This post is a little different to the spotlights I usually post up, which are written to try and help people find dusty gems they may not have unearthed. Instead, today i’d like to rant about the latest Disney princess tripe that’s taking the easily distracted by storm. I couldn’t quite believe the trailer I saw earlier this morning, and I’ve been mulling over it all day since. I decided to make today’s Friday Film feature one where I show the vitriol I’ve tried hard to keep away from this corner of the internet.
Moana has already attracted a tad of controversy, offending some Polynesians for it’s portrayal of Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) as an overweight, piggy-nosed stereotype. Unfortunately, however, a greater majority are simply excited to have another vacuous, brightly coloured ninety minutes coming their way to smooth out the days. Fair enough if it’s another Zootropolis, which has enough creativity and thought to tow the line. Moana, however, seems nothing more than another attempt by Disney to feign diversity through the use of easy targets that even the racist would find it difficult to have a problem with. Whether it’s Pocahontas or Mulan, we’ve seen this before and it’s unbelievable that these movies are still following the same format. Allow me to elaborate.
Look at those fucking animal buddies in the middle there. What is with the little critter chums in these Disney wastes of time? Sure, I have issues with both Maui and Moana herself, which i’ll get to in good time, but I have to address this really odd trend first. Pocahontas had a little raccoon thing (who cares?) while Mulan dragged around one of those indigenous mini-dragons that most definitely existed in the Han Dynasty. What’s it all about then? First of all, it’s insulting that writers are able to get away with painting so apathetically by numbers. Is it really that big of a leap to come up with new formats? Even that silly bint, Anna, was mates with a moose, and that’s probably because they thought people would expect that of Scandinavian types – which is what they try to portray in the film. While it’s weird to think of other cultures as the types more likely to bunk up with animals (which is barely my point at all), could we not see some other dynamics being played with? I’m sure the screenwriters to a fucking DISNEY production are being paid enough.
Even Moana’s utterly silly “command-over-the-sea” magical ability is a cop out, and what’s the point? We already have a demi-god in the picture with Maui, but so far I’ve seen Moana display more god-like powers when she lightly jacks off the ocean without a second’s thought. With that kind of ability, why does she even need Maui? And why am I supposed to care about the privileged problems of an unrealistically beautiful semi-exotic Barbie doll? What can this film teach our children except “foreigners are funny and different but nice” or “try hard to access false magic so you can be even more disappointed when life’s realities hit you in your twenties!”.
None of this is even mentioning Maui, the central figure of the film’s controversy and a character so badly designed that I couldn’t stop laughing as I first watched the trailer. It’s not just that his portrayal is racist – and it is – but that it’s not even that endearing or well done in the first place. Certain music or sounds are difficult to listen to. Maui is actually difficult to look at, so disproportionate and odd that i’m amazed someone in the production didn’t hear alarm bells ringing before they’d even called up voice actors. And on that subject, Dwayne Johnson (who I love with all my heart for his work with the WWE) doesn’t even seem a particularly good fit for the character. It actually becomes an offensive casting choice, bringing him in just for his appropriate tattoos and lineage. In practice, Johnson’s voice doesn’t gel whatsoever with his on-screen avatar – something I always thought would be a challenge to achieve considering his talent and how much I like him to begin with.
Moana, at least at this relatively early stage, seems to be a misjudged wrong footing. Throwing the same old shit at the wall shouldn’t be the formula of a company with the kind of influence this studio has. If Disney really want to celebrate diversity and make their shameful rogues gallery of dress-obsessed succubi less whitewashed, why not introduce us to an Arabic heroine? Why not teach us some of their culture and try to clean up some of the damage while you’re at it? Oh, because you already did that with Aladdin. And that was pretty much racist too.