacific Islander folklore including, to my understanding, some creation stories: this would be something on par with including Jesus as a summon in terms of how loaded it is from a religious and cultural viewpoint. Highly uncomfortable.

edit:

Because unlike Maui, Moana is actually an original Disney character (supposedly created with a PI story trust) who doesn't come with the same overt religious import. I feel they have more of a right to "market" her so-to-speak. With Maui I think that's treading very choppy waters.

That's not to say I think Moana is great for PI representation but in a lot of ways that's not my call to make. I haven't sat down and watched the movie but I haven't been impressed with what I've seen, personally.
I meqn you could say the same for a lot of Disney properties that have been in KH. Namely Hercules which is wildly different from the actual greek myths.

I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I see no issue with Maui as a link
Maui's summon seems like it'd be more transformative based rather than water elemental, which is a void I feel like dream eaters or genie could fill. and lets also be honest in saying that this is far from the first time that Disney has reimagined a historical figure and added them to the collective brand- Mulan, Pocahantus, hell, much of Hercules' lore checks the box on deities but its not like anyone is really practicing that religion anymore
So what is your defense of these films exactly?




Since both of you mentioned this, let me just say no. Greek myths and epics, and Greek culture in general, is rigorously studied throughout the Western world and is exalted for its historical merits within academia. Kids in school are exposed to Greece as a matter of course, its hero legends have been exported all around the world, and the Greek people are not currently living under colonial occupation, having their land and resources exploited against their will for a tourist economy (among other things). If Disney or any studio wants to take creative license with that material, its impact on Greek society is negligible if not nonexistent.

Pacific Islander people and their cultures are treated as remote and exotic, if not hostile and uncivilized until corporate monoliths like Disney see an opportunity to make money off of them, which is when you get films like Lilo & Stitch or Moana (or that other movie, not Disney iirc, Aloha, where Hollywood in all its heightened awareness thought it would be totally fine to cast Emma Stone as a mixed Native Hawaiian and Asian woman) which trade, to varying degrees, in the stereotypical language of Pasifika culture and lifestyles with the stated intention of bringing visibility to them (which may be true), but also carry a dangerous potential or even tendency to advance the pervasive language of culture-theft stemming from that colonial condition which is that we'll take the aspects of your culture that we want, when we want them, and leave the rest because it doesn't suit our narrative or, really, the profit-driven ends to which it aspires.
I didn't defend them at all. I'm just saying that Maui is a drop in a pretty big pond.

edit: didn't I just say that use of greek mythos is pretty inconsequential lol
Of course I agree that Disney has a long and storied history of racial appropriation, Chuman, but that of Maui would constitute a very modern continuation of that tradition which makes it all the more relevant given its immediate proximity to the Revival Disney canon. Your position would seem to be that it's less egregious than the degree to which a film like Pocahontas commits to its historical and cultural inaccuracies, and I would agree with that statement on its face, but the pursuant implication that it's somehow, therefore, a more acceptable version of the same racist tradition we keep getting sold loses me.
You could make an argument that including Maui in Moana(and by extension KH3 if he makes it in as as summon) could make more people interested and curious about Polynesian mythology. It was the same for me for certain Disney films.
Which is exactly the colonial framework Disney wants you to operate under, the idea that someone outside of the cultural community in question will benefit from this exchange, without considering the need for and rights of Indigenous people to self-identify and determine the terms of that cultural exchange. The emphasis is always on the virtuous colonizer, eager to learn but never to listen.
there's a thread for this folks, I'll add these there as well as my reply: how would you feel if Disney paid proper restitution and such, a certain percentage of their profit for example, to the people in question?
placeholder post featuring the debate thus far, will edit in reply to last post

I'm not implying that its more acceptable by any stretch, I'm saying that I'm really not sure how its as bad. not that well-informed on the subject and I didn't notice any kind of major controversy over it. I'd consider Mulan worse because they skew the Chinese culture pretty badly as well as that of an actual person, and Pocahantus is way worse for reasons that really don't need elaboration.
 
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alexis.anagram

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I don't feel that this discussion is off topic from the other thread given that it directly reflects on the question of whether a potential link character is an appropriate addition to the game, from one of many vantage points for which you could make that argument in either direction.

