Last week, Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA) issued a press release condemning Aloha, the new romantic comedy from Cameron Crowe, for failing to accurately represent the predominantly American-Asian community of Hawaii. MANAA asserts that by presenting only white actors in Aloha‘s prime roles, Aloha effectively white-washes true Hawaiian culture. Specifically, the group cites Aloha stars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Bill Murray, Danny McBride, and Alec Baldwin.
“Caucasians only make up 30 percent of the population [of Hawaii], but from watching this film, you’d think they made up 99 percent,” says Guy Aoki, a representative for MANAA and a former resident of Hawaii. “This comes in a long line of films — The Descendants, 50 First Dates, Blue Crush, Pearl Harbor — that uses Hawaii for its exotic backdrop but goes out of its way to exclude the very people who live there. It’s an insult to the diverse culture and fabric of Hawaii.”
The primary concern of MANAA seems to be the use of the word Aloha as the title of the film, which would suggest the watchdog group responded to a first gut reaction, instead of giving Aloha a chance and judging it on its own merits.
“If you have a romantic comedy about the military in Hawaii … but a title that says Aloha, I can only guess that they’ll bastardize the word,” Walter Ritte said. “They’re taking our sacred word … and they’re going to make a lot of money off of it.”
Quick to respond to those claims, Sony representatives have released a statement of their own, responding to allegations of “white-washing” the Hawaiian culture and defending Aloha and it’s director, Cameron Crowe.
“While some have been quick to judge a movie they haven’t seen and a script they haven’t read, the film Aloha respectfully showcases the spirit and culture of the Hawaiian people. Filmmaker Cameron Crowe spent years researching this project and many months on location in Hawaii, cultivating relationships with leading local voices. He earned the trust of many Hawaiian community leaders, including Dennis ‘Bumpy’ Kanahele, who plays a key role in the film.”
Mr. Crowe has not responded to the criticism personally, but the filmmaker seems to have anticipated backlash upon the release of Aloha. The following featurette released by Mr. Crowe addresses similar issues as those raised against Aloha and includes a personal interview from Kanahele. Entitled The Spirit of Hawaii, the featurette, unlike claims to the contrary, explores the compassion and understanding among the people of Hawaii and its visitors.
Aloha opens in theaters tomorrow.
[Featured image: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, and Rachel McAdams courtesy of Sony/Aloha]