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Cameron Crowe’s island romance has already come under fire for a perceived lack of diversity in its culturally diverse setting of Hawaii. Now it appears that Aloha is in trouble again for being culturally insensitive, though this time the source is unexpected. The title itself.
According to a story on Yahoo some Hawaii natives find the title, Aloha, to be a "disrespectful misappropriation" of the word, which has deep cultural meaning to the state's population. The word has become a standard English greeting to say both hello and goodbye, however it also reportedly means a great deal more according to Hawaiians, and they believe that Crowe's new film does not show much, if anything of native Hawaiian culture, so it should not be using the word to attract moviegoers. Janet Mock, on her MSNBC Shift show So Popular!, said:
Aloha actually comes from two Hawaiian words: alo — which means the front of a person, the part of our bodies that we share and take in people. And ha, which is our breath... When we are in each other's presence with the front of our bodies, we are exchanging the breath of life."
Ultimately, the issues with the title seem to come back to the broader problem that natives have with the film, that Crowe’s movie takes so much from Hawaiian culture -- it’s setting, mood, and title -- without giving anything back. The film, which stars Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, and Emma Stone, centers on the romance between a defense contractor (Cooper) and an Air Force pilot (Stone). However, the native people, who make up more than a fifth of the population of Hawaii, are barely noticed in the film's screenplay. From what we can see in promotional materials, Hawaii very much is one of the stars of the film, as it has as much space on the poster as each of the two women in the film. If part of the film is about Hawaii, then locals are arguing that the real Hawaii should be shown.
A handful of other films have used the word "Aloha" in their titles over the years. Most recently was 1988’s Aloha Summer which, though not necessarily a great film or great representation of Hawaii, does have a diverse cast -- including native Hawaiian Tia Carrere, of Wayne’s World fame, in the lead female role.
Hawaii is an oft-used filming location, although most of the time it’s used to stand in for other exotic places both real and fictional. It will be seen again this summer as the location of the Jurassic World theme park. When the islands get a chance to play themselves, however, they don't always get the chance to show the world who they really are. Aloha opens Friday.