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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

curated: representation matters (Moana edition)

I love this.


posted in:
easter eggs

  • LaSargenta

    That is a great picture.

    I found this thread from a Maori woman interesting, too: https://twitter.com/YA_Geek/status/813641206248837120

  • Bluejay

    I definitely get the feeling when something is made “about” you rather than “for” you. And I think it’s a given that Disney films are mass entertainments designed to be easily accessible and appealing to the widest possible audience, and that they’re not going to be 100% accurate deep-dives into any particular culture. (How much Scandinavian culture do we really grok from a viewing of Frozen?) At best, a Disney film can spark an interest in a culture and a desire to learn more, but anyone who thinks a Disney story is all they need to “get” a culture is deluding themselves.

    That said, I’m inclined to give Disney a lot of credit for the amount of effort they put into getting as many things right as they did. I recommend checking out the book The Art of Moana to see just how much they sweated the details — everything from landscape to architecture to differences in costumes (based on class, occupation, and time period) to differences in ship and sail design (Samoan vs Fijian vs Tahitian) to how interviews with Polynesians and their “Oceanic Trust” consultants influenced their design of Maui. Since the story is set 2,000 years in the past, they even went as far as to limit their vegetation to what was there at the time (i.e. prior to the arrival of invasive species). A LOT of thought went into this, perhaps more than can be appreciated in one or a few viewings.

    I do think it’s valuable, in and of itself, for little girls of color to see heroines who look like them. And even flawed attempts at representation can lead to greater cultural visibility. Hopefully a blockbuster Disney film featuring celebrated talents like Dwayne Johnson and Lin-Manuel Miranda will give Polynesian peoples just a little more visibility and cultural cred when they raise their voices on issues like climate change, etc.

    TL;DR: The film’s not perfect, and of course we always need more and better representation, but it’s an impressive effort (to me) and a step in the right direction.

  • LaSargenta

    I got the feeling that YA Geek would agree. She seemed to be saying a lot of that (well, not about the book), but was going in a little deeper about it.

    It still is true that people from different backgrounds write different stories.

    I’m watching Luke Cage again b/c son wanted to watch it and he’s with me. Again, I’m noting how different it is from other tv shows in the marvelverse because of the writing. I don’t immediately click into a lot of the connotations of things because I’m not AA despite catching a lot of the things I get simply b/c I’m a NY’er who has spent a lot of time in Harlem. The writing is excellent, it is a great representation of the comic books and the stories would have been completely different if it had been written by me or someone like me instead of Cheo Hodari Coker and his team. (Side note: this isn’t me saying I love everything about the show, I’m just saying that it is great writing and a telling of the story that wouldn’t happen from the writers of Daredevil — which is surprisingly dull.)

    I haven’t gotten to see Moana yet. I will. I think I will really enjoy it and I am glad to read that the production took the research seriously, even if they might not have hit the nail on the head perfectly all the time. It is a helluva lot better than the pablum princesses that have been the Disney mainstay for most of its existence.

  • Bluejay

    It still is true that people from different backgrounds write different stories.

    Oh, yeah, absolutely. And we definitely need a lot more people from overlooked/underrepresented backgrounds writing stories from lived experience, rather than (or in addition to) having stories written about them.

    However, writers also shouldn’t retreat into their tribes and write stories only about themselves. Gene Luen Yang gave a speech encouraging writers to not be afraid of writing characters far outside their own experience; rather, he said, they should go for it, prepare to fail and learn from the criticism, ask and observe and research, and DO THE WORK.

    Gail Simone (I think it was Gail Simone) said something similar on Twitter recently: “Write what you know” doesn’t mean “Write only what you know right now”; it’s a challenge to go out and KNOW MORE, so that you can write more, and write it better.

    It’s always going to be the case that Disney will be the outsider/newcomer telling stories about cultures from the outside. In this case, I applaud them for making an earnest and enormous effort to KNOW MORE, and to do their best to do right by the people they’re representing.

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