I also don't think it has a high chance of gaining much traction as a real discussion outside of that thread, other than to attract the usual conservative snowflakes who will claim that they're being censored and we're all hyper sensitive sjws for even opening up the conversation on what it means to dignify rather than demean through the lens of media representation.

And while I appreciate your interest in learning more, there's a great tool called Google which will certainly offer a wider vantage point than a single party like myself can provide, which is why I don't make threads like this, I prefer to address these concerns when and where they occur to give some framing to the exchange. The generalized question of which Disney film is most racist is incredibly loaded and difficult to parse in any meaningful way. It's hard enough to comprehensively tackle and convince others of the individual components to Disney's racist traditions.

My final thought is that the Pocahontas cameo in WIR2, to me as a Native person, feels like a massive slap to the face from a corporation that seems stubbornly committed to parading around its pet Indian and I can imagine that's what a lot of Polynesian people might feel seeing Maui reduced even more firmly to just another product under the Disney brand-name for them to export however they see fit. I don't see how that's held to lower value than the gratification of playing some video game, but I can't say it surprises me either.
 

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the thread isn't just for educating myself but everyone. a debate with actual human beings is more stimulating than a google search, and I feel as if everyone on this forum should actually diddlying engage rather than start one sentence threads and replies to up their post count. this subject is at least as valuable as the sea of one thought threads across the forums and there should be legitimate discussion on the forums- imo this was derivative from the topic of "most wanted summons" and deserves it's own, rather than derailing one of the only other active quality threads on this site.

this post in itself isn't exactly on-point, but I'm sure you of all people can see how much of an issue it'd be if this can't gain any momentum compared to the countiess threads on who's getting railed by KHUX this week.
 

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I don't disagree with you on the whole, I'm just speaking from experience: there are a handful of members here who are consistently masochistic enough to open up that can of worms within this community, and even then the exchanges are typically more weary than informative because for those of us who are impacted regularly by this phenomenon it's exhausting if not impossible to call out every example of racism in the media we encounter on a daily basis. For you it might seem like a stimulating discussion but for me it feels more like something I'm obligated to do, at times against my better judgement, and it's even harder to engage it for the benefit of another's education when what I'm really looking to do is shine a light on something questionable or, at times, intolerable.

I can see that your heart's in the right place, and it's a noble effort which I hope will pay off in some respect, but it's not really even clear what there is for you to learn. You seem to understand on the Maui topic that it's racist, if in degrees, so my only advice is to have the courage of your conviction and call it out as such rather than providing cover for the ignorant and the apathetic by downplaying its problematic elements. You don't have to bring out the torches and pitchforks, but there's no need to shrug at racist media either.
 

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In regards to the WIR2 cameo, isn't Pocahontas still an official Disney Princess?Controversies aside, it would seem a bit unfair to omit her and have the others. Plus she has made cameos in other Disney works and has Disney princess merchandise.
 

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In regards to the WIR2 cameo, isn't Pocahontas still an official Disney Princess?Controversies aside, it would seem a bit unfair to omit her and have the others. Plus she has made cameos in other Disney works and has Disney princess merchandise.
That's exactly the problem. Pocahontas needs to be retired as a Princess franchise, and Disney should issue an apology for taking so long to do it. What's "unfair" is the fact that young Native women are constantly exposed to and internalize the image and messaging surrounding Disney's perpetuation of their pan Indian fantasy, and the ways it emboldens the wider acceptance of and push for continued Indigenous appropriation in American society, from the Red Skins football team to the Halloween costumes we're expected to sit still for every year. Pocahontas is a symbol of the American attitude towards Native communities: they own our culture, they own our history, as just another extension of the appropriation of our land and a pointed dismissal of our lived experiences. We're magical tree whisperers who never miss an opportunity to show some lost white soul how to paint with the colors of the wind. We've just got nothing better to do with our time I guess.
 

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The only comment I'm going to make is that I don't really expect KH to be where Disney addresses racial issues in its films over the years. I don't see Mulan, Pocahontas, or Moana as any more problematic than Don Bluth's Anastasia anyway. Peter Pan is a much more racist/misogynist film than any of these, imo, and its already in KH.
 

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So let me try and start a discussion with a question I have

A lot of times, those claiming appropriation are not actually from the culture in question. And in other times, the people of said culture doesn't care about what's being "appropriated"

Is it possible that we should let the people of the culture in question decide whether it is appropriation or not?
 

