Is Moana's Maui a Polynesian stereotype, or are haters bodyshaming?

Disney's upcoming animated family film Moana won't hit cinemas until November, but fans are already fighting over the depiction of one of the movie's central characters.

Set in ancient Oceania in the South Pacific, the film teams the young Moana (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) with her hero and legendary demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) on a search for a fabled island.

However, many - including New Zealand Labour MP Jenny Salesa - have pointed out that Maui's physique isn't exactly godlike, particularly when contrasted with traditional depictions of him.

Salesa shared a picture on her official Facebook page comparing Maui - who is dubbed "half pig half hippo" in the pic - with a trio of Hollywood heart throbs of Polynesian heritage (Dwayne Johnson included).

"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 - No thanks to Disney," she captioned the picture.

Samoan rugby player Eliota Fuimanono Sapolu, who first shared the picture, expressed his disapproval of Maui's look, writing that "Maui looking like after he fished up the Islands, he deep fried em and ate em".

However, others have argued that Maui's size denotes power and strength, and argue that labelling him "half-pig, half-hippo" amounts to bodyshaming Polynesian people.

Samoan comic book artist Michael Mulipola said on social media: "I'm not phased by the way Maui is designed in this film. In Polynesian mythology, Maui is the demigod who inspired many myths and legends.

"In this film, he would have done a lot of those amazing feats but he'll be a blow hard braggart who can be a bit of an idiot. There's a reason the upcoming film is called Moana and not Maui."

- NZ Herald

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