Moana

Sunday, January 15th, 2017 12:28 pm
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
I promised links at the Moana panel that just ended, so I might as well write that up first. The panel writeup will generally assume that you've read these because I'm hoping to get to a 1pm panel.

Good overview at Smithsonian.com: references the Long Pause in Polynesian exploration of the Pacific, the controversy over Maui's character design, the omission of Maui's companion goddess Hina, the various coconut-people and general coconut-related issues, and some details that were accurate and welcome.

More in the NYT about Maui's size.

The Guardian on authenticity as marketing tool (see: Vanity Fair), especially in the context of the economic effect of tourism on Hawaii.

A Twitter thread on complicated feelings from @fangirlJeanne.

Mari Ness on, among other things, the unexamined weirdness about the environmental message ("it’s a message that diminishes environmental issues down to “magic,” something largely beyond human control, and suggests that only “magic” can restore the environment").

(A kind person on ToastieSlack provided me with some of these links.)

My general thoughts about the movie:

I enjoyed it. It didn't take my breath away or blow my mind, but I'm glad it exists.

The kids mostly liked it, though it verged on too scary for the Pip. If you ask them about it they'll mention the chicken, pretty much.

On leaving the theater, the only song I could remember was the oceanfaring one, "We Know the Way," because I'd seen a clip of it before going. After I bought the soundtrack, I acquired the ability to become earwormed with more. However, when Moana and Maui's first big solos came up, I immediately said to myself, "That's Lin-Manuel Miranda," though I couldn't put my finger on why.

(Could they really not find anyone of Polynesian ancestry who could sing Moana's dad? I mean, I love Chris Jackson, but they made such a big deal about how they'd cast voice actors of Polynesian descent for the principal human roles, and then they split the voice acting duties for her dad. Also, I found it a little weird that LMM sang the English lead in "We Know the Way"; couldn't Opetaia Foa'i have done both parts (if you don't follow the link, the answer is "yes")? It felt like, "well, most of the people who are going to be hearing this won't understand Samoan or Tokelauan, so let's make the 'real' part be sung by the non-Polynesian guy who has a Tony.")

I was a little enh about the crab Tamatoa's glam being weaponized, though I do not attempt to perform "fabulous" and so this is not something that hits me where I live and I'm not sure if, therefore, I was being oversensitive.

I loved her relationship with her grandmother and I love metaphortunate's suggestion that the ocean previously picked her. And I love that Moana was the Chosen One because she said yes, that that was the key thing, I thought was a great message.

I go super back-and-forth about the lack of romantic interest; yes, girls get stories other than romance! . . . it's sadly rare to see brown girls get romantic happily-ever-afters. More of everything, please, so no one thing has the burden.

The Disney mashup/smoothing over really elides so much, culturally, which is covered in the links above. More on this in the panel discussion.

Notes about today's panel. I will say above the cut that I do not set out to be the Designated Harsher of Squee, but that I find these questions of representation important and if I'm going to be the only one making the case, well, so be it even if it's tiring and frustrating (it is).

Usual disclaimer: it's easier for me to remember what I said because, well, I'm the one who said it; I wasn't taking notes during so I generally am not positive which panelist said what, and so I usually leave those attributions out. If you want to claim credit, please do!

Some smaller stuff before I get into the cultural stuff:

One of the panelists pointed out that while Moana's grandmother had an important role, her mother had almost no lines, which I thought was very true and worth pointing out; alive, yay, present, yay, loving, yay, but that's about it.

Mixed opinions on the soundtrack, some people really loved it and some thought it wasn't top-tier. It was pointed out that it was a musical all throughout, which it was suggested that Frozen wasn't (note that I have never seen Frozen all the way through so I might not be conveying this properly).

Noted that the animal companions were a bait-and-switch; the pre-movie stuff made it look like the pig was going to be much more important. Query whether anyone else thought that the one helpful thing the chicken did, giving the Heart back to Moana, should have been revealed to be a shape-shifted Maui.

Structurally, we mostly agreed that the coconut people could have been removed entirely, beyond the other problems with them.

We actually started with cultural stuff, and came back to it periodically. If anyone else on the panel identified as non-white they didn't mention it. I did my usual Magical Minority Fairy disclaimer -- there isn't one, but that doesn't mean that since people might disagree, you can ignore all critiques, personally I find that if something makes me uncomfortable and instinctively defensive, it's often a sign that the critique has hit on something significant that I don't want to acknowledge, and I need to take some time to consider seriously.

So I mentioned stuff from the links about mashing up different cultures and leaving out important things and whatnot. And people said, no single movie can explain every thing or include every cultural detail! But . . . no-one's asking for that? Be accurate in the details that you do pick, don't include things that you can't do justice to (the coconut people, e.g.)?

And, but they had to do a cultural mash-up or kids wouldn't be able to identify with the story! But . . . critically-acclaimed movies get lauded all the time for the specificity of their setting? It's character and emotion that are gateways.

And, if you gave all that money to someone in the Pacific Islands to make the movie, you won't have all the cool Disney expertise! But . . . Disney chooses who runs things, not to mention who they hire and mentor and train, and they chose to put two white dudes in charge of this?

And, movies are a business and they are there to make money! But . . . that's not mutually incompatible with accuracy and promoting own voices?

And, it's still good because I know more about Hawaii now! Yes, that is good but . . . the movie is probably set in the Samoan Islands and draws from more than just Hawaiian mythology, which is the whole problem with the mashup?

So, yeah. I have no idea if anything I was trying to say got heard, and it was a little dispiriting to be the only voice against so many comments coming from a very 101-level discussion, no matter how well-meaning.

And now I have half an hour to get some lunch and go to Ursula Vernon's GOH talk.

August 2017

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