Labour MP Jenny Salesa thinks fat Disney characters are a negative stereotype

Labour MP Jenny Salesa says that a Disney portrayal of Maui in the Moana movie sends the wrong message. What message does she want to send? That fat people do not exist? The main character, Moana, is slim so I do not think that Disney is stereotyping at all. Lovable characters, as well as evil characters, come in all shapes and sizes in Disney movies. The most evil women tend to be extremely thin. Think Cruella De Vil and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.


An overweight character in the new Disney film Moana perpetuates negative stereotypes and is unacceptable, a Labour MP says.

Maui is one of two main characters in the movie. Are only thin people allowed to be heroes in Moana’s world? In the real world more of us are overweight than slim and Disney has had overweight characters before.

Manukau East MP Jenny Salesa has criticised the appearance of the demigod Maui in the upcoming movie.

She cited a Facebook post by former Samoa international and professional rugby player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, in which he wrote that Maui “looked like after he fished up the Islands, he deep fried em and ate em”.

Labour MP for Manukau East, Jenny Salesa. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour MP for Manukau East, Jenny Salesa. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Labour MP said the depiction sent the wrong message.

“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,” Ms Salesa, who is Parliament’s first Tongan-speaking member, wrote on Facebook.

Moana and Maui in the upcoming Disney animated movie. Photo / Supplied

Moana and Maui in the upcoming Disney animated movie. Photo / Supplied

Maui wields a magical fishhook in the movie. Photo / Supplied

Maui wields a magical fishhook in the movie. Photo / Supplied-A Newspaper

Here are some other overweight Disney characters:








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  • Keeping Stock

    Shrek is not exactly Twiggy either. That doesn’t stop kids from all cultures loving his movies.

    • Kevin

      This new movies is obviously a kids movie and Disney has decided to portray Maui as a comic character. Fair enough and I would have done the same thing given it is a kids a movie.

      As far as perpetuating negative stereotypes has Jenny Salesa never seen a fat Maori? I bet she gets offended watching Bro Town.

    • KatB

      Mind you, I heard the Ogres around the world were not impressed to be portrayed this way either when Shrek first came out.

  • Cadwallader

    An under-employed MP exhibiting that very fact. Seriously we all pay her salary for this?

  • Jackie

    Well I wish they’d use taxpayers funding in a more productive manner other than whinging about Disney characters….

  • Wayne Hodge

    This MP is who?

  • Sailor Sam

    How does this MP know what really Maui looked like?
    Disney will change the looks of the character at her behest. Yeah Right!
    All she has done is create a wave of free advertising for the movie.
    I suppose she will organise a protest outside the theatre when it is released.
    She could walk around her electorate, I am sure she will see plenty of Maui lookalikes that can join her protests, especially if she dishes out free KFC.

  • NahYeah

    Now wait for the howls of protest that the female character, Moana, is portrayed as being “unhealthily thin”, and does not provide a fair representation of a “healthy polynesian body image” to young girls, and will result in more eating disorders.

  • George Carter

    Glad she’s keeping busy on things that matter!

    • OneTrack

      This is what we pay opposition MPs $150K a year for.

  • Joe Banana

    She should take a trip to the Otara Markets some day soon

  • Marknzl

    “When we look at photos of Polynesian men and women from the last 100-200 years …”
    I have yet to see a photo of a Polynesian from 1816 or indeed a photo of anyone in 1816. The first photo was taken by Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 and you could barely make out the outlines of buildings in France.

    • KatB

      She may be talking about the caveman drawings, the ones where everybody looks like stick figures.

  • Gollum

    At the very least Disney could have dressed Maui to be in line with his status.

  • lyall

    hes not fat hes just big boned

    • Boondecker

      And a little taro infused.

  • sonovaMin

    Personally I think the hairline is wrong and he looks like a brown scotsman.
    Also the legs are right but the feet look a bit small. Here Ive fixed it

  • Tiger

    Hey Jenny, Disney is into fantasy and make believe, you lefty PC do gooders want a grey world, yet you purport to offer the rainbow people a place.
    Perhaps Disney are portraying Maui as a trans-poly-male who identifies with being a cartoon character created by an artist in a lab of fantasy.
    I suppose that now folk will know who Jenny Salesa is, unfortunately we also now know what she contributes – nothing.

    • Wayne Hodge

      Did Maui have an approved LGBTI toilet facility? If not why not? After all we must ensure equality.

      • PhantomsDoc

        I think we must have a public inquiry as to why John Key and the National Party allowed such a thing to happen, after all, National have been in power for 8 years and should have had this sorted out by now.

        I ask you, why hasn’t John Key supplied Maui with a LGBTI toilet???

  • Spiker

    If you are going to pull up islands off the bottom of the ocean surely he’s going to need be a big boy? I’m surprised no one has had a go about his tats being unapproved.

