Pacific island students say 'Aquaman' is a step forward for Polynesians in movies

Written by: 
Elijah Hadley

The largest grossing DC Comics movie ever, "Aquaman," impressed BYU—Hawaii students of Polynesian ancestry because they appreciated Polynesian actors were in the film and it was a large reason why they said they enjoyed it.

Elijah Lemusuifeauali'i, a sophomore from Australia majoring in fine arts, said he believed even though the movie did not focus specific attention on Pacific Island culture, it still honored Polynesia.

Jason Momoa, who portrays Aquaman, is of Hawaiian descent, according to In other comic books and cartoons, Aquaman has been shown as a Caucasian with blonde hair and blue eyes. Steve Vaiouga, a sophomore from Samoa majoring in social work, shared how it was an important detail the filmmakers changed Aquaman’s ethnicity for the movie.

Vaiouga said, “Jason Momoa is probably the first Pacific Islander actor to play a major superhero. As a Hawaiian who descends from an ancestry of deep-sea voyagers and people who hold very strong connections to the ocean, it does seem fitting Jason Momoa would suit this role well.

“As a Polynesian, we are a family oriented people. Everything we do is for the good of our families and that is one role that stood out to me from the movie. Even though he didn’t spend his whole childhood living with his mother, the legacy still grows within him. That makes him who he is, and he knows he has a responsibility and standards to live on.”

Lemusuifeauali'i added the movie itself did not make the ethnicity of its lead character a major plot point. However, Aquaman, whose screen name is Arthur Curry, comes from two different worlds. One is the human world of his father Tom, played by Maori actor Temuera Morrison. The other is Atlantis, where his mother comes from.

Lemusuifeauali'i explained while the character has the same costume and backstory as the original DC comic, making Aquaman Polynesian did a lot to highlight Pacific Islander culture for the world.

He shared how the movie does highlight parts of individual Pacific Islander cultures in small areas such as the hongi, the wearing of pounamu, small words and lines and so on. As a Pacific Islander, Lemusuifeauali'i commented how he found it “pretty neat,” because now his culture has been showcased to the whole world in a major studio picture.

Lemusuifeauali'i said he is of Samoan and Maori ancestry. He smiled as he said, “It’s great to see a superhero who actually looks like me on the big screen. I feel this can be inspirational to little kids all over the Pacific.”

When asked what the box-office success of Aquaman meant for the future of Polynesians in film, Lemusuifeauali'i responded, “Whatever you do and wherever you go as a Pacific Islander, you represent your country, people and culture.

“Jason Momoa and Temuera Morrison, as actors, honor the Pacific fantastically by firstly becoming professionals at their work and later showcasing the Pacific to the world in such a large scale production.”

When asked how Morrison’s presence highlighted Polynesia in the movie, Adriannah Metta, a junior from Papua New Guinea majoring in anthropology, said, “Temuera was in this movie called 'Once Were Warriors.' It tells the story of an urban Maori family living in Auckland and all their struggles of being a family. He has also starred as Jango Fett in the 'Star Wars' films.

“He is the man," she said. "I think it was a great move on the director’s part to cast him as Aquaman’s dad. Temuera is such a legend in Polynesia.” Metta added thaving Morrison as the hero’s father was very symbolic, with “one Pacific-screen legend passing the torch to a new legend.”














Date Published: 
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Last Edited: 
Tuesday, January 29, 2019