If your kids have yet to decide what they want to be for Halloween (you know, after like, changing their minds 10 times), the voice actress of "Moana" says that she thinks it's totally OK to dress like Moana, her Disney character.
"I think it’s absolutely appropriate," Auli'i Cravalho told People. "It’s done in the spirit of love and for Disney, and for the little ones who just want to dress up as their favorite heroine, I’m all for it."
Kids are still loving the 2016 movie about Disney's first Polynesian heroine, whose story line had nothing to do with finding love but instead everything to do with embracing family and community.
"I would encourage anyone who wants to dress up as a wayfinder who journeys beyond her reef to figure out who she truly is, I totally support you. Go for it!" the 17-year-old native Hawaiian said. "Parents can dress up as Moana, too."
Cravalho's comments come at a time when parents are wondering whether dressing up like certain characters, such as Moana or the Black Panther, when you're not of that culture, is cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation, at its most basic level, is when you take elements of someone else's culture without permission and without showing that you understand or respect that culture.
It's why Disney pulled Maui's costume off shelves in 2016. The demigod's look was a suit of his brown skin with Polynesian tattoos and a faux-leaf skirt that sparked outrage for promoting "brownface." A matching black wig was also for sale.
While Moana's costume continues to be sold, critics still argue that someone's culture isn't another person's costume. Moana represents more than a strong-willed protagonist to some. In the case of "Black Panther," for instance, the superhero was huge for black kids who grew up with very few black superheroes. Parents should be very aware of what message comes across when those who have historically dealt with stigma and oppression see the people who discriminate against them dress up like them.
"If we lived in a perfect world, we could all dress up as one another without giving offense. But there are historical realities and ongoing social issues, and we just have to respect that that's part of where America is right now, and maybe pull back from that kind of masquerade," Susan Scafidi, author of "Who Owns Culture: Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law," told USA Today.
On the other hand, those who support any kid dressing like Moana say it isn't cultural appropriation. Children aren't dressing up as Moana out of ill intentions but of appreciation, they argue, and there's a difference between dressing up like a specific role model versus a group of people— for instance, Moana versus a person of Polynesian descent, or Mulan, versus a Chinese person.
"When I look at it, I see no reason why a kid who’s not black can’t dress like Black Panther. Just like our kid who’s not white dresses up like Captain America. I think the beautiful thing about comics is they do transcend race in a lot of ways," Katrina Jones, the director of human resources at Vimeo, told the New York Times.
There seems to be a fine line between appreciation and appropriation—the question is, where do you draw the line?