The Cameron Crowe-directed film ‘Aloha,’ set in Hawaii on Oahu, just seems to keep stirring the pot. Crowe has defended himself on a series of issues, and the film was the subject of one of the leaked emails in the Sony hack where SPE co-chairman Amy Pascal weighed in on production cost overruns and had scathing words for the movie.
Now comes Guy Aoki, head and founder of MANAA (Media Action Network for Asian-Americans) where in a press release to the New York Post, he accused Columbia Pictures of a “whitewashed” version of Hawaii. “Caucasians only make up 30% of the population (of Hawaii), but from watching this film, you’d think they made up 99%,” he said. “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,” Aoki said.
“Aloha” stars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Alec Baldwin and Bill Murray in the story of a military contractor (Cooper) who moves to Hawaii for work and falls for an energetic Air Force member (Stone).
According to Aoki, the largest roles for Islanders in “Aloha” are characters without names, some of whom are described as “Indian pedestrian,” “Upscale Japanese tourist,” and “upscale restaurant guest.” Aoki asks, “How can you educate your audience to the ‘rich history’ of Hawaii by using mostly white people and excluding the majority of the people who live there and who helped build that history?”
Wonder if he’s ever seen a little television show called “Magnum, P.I”?
A Hollywood Reporter article of 5/23/15 by Ryan Gajewski quotes a source from the movie as saying that no member of MANAA has yet to see the film or read the script and that the films storyline centers on “the spirit of the Hawaiian people.”
What do you think of the movies Aoki called out that were filmed in Hawaii? In letters to me, many blog readers name “The Descendants” as a movie shot in Hawaii that “gets them through the winter.”
Do you even care what a movie shot in Hawaii is about….because you watch mostly for the scenery?
And if you’re local, do you feel under-represented or misrepresented in Hollywood? Please weigh in…
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I will admit that I went to see Aloha, mainly for the scenery. It worked. For two hours, I felt like I was in Oahu. When I left the theater and opened the doors to the parking lot, I felt “damn – I’m back home…”
I understand the points being made about not representing the culture. They are right. However a Hollywood production such as this is made to generate income, not to educate. The producers chose top-level stars that they felt could draw an audience and generate money. Can you name any actor that is authentically from Hawaii that fits this description? Even most of the Asian main characters on Hawaii 50 are not really from Hawaii. So I understand their point, but sometimes a movie is just a movie. Relax and enjoy! Isn’t that the point?
BTW: I thought the movie was good but not great. Worth seeing if you are a fan of Hawaii, which if you are reading this, I’m sure you are.
You’ve made good points about the need for Hollywood to generate money with these films. Thanks for weighing in.
Great post, as always! I love Hawai’i (and especially Maui) in large part because of its diverse people. As a Caucasian female of suspected Gypsy background who’s married to a Latino, I’m passionate about diversity, inclusion and fully embracing all of our differences, large and small. And yes, I’d prefer to see a more realistic portrayal of cultures found across the world, including on our beautiful islands. That said, I find almost anything filmed in Hawai’i worthy of watching, Tom Selleck or no T.S.!
I totally agree…I LIVE in Hawaii, yet still really look forward to the breathtaking scenery in these films. I do believe that Hawaii becomes another character in the film. Who can forget the cinematography in “The Descendents” when the family crests the hill to view their property?
Thanks for writing.
I love that movie just for that reason – I’m not really a big fan of George Clooney. I think my kids get tired of me saying: “Oooh!! I know where that is!!” and “I’ve been there!!” I even went to see Jurassic World just for a dose of Kauai 🙂
I agree. The true Hawaiian people and their rich culture are never really seen in these movies. It seems that the only thing about Hawaii the film-makers want is the location.
I agree that Hawai`ians have not/are not portrayed well in these films. They are treated as props and/or scenery. I am not HI’ian born, but have lived here for over 20 years. Because of my love of the culture, history, people, language, music, hula, and the land, my friends took me to a Kahuna (who, to their dismay, said that I am not a reborn Hawai’ian). He did say that I was definitely an island spirit, and blessed me with an official HI’ian name.
The treatment of the kama’aina in this film is, unfortunately, all too typical of America’s history of treatment towards everyone considered a minority. We can only continue to hope and pray for change.
I LOVED the movie The Descendants, Aloha not so much. But yep, I mostly watch them and Under The Tuscan Sun for the setting and scenery.
Also, Chris Pratt is a Caucasian actor from Maui… Kind of sort of 😉