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Polynesians upset with Rock's Disney god

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/07/2016

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's mythical character in Disney's upcoming animated movie Moana has upset Pacific Islanders, because he's obese.

The wrestler-turned-movie star portrays Polynesian god Maui in the film, which is set for release later this year, and activists from New Zealand, Hawaii and Samoa are far from happy with the role, claiming it trivialises their heritage and stereotypes them.

New Zealand MP Jenny Salesa is leading the criticism directed at filmmakers and animators, saying: "When we look at photos of Polynesian men and women from the last 100-200 years, most of our people were not overweight and this negative stereotype of Maui is just not acceptable."

Calling Johnson's animated character "obese", she adds: "The environment our kids grow up in and what they are exposed to have a role to play. Disney movies are very influential on our children...

"It is disappointing that Maui, one of our beloved historical ancestors from hundreds of years ago, who was a very strong man (and) a skilled navigator, is depicted to be so overweight."

Samoan rugby player Eliota Fuimanono Sapolu also weighed in on the criticism, admitting he isn't a fan of The Rock's latest movie character.

In a Facebook post, he writes: "Maui looking like after he fished up the Islands, he deep fried em and and ate em."

And Will Ilolahia, from the Pacific Island Media Association, tells Waatea News he has major concerns about the bad health message in the Disney film: "This depiction of Maui being obese is typical American stereotyping. Obesity is a new phenomena because of the first world food that's been stuffed down our throat."

Johnson, who has Samoan and Black Nova Scotian heritage, has yet to comment.

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