Disney withdraws Halloween movie costume after ‘brown face’ outrage
Full-body children’s costume from upcoming Moana features brown skin with traditional Pacific Islander tattoos, grass skirt and bone necklace. Critics accuse Disney of cultural appropriation
Disney on Thursday withdrew a children’s Halloween costume depicting the tattooed Pacific demi-god Maui after critics accused the entertainment giant of promoting “brown face”.
The full-body, zip-up costume, linked to the upcoming animated feature Moana, featured brown skin with traditional Pacific tattoos, a grass skirt and bone necklace.
Pacific activists accused Disney of cultural appropriation, comparing it to the racially offensive “black face” make-up once worn by white performers in American minstrel shows.
Others labelled the faux-skin costume “creepy”, saying it resembled something from the cannibal thriller Silence of the Lambs.
Disney, which will release Moana later this year, said it was withdrawing the outfit from sale and regretted the offence it caused.
“The team behind Moana has taken great care to respect the cultures of the Pacific Islands that inspired the film, and we regret that the Maui costume has offended some,” it said in a statement.
“We sincerely apologise and are pulling the costume from our website and stores.”
Twitter reaction to the costume
— Lani Wendt Young (@laniwendtyoung) September 17, 2016
— Kanoe Kaluahine-Le (@keisquared) September 20, 2016
It is not the first time Moana, a retelling of Polynesian mythology, has sparked outrage on social media.
When a trailer was released in June, the Maui character voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was slammed for being obese.
Critics said it “fat-shamed” Polynesians and reinforced stereotypes of the island nations, which have some of the world’s highest obesity rates.
Tattoos are a particularly sensitive topic for some Polynesians, as full-body designs were an integral part of their culture that Christian missionaries zealously attempted to stamp out.
On the Cook Islands, tattoos were sometimes scraped off with coral and the practice died out across much of the region, with the exception of New Zealand and Samoa.
In Samoa, the pe’a sogaimiti, a design that scrolls from the upper waist to the knees, is an important rite in the passage to manhood.
It is traditionally applied by striking a wooden club against an ink-soaked bone chisel in an excruciatingly painful practice that can take days to complete.