Disney has been facing heavy criticism due to its recent casting choice for Nani Pelekai, Lilo’s older sister and legal guardian, for the live-action remake of “Lilo and Stitch.”
Following the announcement, several Twitter users took to social media to criticize Disney for casting a light-skinned actor to play a dark-skinned character.
“How Nani and Lilo were drawn was a BIG DEAL in the animated movie. Their looks are immutable and should’ve been treated like it,” one Twitter user wrote. “Darker-skinned Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders exist. Cast some.”
“Nani not being white passing is imperative to her story. There is literally a scene where she’s speaking to a blonde lifeguard about her job search,” another user wrote, tagging Disney in their tweet demanding for a recast. “If there are no established Hawaiian actresses who look like Nani find a breakout star. The talent exists.”
“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,” another user tweeted, adding, “Casting a lighter skinned Hawaiian to play Nani interferes with that.”
While another user acknowledged that Agudong is Hawaiian, as she was born in Kaua’i, Hawaii, they still criticized Disney for colorism and whitewashing.
“I think it’s important to recognize that yes, she is Hawaiian and light skinned/white passing Hawaiian natives exist,” the user wrote. “But nani is a dark skinned Hawaiian woman so give a dark skinned actress the chance too play her. regardless, this is still colorism/white washing.”
Disney has yet to address the backlash.
Some social media users are also attacking Agudong on Instagram.
“We want a Polynesian as Nani, not a mixed race White-Asian to play Nani,” one user commented on her most recent Instagram post.
“If you had any respect you’d turn down the role,” another user wrote. “It wasnt meant for you.”
Besides Agudong, Disney also recently announced other actors who will appear in the upcoming live-action remake, including Kahiau Machado, who will play David Kawena, and Maia Kealoha, who will play Lilo.
Other actors tied to the project include Zach Galifianakis as the alien Pleakley and Billy Magnussen in a currently undisclosed role.