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Moana: The Movie that Could Have Been

By Lina Zhang, V Form

Moana: The Movie that Could Have Been

As part of Disney’s revival era animations, Moana details the journey of its eponymous heroine to restore peace and prosperity to her island, a community loosely based upon Samoan culture but also drawn from Polynesian culture as a whole. As Moana is one of the first movies to be made about Polynesian cultures, many see it as representation and awareness for the community and dismiss instances of cultural appropriation or misrepresentation in it as mere unintentional accidents. However, it is important to recognize that while the film promotes the positive message of strong femininity in the character of Moana, it also reinforces the limited and stereotypical narrative that Western audiences have of Pacific Islander cultures. From the culturally-insensitive coconut people to Maui’s controversial body, Moana is the movie that could have done better but didn’t, failing its expectations of cultural representation and perpetuating Disney’s trend of cultural appropriation. 

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