Disney found itself at the center of another controversy this week after fans took to social media to complain that a Halloween costume based on one of the studio’s upcoming animated films appropriates Polynesian culture and is “basically full-body brownface for kids.”
The furor began last week, when Disney’s online store began selling a costume based on its upcoming film Moana, which features the company’s first-ever Polynesian princess.
The costume, based on Dwayne Johnson’s Polynesian god character Maui from the film, features a full=body suit complete with “the demigod’s signature tattoos, rope necklace and island-style skirt.”
The backlash came swiftly on social media, with many accusing Disney of “appropriating” Pacific Islander culture. The film has already been accused of making Johnson’s character morbidly obese.
— taleifiji (@TaleiFiji) September 19, 2016
cosplaying things like moana is one thing – cosplay shouldn't be limited to what ur race is. but literally wearing a brown skin costume? no
— ✨ hannah ✨ (@donnatroying) September 19, 2016
— Keakeake (@8keakeake) September 18, 2016
Fusion’s Charles Pulliam-Moore called the costume “seriously misguided” and “basically full-body brownface for kids.”
“While there were a handful of people who didn’t see what all the fuss was about concerning the costume, a number of decidedly more woke folks didn’t hesitate to explain how literally inviting children to wear the skin of a character of color (let alone a religious figure) was offensive as hell,” Pulliam-Moore wrote.
As of Tuesday morning, the company hadn’t removed the item from its online store. The Disney story also sells other Moana-related costume apparel, including costume wigs and light-up toy fish hooks. The film is expected to be released on November 23.
This is hardly the first time that a Halloween costume has cause outrage online. Last year, an online costume retailer was forced to remove a “Call Me Caitlyn [Jenner] Unisex Costume” after facing similar online criticism.
In October of last year, two schools banned a student’s mariachi-themed costume on grounds that it represented “cultural appropriation,” even though the student himself was of Hispanic descent.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum