Indian Comics Irregular #176
It used to be that anyone--Anthony Quinn, Rock Hudson, Audrey Hepburn--could play an Indian. But if you thought the era of actors in "redface" ended around the time of "Dances with Wolves," think again. A disturbing trend is unfolding in Hollywood these days: non-Natives playing Natives in movies and TV shows.
Disney recently announced that Johnny Depp will play Tonto in a remake of "The Lone Ranger." Depp claims to have Cherokee ancestors and sports a tattoo of a Cherokee chief. Despite his roles in "Dead Man" and "The Brave," though, no one has ever mistaken him for an Indian. That is, for someone who knows Natives and their cultures from the inside out.
Pretty-boy Taylor Lautner ("The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl") is playing Jacob Black, the Quileute werewolf in the film of the popular "Twilight" books. Lautner conveniently discovered he had a few drops of Native blood after he was picked. He's excited about meeting real Indians and wearing a wig to play one.
Lynn Collins ("The Merchant of Venice") has been cast as Silver Fox, a Blackfeet Indian woman, in the upcoming Wolverine movie. Collins said she was glad to get in touch with her little-known "Native American roots." The filmmakers have helped her by turning a striking Native presence into a scantily-clad composite character named "Kayla Silverfox."
In NBC's new "Crusoe" series, the creators have made Friday the Caribbean Indian into an African "savage." This Friday is actually an intelligent and cultured equal to Robinson Crusoe, so it's a shame they changed his ethnicity. Apparently they were unaware of Friday's origin or thought a black would be more palatable than an Indian.
If you ask me, omitting Native actors and characters is unconscionable. But what do Natives think about it? In my Newspaper Rock blog (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/newsrock.htm)
, Melvin Martin (Sioux) condemned "all of the wannabe, phony, Johnny-come-lately white actors passing themselves off as Native (even though in my book they are about as Native as a red plastic Tupperware bowl)." "REAL Native people are deeply harmed by this proliferation of frauds," he added.
Juliette Lewis in the News
Another example of a non-Native's playing a Native is actor Juliette Lewis ("Natural Born Killers"). When not making movies, she heads a band called Juliette & the Licks. Photos have shown her performing while dressed as a Halloween-style Indian.
Someone implied Lewis was representing the strong role of women in Native societies, which set me off. "How does wearing feathers and warpaint and shooting a bow and arrow equate to adopting matriarchal values?" I wrote. "Answer: It doesn't. Lewis isn't trying to emulate the feminine aspects of Native culture. She's trying to emulate the masculine aspects: the whole savage warrior stereotype."
The Latest Links
As I noted in ICI #174, "Frozen River" and "The Exiles" are earning accolades from critics and Indians alike. Having just seen "The Exiles," I can say it deserves the praise it's getting. I rate it an impressive 9.0 of 10.
To keep track of all the news and reviews, I've posted roundups for these movies at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/froznrvr.htm
. Check 'em out.
The 2008 presidential election is almost upon us. Naturally I've been following the Native issues in this campaign: Indians at the Democratic and Republican conventions, Obama's support from tribal leaders, McCain's questionable record on Indian affairs, Palin's Native-on-Native Troopergate scandal, etc. For the scoop on these subjects, go to http://www.bluecorncomics.com/prez08.htm
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