The internet is divided over how Disney chose Nani in the upcoming live-action version of Lilo and Stitch.
The first movie came out more than 20 years ago. It was about Lilo, her alien friend Stitch, her sister Nani, and Nani’s boyfriend David, and their adventures in Hawaii.
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The movie became a cult favorite and changed what a Disney movie could be. So, fans were thrilled to hear that it was coming back.
Even though no specific details about the plot have been released yet, The Hollywood Reporter has made a big announcement about who will play some of the main characters.
Maia Kealoha, a young actress from Hawaii, will play Lilo. Zach Galifianakis has also joined the cast, but his exact role hasn’t been decided yet.
Most recently, it was announced that Sydney Elizabeth Agudong will play Lilo’s older sister Nani, but it seems like a lot of people online are unhappy with this news.
The news source said that Agudong was “born and raised on the island of Kauai, Hawaii,” but it didn’t say whether or not he is Native Hawaiian. Not only that, but some fans have also brought up the issue of colorism, saying that Nani is a Pacific Islander with darker skin, and that should be reflected in the choice of who to cast.
Under a tweet from @PopCrave, many people expressed their concern.
One Twitter user wrote:
what?? i am pretty sure there are hawaiian actresses with a skin tone more similar to nani’s, where’s representation now? i hope this doesn’t happen to tiana’s because i’m really rooting for coco jones on that part [sic]
A second added:
Absolutely no hate to this beautiful woman but let’s re cast.
A third tweeted:
Colourism […] Nani isn’t that light skin!!! Where is our dark skin Polynesian representation!?
The issue is not that they casted a native Hawaiian because props to them for doing so, the issue is that once again we are seeing colorism impact casting choices,
And the talk kept spreading through the social media platform.
The conflict occurring in Lilo and Stitch being about the colonialist state attempting to pull this tiny ‘broken’ native Hawaiian family apart is made more apparent by their both being darker skinned girls. Casting a lighter skinned Hawaiian to play Nani interferes with that,
this person pointed out.
And this Twitter user wasn’t hesitant about saying what they thought:
Like all shade all offense to nani’s actress in this upcoming lilo and stitch bc how do u look at the character ur supposed to be playing THEN look in the mirror and see that u are whitewashing/actively taking a role from someone more marginalized and still accept that role.
And when people tried to compare the criticism of the casting to the criticism of Halle Bailey in the remake of The Little Mermaid, a very passionate Twitter user said:
Nani’s race and skin colour are RELEVANT TO THE STORY. a white passing nani DOES NOT WORK WITH THE STORY. Ariel on the other hand is a MERMAID a creature that DOES NOT EXIST and her race is NOT RELEVANT TO THE STORY because she is a literal MERMAID (I have dumbed this down for u).
In the movie the siblings’ feeling of isolation from the other characters stems from many things INCLUDING the fact that they are dark skinned Hawaiian women. Nani is a character who is curvy and has darker features. Someone who is white passing cannot represent that struggle.
Everyone has the right to be upset about how Disney cast a role, but this Twitter user wanted to remind everyone that they shouldn’t be directing their anger at the actress who just got the part:
And another supporter tweeted:
Sydney is Hawaiian […] and a proud one either, Nani is a fictional Hawaiian character so regardless of the lighter tone Sydney has , doesn’t change the fact they cast an actual Polynesian girl a true island girl for this.
How do you feel about this?
Lilo and Stitch by Disney will soon be available on Disney+.