Live-Action Lilo & Stitch casting criticised for colourism

The casting for the live-action remake of 'Lilo and Stitch' has been hit with accusations of colourism

Olivia Carter
11th May 2023
Image from IMDb
The recent announcement of Disney’s Lilo and Stitch live-action remake has recently caused controversy after coming under fire for ‘blatant colourism’ after the cast list was confirmed. Sydney Agudong has been cast as Lilo’s older sister, Nani; despite the 22-year-old’s Hawaiian ancestry, many have taken to social media, stating that she doesn’t reflect how the character looked in the original animation, who had darker skin, black hair and ethnic features. 

Many on Twitter have raised concerns about the casting, with one stating, “Listen she’s probably a lovely woman but I can’t help but feel disappointed. I wanted Nani to look like me.” This is not the first time Disney has been accused of white-washing; in 2019, they were slandered for casting Naomi Scott - a biracial British actor of Indian ancestry - as Princess Jasmine in Aladdin. Therefore, with previous complaints at their feet, it is easy to assume that the movie giant would learn from their mistakes, but their clear ignorance towards such situations has left many fans with a bad taste in their mouth. 

At the time of Lilo and Stitch’s release in 2002, many viewers found a character in Lilo to relate to, whether it be for her race, ethnicity or personality. The thoughtless remake has significantly watered down such cultural focus, leaving many to question whether they will watch something that many believe to have been tainted by the vapid pool of colourism in Hollywood. 

The recent casting just feels like the company is taking step backs from what was originally a celebration of the communities depicted. 

Actor Kaipo Dudoit has been announced for the role as David, Nani’s love interest, with many praising the similarity between him and the animated character. Many have noted, however, that this has only come about after the initial announcement that Kahiau Machado would be taking on the role, with many suggesting he looked ‘light-skinned’ and the discovery of a Spotify playlist he has created containing a racial slur in the title.

Fans of the critically acclaimed 2002 film have made it clear that they feel the lightening of such characters downplays the central conflicts that they face in the movie’s Hawaiian town. Arguments have been made to favour the use of dark-skinned Native Hawaiians in order to stay true to the appearance and culture of the original characters. The recent casting just feels like the company is taking step backs from what was originally a celebration of the communities depicted. 

Whilst many have noted the touristy feel of the original animation, it equally addresses such problems including the overcrowded, touristy nature of the country that has affected many who live there throughout the years. With the colourism that has occurred recently, it appears such problems will not have the resounding effect that they once did on audiences as the line between tourist and native Hawaiian becomes blurred.

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