Everyone is insulted about pretty much everything these days. Sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly, but if you go onto social media, look at the news or speak to a handful of people, someone, somewhere will be on a campaign for justice because someone somewhere else has done something “disgusting”, “unfair” or “place negative adjective here”.
Perhaps the most common instance of people being wronged, is when it comes to body image. Brands, media outlets and individuals now have to be incredibly careful about what they post, say or do, but 9 times out of 10, someone will be offended.
Disney have now joined the party, and just like England vs Iceland, they cannot win.
Moaning about Moana
Disney’s upcoming film Moana offers the following synopsis…
“In ancient Oceania in the South Pacific, the young Moana is a born navigator who sets sail in search of a fabled island. During her journey, she teams up with her hero and legendary demi-god Maui.”
It is the character Māui where the outrage has been borne. You see, though Dwayne Johnson the rippling chunk of muscle also known as The Rock is voicing the character, Maui is actually going to be on the rotund size. Or as some have put it, “Half pig, half hippo”.
This is seen by many as an insult to Polynesian culture, and based on stereotypes of obese islanders.
— fuimaono-sapolu (@Eliota_Sapolu) June 22, 2016
We’ll ignore the complete contradictions in that tweet, and look at some data instead…
Mapping the fat
Obesity among islanders is well documented. For instance, looking at Pacific Island obesity figures taken from the WHO, we can see some startling figures. Looking specifically at Polynesian Islands, we can see that the obesity percentage of the Cook Islands is 50.8%, Samoa 43.4% and Tonga 43.3%.
If we then look at the percentage of people overweight, aged 15 and over in those countries, we get 90.9%, 80.4% and 90.8% respectively.
So all in all, by Disney making Māui a large man, or “demigod” I should say, then you could well be right in saying that they are representing a large proportion of their audience. Which isn’t stereotypical, it’s just fact; looking at the data at least. And that is where things start to get ridiculous, contradictory, and offer the reason why no one can get it right when it comes to body image.
Māui the muscleman
If you look at any branch of Māui, whether it’s Hawaiian, Māori, Tongan or otherwise, he has incredible strength, is known for his cunning and in general, is not a normal chap. The imagery that goes along with this is of a man a muscular build, perfect features and everything you’d expect of a character Dwayne Johnson would play (think Hercules).
So if Disney has made Māui look like The Rock (who by the way is of Samoan descent, so we can forget arguments about heritage in this instance), would that be better?
Because in that instance, Disney wouldn’t be representing modern society. They’d be showing a man of a build that is way too “perfect” and could have an impact on things like body-dysmorphia, orthorexia and myriad other modern illnesses to do with how we see ourselves, what we eat and how we act
If you represent the majority, you are forgetting the minority, if you represent the minority, you are forgetting heritage and partaking in nothing but tokenism.
But it gets even more nonsensical than that.
Fat vs. thin vs. everything in between
Unless you lived in a cave, you probably know about the infamous “Beach Body Ready” uproar from last year. The adverts, from a protein powder brand, which asked, “Are you beach body ready”? caused two reactions.
The first was outrage, starting the #eachbodyready movement, and was perhaps the catalyst for further focus on body shaming. In today’s age of supposed equality, acceptance and a drive for inclusiveness in all areas of life, the adverts were seen as a backward step, and could be damaging for female psyches.
The counter reaction to that reaction, was that the women pictured on the adverts, were healthy, had eaten well, exercised and generally worked hard to get in that shape. They said that it was a good thing to want to be in that shape; 67% of men and 57% of women in the UK are overweight after all.
So how as an advertiser, a public figure, a filmmaker or a just a person on Instagram do you possibly please everyone if we as a society cannot figure out what the hell we want?
The rage and the righteous
Because of modern hyper-political-correctness, the anonymity of social media and the desire to promote a healthy lifestyle, while at the same time being all inclusive, society has set itself up for failure when it comes to accepting body image.
We, and by that I mainly mean millennials, of which I am one, seem to have developed an invisible scale of what is right, and what is wrong and it doesn’t matter what is put out there, someone will find offence.
Mattel bring out a new doll with a curvier figure, and it isn’t curvy enough, it is too curvy and it is also perfect in every way. We will never be able to please everyone, yet it is expected that everyone should be pleased.
Disney cannot win, Mattel cannot win and until we lighten up a bit, and stop thinking that everything we say is of the most paramount importance, then we are going to have to live through this cycle of outrage for a while yet.