Raya and the Last Dragon: Disney’s new heroine representing 670 million people

Raya, Disney’s first South East Asian heroine just premiered. She is the titular character of Raya and the Last Dragon, which sees her travel around the region to reunite its people and save the world in the process.

But aside from bearing the weight of humanity on her shoulders – she’s got another burden to bear. South East Asia is a region that is home to 11 countries and 673 million people.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of different cultures in this region, which begs the question – what exactly is a South East Asian identity and can Disney’s latest heroine really embody it?

Raya wears a hat that looks like the Salakot – a traditional headgear in the Philippines.

Her loyal sidekick and also her form of transportation is named Tuk Tuk – a cheeky reference to a rickshaw that is a popular mode of transportation in Thailand.

And her fighting technique is inspired by Silat – a traditional martial arts form practiced commonly in Malaysia and Indonesia.

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