A Civil Conversation #1: “Costume Controversies”

So Disney has this movie coming out called Moana and it looks outstanding.   Probably containing the most progressive Disney princess of all, the title character Moana who will be going on some kind of a mystic quest across the ocean and she’ll be doing it without a love interest.   That’s right, she’s a strong independent woman who don’t need no man!

Accompanying her will be Maui, a Polynesian demigod with shapeshifting powers and sentient tattoos that function as his shoulder angels, giving him advise and encouragement.   He looks awesome.  The movie looks awesome.   No one’s seen it yet, so why is it already pissing people off?


The Moana “controversies” began when Disney premiered the first look at Maui and the whiners lost their minds saying that Maui was being portrayed as a stereotypical fat Polynesian…  a typical fat Polynesian with abs and pectorals, I guess because even though Maui is big, you’d have to be completely bonkers to call this guy is fat.  Massive, yes.  Built like a truck, yes.   Fat, no.

This is a fat Disney character.

This isn’t.


Not Fat.






Also sexy.

When this “controversy” first hit the interweb, its supporters were all but laughed away back into the “bitch about something” subreddit they came from, but they reemerged stronger than ever when Disney unveiled a Maui Halloween costume, complete with tattoos and everything.

Oh my God, they said, this is appropriating Polynesian culture!   We’re a culture, not a costume!   The outraged people pointing out this “controversy” accused the house of mouse of racism and so, Disney relented and pulled the costume from stores.

Now, I will freely admit that, when I saw the costume, I was offended not because of the “controversy”, but because Moana isn’t coming out until November and they’re already selling a Halloween costume?   What kind of kid wants to wear a costume for a movie they haven’t seen yet?   Where are their parents in this situation?   Help your kid make some responsible!  People like you are ruining this fine Christian holiday!

As for the cultural implications, let’s be honest… were a large number of people really complaining about this or just a loud few?   When I saw the costume, the first thing I thought was, “Wow, that’s ugly,” but racist?   That’s a bit of a stretch.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of racist and insensitive costumes over the years, but all of these costumes were making fun of a culture and belittling it in some way.   The cries of, “It’s a culture, not a costume!” can be very valid and, yes, one shouldn’t dress up in blackface or as a big-nosed Jewish banker, but this isn’t a costume doing any of that.   It’s a costume celebrating a character.

Let me put this “controversy” to you this way:   If my daughter, who is Hispanic, wanted to dress up like Princess Tiana or as Mulan for Halloween, not because she wanted to be black or Chinese, but because she loves and respects the characters, is that really being culturally insensitive?   What if a black child wants to dress up like Princess Mononoke or an Asian child wants to be Sophia the First?   Are you honestly going to tell me and these children that it’s only acceptable that they dress as characters from their own race?  Is that what this movement is all about?

We hear a lot about cultural appropriation these days.  About how, for example, white people shouldn’t have dreadlocks or Americans shouldn’t get Chinese tattoos they can’t read because that’s, essentially, stealing someone else’s culture which is… kind of bullshit.   Here’s another word I want you to consider:  Cultural appreciation.   I have several things around my house, knick-knacks and what not galore from places I’ve visited all over my corner of the world, including some Polynesian and Hawaiian things.   I don’t have these things because I want to steal their culture, I have them because I appreciate and, yes, even loved my time being immersed in that culture and learning new things about a people.

Where I come from, we have a motto.

No, not that.

E pluribus Unum.

“From many, one.”

It’s basically, the founding father’s version of “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”

By telling children that they aren’t allowed to dress up as a character who has a different ethnicity than they do, you’re short-circuiting what could be the beginning of cultural appreciation… trapping a child in their own little corner of the world, afraid of what other ways of life might be out there.    Whatever good intentions the people stirring up this “controversy” might have, all they are doing, whether they know it or not, is widening the divides that separate us and when divides between cultures exist, infections grow.  Rotting, maggot-filled infections spewing out pus and vileness that lower life forms feed upon like a mother’s teet.

We don’t want that!   Yes, we should fight against racist costumes because they are ugly and vile.   This is bad.  This is bad.  That is really bad.  Holy shit, they’re going to hell.   This is not bad.  Ugly, yes, and I wouldn’t buy it for my kids because they haven’t seen the movie yet, but it’s not racist, it’s not culturally insensitive… Maui is a character from a culture, he’s not the culture itself and if a kid from a different culture loves a character from yours and might use that character as a gateway to appreciate who you are as a people, is that really a bad thing?   It’s okay to be proud, it’s not okay to exclusionary.



About the author

Jason Donner

Jason Donner devoured the universe and you are all living inside him.