    • Tracy

      Oh that will be the next bandwagon someone will jump on. Permission needed, offensive, not done correctly, insulting to someone somewhere somehow, compensation required for insult to a whole race etc etc etc.

    • NahYeah

      Or, NZ maori will say that Disney stole the idea of Maui from them.

  • Boondecker

    The inane fuss about nothing this Labour woman has generated only helps Disney and their client NZ cinema chain gain free publicity. The kind money and advertising could never buy.

    The Streisand Effect is alive and working well.

  • Michael

    My mostly Scottish heritage was not offended by the stereotypes in Brave. Scots were presented as ugly, argumentative, stupid and coarse. Where was the Labour MPs complaining about that? Maybe we know that cartoons are not real.

    • Wayne Hodge

      As Labour MPs live in a fantasy world they cannot discern reality. They see only what their fantasies allow. Consequently reality does not intrude. This allows them to feed us with misinformation as it is their reality as they see it, the fact that their reality is not reflected in our world never impinges on their peculiar version of life. A prime example of this is Clare Curran.

  • Bob Dazzler

    Yep another leftie muppet with nothing of use to add to life.

    • Dumrse

      It even looks as tho she has scoffed a bit of mutton flat salsa in her time.

  • Brian_Smaller

    And William Wallace looked nothing like Mel Gibson, Lt Melville nothing like Michael Caine and so forth. A cut and buff Maui would have probably been just as ‘incorrect’ if that is at all possible when talking about a mythological character let alone an animated Disney movie with exaggerated cartoon characters as stars.

  • Wolfman Jack

    Maybe they modelled the character on the royal family of Tonga. That might make her less upset

  • James M

    Unbelievable of Disney to create such callous and negative stereo types. We’d never imagine doing anything like this here in NZ

  • Eiselmann

    Fat people have been excluded from many films, and when they are included they often seen as almost an afterthought or become the butt of jokes. So now we have a powerful overweight male in a leading role in a major movie and this MP complains

    Don’t you know Jenny you are suppose to be supportive of a persons chosen body shape and value any role model that does not marginalize people who are not impossibly slim.

    Shame on your gross insensitivity towards overweight Maori males…

    Jenny what offends you most?, is it that the character is not slim, is it that they are male or are you offended that the character is Maori.. Because as Corin Dann would say there’s no proof that you are anti-male and anti-Maori but its not a good look.


  • ChrisM

    Dear Labour. SHUT UP! It’s just embarrassing!

  • Jax

    Disney are just opening a 5billion dollar theme park in Shanghai and have alligators eating guests back in the US where the lawsuits will be stacking up and payouts likely to be as high as 100mill + to the parents of the poor kids. Im sure after dealing with at lot, they will get on to addressing the hurty feelings of a MP in NZ – who even thou I am in NZ had never heard of – as she is pretty much a do nothing nobody.

  • JustanObserver

    So I am sure I read some … fluffed-up ‘statistics-piece’ where they claimed that 78% of NZ’s Maori & PI adult population had a BMI above 27% …
    In that case, Disney are not sending the wrong message, they are being entirely Factual.

  • Poppa

    Labour need to start a petition to get Maui off our movie and TV screens as soon as possible.

  • cows4me

    Jenny’s Disney character.

  • James M

    I just re-read this particular part…

    “When we look at photos of Polynesian men and women from the last 100-200 years, most of our people were not overweight”

    I’d like to know who has been taking these photos.

    The Ministry of Health says in their 2014/15 report of pacific islanders living in NZ 66% of Pacific adults were obese

    Clearly they seem a little healthier over here going by the World Health Organization data which when you look at the obesity rate of particular nations you find yourself hard pressed finding people that fit the Moana character

    Rank Country % Overweight or obese
    1. Nauru 94.5
    2. Federated States of Micronesia 91.1
    3. Cook Islands 90.9
    4. Tonga 90.8
    5. Niue 81.7
    6. Samoa 80.4

  • Mick Ie

    Don’t worry Jenny, you keep on worrying about a mythical, fat cartoon character in a children’s film and the rest of us will keep on worrying about the deaths of the children that have been beaten to death and won’t get actually get to see it. So glad to see you’ve got your priorites straight. You are a disgrace.

    • taxpayer

      Maybe she could organize a march, Justice For Fictional Fat People!!!

  • Karma

    Does she not realise that the Disney version of Maui is based on the Hawaiian Maui? When I look at the character I think of the late Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. Now he was big boy.

  • WBC

    When the worst thing Labour can find to rant about is a cartoon of a Hawaiian character then I guess we’re doing pretty good!

    If she thinks lining fat to Polynesians is bad however, maybe she should accuse Takanini or Papakura for promoting stereotypes.

  • taxpayer

    1839, a date generally accepted as the birth year of practical photography.
    So who exactly was taking photos of Maori 200 years ago when it was only invented 177 years ago, a time lord maybe?