The Native Hawaiian Songs in The Descendants: A Critique

Jeffrey J. Kamakahi, College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University


This presentation evaluated the degree to which the placement of Native Hawaiian songs selected in the film The Descendants corresponds with the meanings of those songs. The "authenticity" of the selections is evaluated in terms of place, chronicity, and figurative parallels (i.e., space, time, and culture). Songs are discussed with respect to their chronological order in the film: Ka Makani Kā'ili Aloha, Kaua'i Beauty, Lē'ahi, Hi'ilawe, 'Imi Au Ia 'Oe, Wai O Ke Aniani, 'Ūlili Ē, Pua Hone, Nani Wai'ale'ale, The Yodel Song, and He'eia. I graded the songs in terms of their authenticity with respect to the context and storyline. I also make suggestions as to how the authenticity of the song selections might have been increased as well as suggest some other songs that would have been a better "fit" in the film.