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So let me try and start a discussion with a question I have

A lot of times, those claiming appropriation are not actually from the culture in question. And in other times, the people of said culture doesn't care about what's being "appropriated"

Is it possible that we should let the people of the culture in question decide whether it is appropriation or not?
Seems fair. In regards to Maui, I've seen some positive reception from Polynesian communities. And like I mentioned earlier, having Maui could raise awareness towards his actual myths and legends.
 

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How is Maui Cultural Appropriation when Ron Clements and John Musker went to the Pacific Islands and asked the people what was and not okay and was based on real-life Pacific Island and Maori people?

"They're not from this culture so I can expect them - with good intentions - to make mistakes. It's just one of those things," Foa'i said of his colleagues. "But when I put my foot down they were able to go, 'oh okay, Opetaia says this so we'll look at that again.'"



I also can't find the documentary, but there's a girl who was part of the Moana Crew and the reason why Moana and Maui have the thick black curly hair is because of her. She's basically Moana and Maui in design. There's also a deleted scene where Moana hits coconuts in a rage- and after asking Pacific Island people, they removed that scene, due to it being offensive.

I think saying that Maui is Cultural Appropriation is a bit rude and insulting to all the Pacific Islanders and Maori people who worked on this movie and helped with the movie, helped lead the movie and Taika Waititi whom basically wrote the movie.


Maui's depiction in the film has been divisive and as someone who isn't Polynesian I'm not claiming a firm stake in either side of the debate (except to say that I err on the side of caution when it comes to Disney and cultural representation, which is to say I'm always suspicious of the intent until proven otherwise); but the problem with including him in KH3 as a summon/link feature intersects with too many of the concerns over Disney adopting/appropriating him as an addition to their corporate IP which they can then brand and loan out to anyone they want to. Maui isn't a Disney creation, he's a central figure in Pacific Islander folklore including, to my understanding, some creation stories: this would be something on par with including Jesus as a summon in terms of how loaded it is from a religious and cultural viewpoint. Highly uncomfortable.
I've grown up with the story of Maui since early childhood and while he isn't a Disney character, his stories are something that's loved to be shared across all cultures and people. YMMV but I'm glad that Disney is bringing Maui to people all across the world with the movie Moana.


If it was this bad, Waititi would have told Disney to Fu/k Off.

 
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Tartarus

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I think saying that Maui is Cultural Appropriation is a bit rude and insulting to all the Pacific Islanders and Maori people who worked on this movie and helped with the movie, helped lead the movie and Taika Waititi whom basically wrote the movie.
There were Native Americans that helped with Pocahontas, too, who still criticized the movie once they saw the finished product. Besides, no one individual in a group can speak for the reaction of a whole group anyway. Some may not find the portrayal problematic; others will feel differently.
 

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Is it possible that we should let the people of the culture in question decide whether it is appropriation or not?
Seems fair. In regards to Maui, I've seen some positive reception from Polynesian communities. And like I mentioned earlier, having Maui could raise awareness towards his actual myths and legends.
Members of the communities (or I should say the communities themselves) in question should always have the largest voice in setting the terms for exchange of their cultures, but the problem with both of your angles is that you're obviously using them to deter objections from PoC (like myself) who have similar, if not exact, backgrounds and experiences as those communities and lean into your own confirmation bias insofar as you want to see the movie in a certain light, and that means ignoring the actual dynamics at play here. Intercultural/demographic alliance is a really important element in minority-led movements towards liberation: while I can obviously only speak categorically for my own cultural knowledge base, I can draw on the shared experiences I have with others who live under similar circumstances and power dynamics, and I feel it's equally important to speak to that insight in order to draw attention to the common struggles we encounter. Which is exactly why I neither consider nor call out Moana as some kind of abject exercise in colonization art: I've read a spectrum of reviews of the film from Polynesian and Pacific Islander people ranging from positive to less enthused, and I give weight to all of them. But the depiction of and, more pointedly, the creative licensing of Maui is a common point of critique and concern in nearly all of them: not just how he is portrayed in the film (which has its supporters and detractors), but the potential issues that arise from outsourcing him to other projects and making him some kind of decorative statement (which already has basis in fact given that fiasco with the Maui skin costumes). Disney has an objectively bad track record and should have to work a lot harder to earn the trust of people who claim to care about issues of cultural sensitivity than making one movie which meets the exceedingly low bar of not being totally and obviously racist.

