Every single year, there are plenty of children who like to dress up as Disney characters for Halloween, and the princess line is one that’s always very popular. Moana hit theaters in November of last year which didn’t allow for her costumes to hit the stores for Halloween until 2017, but there may be a problem. The young daughter of one mother wanted to dress up as the Polynesian princess this year, but mom feels it could be “cultural appropriation.”
The issue was originally raised by Sachi Feris on Raising Race Conscious Children, and it questions whether a costume such as that of Moana is good for a child that is white. Feris’ child originally stated she wanted to be Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, but there were some issues with both based on “whiteness.”
“Elsa is an imaginary or made-up character. Moana is based on real history and a real group of people…if we are going to dress up a real person, we have to make sure we are doing it in a way that is respectful. Otherwise, it is like we are making fun of someone else’s culture.”
Feris went on to tell her daughter that if she was going to dress as Moana, they would first need to “do some research” to figure out a way to be respectful of her culture. Her daughter simply wouldn’t be allowed to portray a Disney character on Halloween without knowing more about her first.
But wait, there’s more.
The first choice of Feris’ daughter for a Halloween costume was that of Elsa from Disney’s Frozen, but there were some problems with that option as well. The issues there came from the idea that her daughter may have wanted to change the color of her hair to match that of Elsa.
“There is one thing I don’t like about the character of Elsa. I feel like because Elsa is a White princess, and we see so many White princesses, her character sends the message that you have to be a certain way to be ‘beautiful’ or to be a ‘princess’…that you have to have White skin, long, blonde hair, and blue eyes. And I don’t like that message. You are White, like Elsa—if you dressed up as a character like Moana, who has brown skin, you would never change your skin color. But I’m not sure I like the idea of you changing your hair color to dress up as Elsa—because I think Elsa’s character could also be a short, brown-haired character like you”
After that, her daughter said she wanted a long blonde braid and Feris agreed since when dressing up like a made-up character who is white, “it is OK to change how your hair looks.”
As time went on, Feris’ daughter began to sing more Moana songs and Feris continued to do research on white people dressing as characters from other cultures and ethnicities. While Elsa ended up being the ultimate choice of costumes, Feris stated that conversations of “appropriate and inappropriate costumes will continue.”
There could come another day when her daughter wants to dress as Moana or another person from a different culture.
As the New York Post reported, there were many who read the blog post and praised Feris for how she handled the situation with her daughter. Others wondered if “cultural appropriation” and wondering if a Halloween costume is racist is something that the child even understands.
One mother felt that “parents need to chill out a little bit” because the Halloween costumes of children shouldn’t be taken so seriously.
Good Housekeeping thinks that Feris’ way of going about things is a good way to keep the world in perspective and remain respectful. She isn’t asking anyone to stop their child from singing Moana’s songs, but portraying themselves as the Polynesian princess is a different thing entirely.
Halloween is one of those holidays that walks a fine line with what is appropriate and what isn’t, but it also depends on who you are. A white child dressing up as Elsa from Disney’s Frozen may have no issues, but would it really be racist or offensive for the same child to dress as Moana? One mother decided to raise that question and it has brought about opposing views, but it could go a long way in the mindset of that child as she grows up.
[Featured Image by Disney]