Hello. I’d like to talk about Jason Momoa.
Or Jason Mimosa, as my brother and sister-in-law refer to him, and as my potential drag name would be.
Jason Momoa rose to prominence playing Khal Drogo on the TV show Game of Thrones. Footage from his audition includes performance of a haka, a ceremonial dance in Maori culture, and if you care to watch it you might understand my continuing fascination with hakas.
After the clip went viral, he was asked over and over again at cons and in interviews to do a repeat performance – a request he refused, over and over again. Jason Momoa graciously explained that it is a sacred ritual, performed at moments of extreme celebration or tragedy, and not to be taken lightly.
My other brother, a hypnotherapist shaman musician apikores, gives haka-inspired workshops and before my wedding he did a small intro for me and my siblings. From this limited experience and instruction, I concur with Jason Momoa: it is a holy rite, connecting us to the earth and the sky. I can wax poetic about how religious practice is a way that Jews mark things – the passage of time, especially, celebrating Shabbos every week, blessing the new moon every month, holidays at major seasons, seven-year shmita cycles, 50-year yovel cycles, not to mention the personal milestones everyone passes in their lifetime – and I presume that the performance of a haka marks occasions in a similar manner.
Evidently, being the headliner of a superhero movie is reason enough for celebration. Jason Momoa was cast in the DC Comics movie Justice League (2017) as the watery Aquaman (terrible movie, no need to watch), and then he graduated to his own solo movie, Aquaman (2018).
On opening night, after years of demurring, Jason Momoa performed a haka on the red carpet with his friends and family. At the very least, I hope it was a celebration of him never having to work another day in his life. It’s quite obvious, though, that the red carpet haka is a promotional performance, that his Publicists At Large required the haka of him. As such, this haka is not nearly as raw as his audition tape. It's still quite beautiful, though.
Once Jason Momoa removes his velvet jacket to bare his glorious arms, he waves the trident that Aquaman wields in the film, conducting the haka he’s about to lead. The rest of the group start their chant and performance. It’s poised to be groundbreaking.
But it’s a bit gimmicky! He’s holding his character’s weapon, the sword-in-the-stone of his movie, this fake plaything, while he performs this very real, cultural dance. The lights and cameras flashing don’t help the situation. It’s almost a letdown after so many years of waiting to see him to do a haka again.
Jason Momoa breaks the trident over his knee.
And suddenly he’s able to transcend the gimmick, the plasticness of it.
In taking the symbol of what made him (more) famous, he acknowledges that the reason he has his career is a giant company like Warner Brothers, whose goal is consumerism based on entertainment. He is everything but ungrateful. And then he immediately declares that it has no power over him. In fact, he can literally break it over his knee.
There’s something beautiful about acknowledging the moment and the fame and the money and the pomp and circumstance and in the same breath making sure it will never be more important than roots, than culture, than family.
So I can continue to appreciate Jason Momoa and his water cans. (Talk about a Kylie Jenner lips situation; excellent promotional capacity, round of applause, everyone.) I don’t have to think about how he’s a sellout just for making a living and understanding what’s required of him in a big role.
Nonetheless, I hope he becomes huge. I hope he becomes such a big star that the next time a publicist asks him to desecrate something, I hope he can tell them the same thing he told all those interviewers. I hope he can just say no.