It's also important to keep in mind that no cultural community is totally homogeneous, and if you're only looking for people who readily agree with the colonial narrative, you will always find them. It was always possible during slavery and Jim Crow to find black folks who propped up those systems and held them to be the proper order of things, and it has always been possible in Indigenous communities to find collaborators who work in tandem with the colonial agenda for any number of reasons (historically, some Native Nations or even people within a Nation would ally with one colonial European power or another in order to target rival Nations/families, and the consequences of that still echo today in the relationships between certain tribes and bands), and those same collaborators who are often held as heroes in the American narrative are frequently viewed as traitors or cowardly opportunists within their own Nation. These kinds of conversations aren't neat or tidy, they're frequently messy and different people within a community will have different thresholds for what they consider to be tolerable, sometimes indicative of a generational difference where, as these issues are advanced and taken more seriously over time, it becomes increasingly important to seek some kind of consensus and draw some lines in the sand: like I mentioned above, I try to find the points of common concern where issues of representation are at hand and work from there to understand the root issue and how it tracks with the historical record.


How is Maui Cultural Appropriation when Ron Clements and John Musker went to the Pacific Islands and asked the people what was and not okay and was based on real-life Pacific Island and Maori people?
His depiction in the film may or may not rise to that level depending on who you hear it from, but the idea that Disney should unilaterally wield his image wherever and however they want should be a valid point of concern to anyone who's serious about the accountability that comes with drawing your narrative elements from a culture to which you don't belong. The fact that Clements and Musker had to go to people of that culture to get a grasp on what they were doing is evidence enough of their need to have guide rails for their storytelling and usage of those cultural elements: for me, that inspires some appreciation, but also a healthy dose of skepticism. It's certainly better than running off on their own and just plucking the stories of Maui out of a void and ignoring the voice of Pasifika communities altogether, but what happens when those guide rails are no longer in place? Does Disney have a greater stake in depicting Maui, or do the people of the Pacific Islands? I'm of the opinion that it's the latter and I'm weary of any depiction that isn't signed off on, so to speak.

I also can't find the documentary, but there's a girl who was part of the Moana Crew and the reason why Moana and Maui have the thick black curly hair is because of her. She's basically Moana and Maui in design. There's also a deleted scene where Moana hits coconuts in a rage- and after asking Pacific Island people, they removed that scene, due to it being offensive.
I mean, again, if this is the low standard Disney has to clear to wash their record of and continued exercises in cultural appropriation, then the conversation is meaningless to begin with. This is like the least of what they should be doing so it's not exciting or impressive to me at all.

I think saying that Maui is Cultural Appropriation is a bit rude and insulting to all the Pacific Islanders and Maori people who worked on this movie and helped with the movie, helped lead the movie and Taika Waititi whom basically wrote the movie.
I don't think anybody who's serious about cultural empowerment would view questioning the intentions and accountability of a studio like Disney as "rude and insulting"; I've never said or been of the opinion that the Polynesian peoples involved in crafting this film were ill intended, myself and others are concerned about leaving it in the hands of a giant corporate enterprise that has routinely steamrolled Indigenous communities in their mad dash to market culture to a white audience who is largely meant to view it as novel and exotic rather than relevant and lived. If that space can be reclaimed to raise Indigenous voices, I'm all for it. I remain unconvinced by what amount to token gestures, however.

I've grown up with the story of Maui since early childhood and while he isn't a Disney character, his stories are something that's loved to be shared across all cultures and people. YMMV but I'm glad that Disney is bringing Maui to people all across the world with the movie Moana.

I have no doubt that there's a love of cultural and story sharing within Polynesian communities, I love to share my culture and perspective as an Indigenous person when appropriate, but there are also parts of my heritage which are off limits to outsiders and which I only feel safe engaging within the context of my own community. And even those things which I choose to share, I wouldn't want to see abused cheaply or thoughtlessly by someone who doesn't know what they're doing. That's more or less where I'm coming from.

