Nerd Wearing Pearls

26. Grad student and academic. Proud Seven Sisters alum. Reproductive health and infectious disease nerd. Native Texan with New England roots. Currently living in the Midwest. Occasional expat. Married to my high school & forever sweetheart. Mama. Things that make me happy: my puppies, preppy fashion, fangirling, horses, bikes, feminism, and zombies.

Feminist Disney asked me to make a series of asks I wrote a few days ago about yet another reason to love Lilo & Stich (need more? find them here) rebloggable, so here it is:

I don’t think that this has been mentioned before, sorry if it has. I was reading your review of Lilo and Stitch, which is by far one of my favorite Disney movies, and you did a great job of cataloguing so many of the things I love about it. However, there is one more subtle thing that most viewers might miss without context, and that is the movie’s inclusion of a main plot about the continued systematic problems with treatment of Hawaiian Native families by the child welfare system.

At least some social science literature has been written about the consistent removal of Hawaiian native children, usually from more remote islands, due to poverty-linked “neglect” or relative-based fostering systems (‘ohana is an actual key concept among Hawaiian natives regarding childrearing and keeping kids within their biological families through informal relative fostering agreements even when parents are unable to care for them).

Continued impoverishment of rural areas in Hawaii leads many adults to be unable to provide sufficient resources for the children they are fostering. However, rather than giving these families (often headed by single grandmothers or aunts) resource-based support, children are often removed from these homes and sent to be fostered in the homes of mainlanders.

This is a kind of cultural genocide, with Hawaiian adults unable to pass on their culture and language to children fostered outside their communities. Judith Modell has written about this problem and the struggles of Hawaiian relatives to regain/maintain the right to keep children. This process is not explicit in the film, but it is nice to see how Nani’s economic circumstances lead her parenting abilities to be questioned by a mainlander and her resistance to Lilo being taken away.

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