If it was this bad, Waititi would have told Disney to Fu/k Off.
That can be difficult to do when you're a creative person with limited access to resources and you have to pick and choose your battles. Irene Bedard chose to voice Pocahontas and while I 1000% disagree with her decision and consider her a bit of a tool, I can at least understand her thought process at the time: an opportunity was presented to her and she could either take it, or turn it down and watch them maybe cast a white woman in the role or pull some other bullshit. Waititi probably had a similar decision to make, but you have to understand these people are not on a level playing field in these negotiations: Disney is a monolith in the entertainment industry, and it's hard to avoid getting involved with them somewhere along the line. Waititi might have thought he could do more good working within the circle than sitting on the sidelines, but that doesn't change the fundamental dynamics of the situation. There isn't a lot of good faith to be had with these things: I expect Disney would have gone forward with this film even if it failed to get any Polynesian talent on-board and then hid behind all the usual excuses it advances when people call out its (and Hollywood in general's) racist nonsense. So what do you do when your culture is essentially being held hostage? Watch it get shot in front of you or try to intervene and make a difference for the better?

That's why I'm always skeptical of these stories, and personally I won't be satisfied until I see Indigenous creators as the ultimate power in directing these kinds of projects: not as advisors, or points of reference who are maybe kind of influential in the process, or who get to write a script which is then maybe going to be followed or maybe not. I don't trust that guarantee in the corporate context.
 

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Irene Bedard chose to voice Pocahontas and while I 1000% disagree with her decision and consider her a bit of a tool, I can at least understand her thought process at the time: an opportunity was presented to her and she could either take it, or turn it down and watch them maybe cast a white woman in the role or pull some other bullshit.
Wait, what? You consider Bedara a bit of a tool because she wanted to voice Pocahontas ?!? It was her choice. And she loves voicing Pocahontas. She loves seeing their bright and happy faces in children and making their days better. You make it sound like she was forced to do it. She feels blessed to be able to voice Pocahontas. She loves it. She loves the movie and she loves the character.

You hate Pocahontas, but it doesn't make Irene a tool, just because she loves the movie and voicing the character!
 

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Wait, what? You consider Bedara a bit of a tool because she wanted to voice Pocahontas ?!? It was her choice. And she loves voicing Pocahontas. She loves seeing their bright and happy faces in children and making their days better. You make it sound like she was forced to do it. She feels blessed to be able to voice Pocahontas. She loves it. She loves the movie and she loves the character.

You hate Pocahontas, but it doesn't make Irene a tool, just because she loves the movie and voicing the character!
Stop being indignant for five seconds and put that comment in the context of everything else I've said and you won't have so many rhetorical questions to sling at me.

Here's a Powhatan publication on the conception and impact of the film. Bedard is complicit in perpetuating a racist myth, and the fact that it "puts smiles on children's faces" is cautionary, not assuaging.
 

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Calling a voice actress a "tool" just for doing her job sounds a bit harsh. If she likes the film and her work as the character then that's her right and decision.
 

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For the record, I just cited evidence of how this film was received within at least a segment of the Powhatan nation. A page ago you had this to say:

Is it possible that we should let the people of the culture in question decide whether it is appropriation or not?
Seems fair.
Now you're ignoring that evidence to go to the defense of someone who isn't from that cultural community, who by your own standards is not qualified to make the case for this film's cultural validity, because in reality you aren't operating under any principle of concern for the welfare of any of the cultural communities in question, you just take issue with the fact that there are reasonable limits which can be placed on your right to claim access to another culture into which you're neither welcomed nor wanted. Which is inherently colonial and abusive. Just saying.
 

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Calling a voice actress a "tool" just for doing her job sounds a bit harsh. If she likes the film and her work as the character then that's her right and decision.
Looking at it from the perspective of someone within the Native American community who believes Disney's Pocahontas is a smear on their culture, I don't think it's harsh at all? The voice actors would be seen as sell-outs if you hold that opinion.
 

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wasn't bedara abused by her disgusting husband and forced to take roles against her will/give him most of the profit? it could be argued her accepting the job was tainted from the start without her necessarily "selling out". of course it could have been a voiceover role she chose of her own volition but she didn't have much control of her life so to assume her share of "blame" during a very dark time is kind of toxic and I don't see whats to gain by arguing that point on either side.
 
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