Indian Comics Irregular #177
Last issue I noted an unfortunate trend: that non-Natives are playing Natives again in movies and TV shows. But two works I touched on--"Robinson Crusoe" and "Twilight"--deserve more scrutiny. They demonstrate how our society often trivializes or ignores Native history and culture.
Published in 1719, Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" is considered a literary classic. Some scholars have called it the first English novel. What's remarkable is that Defoe chose to comment on Anglo-Indian relations in his groundbreaking book. He placed race where it belongs: as a defining trait of Western civilization.
But the Crusoe story has befuddled some filmmakers. They thought it was set in the South Seas or off the coast of Africa. Kiowa writer Russell Bates echoed this confusion, claiming Friday was a Polynesian who had never been portrayed AS a Native character or BY a Native actor. A spirited debate proved Bates wrong on all counts.
The new TV series "Crusoe" is about as mixed up as Bates was. It's clearly set in the Caribbean, yet Friday is clearly an indigenous African. Perhaps it's good that no Indians are present, because the show depicts Friday's people as barbarous cannibals. Besides, Indians might laugh themselves silly at the effort Crusoe has wasted building his Rube Goldberg-style treehouse.
"Twilight's" faults go beyond the casting of Taylor Lautner as Jacob, a Quileute Indian. The whole idea of equating Indians with wolves--i.e., beasts of prey--is problematical. George Washington made the same comparison after he ordered the destruction of dozens of Iroquois villages.
Author Stephanie Meyer says she based "Twilight" on "genuine Quileute stories." Apparently that means she uncovered a legend about a trickster creating the first Quileute from a wolf. From this she fabricated a whole tribal history with "spirit warriors" and heroes with Hawaiian-sounding names.
At the end of the series, the white vampire Edward gets the white human Bella. The nonwhite werewolf Jacob gets "imprinted" on Renesmee, age 7. It's almost literally a case of puppy love, with the animalistic Indian fixating on a young girl. Some readers have likened it to pedophilia.
For the full story on the various incarnations of "Robinson Crusoe" and "Twilight," see my postings at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/crusoe.htm
More Indians on TV
It doesn't make up for Adam Beach's departure from "Law and Order: SVU," but Indians have shown up a few times on TV this fall. Peruvian and Pawnee Indians appeared in two episodes of "4Real," a syndicated show about youth activism. Sherman Alexie discussed the presidential campaign on Comedy Central's "Colbert Report." Gary Farmer played a recurring character on the CW's now-canceled "Easy Money." "Twilight's" Taylor Lautner played a recurring character on NBC's now-canceled "My Own Worst Enemy." August Schellenberg guest-starred as a Navajo patient on "Grey's Anatomy." And for Thanksgiving, "Ugly Betty" mentioned the Poospatuck tribe of Long Island, New York.
More Indians in Comics
People occasionally post thoughts on Indians in old comics from the '60s and '70s. When they do, I'll link to them in my Newspaper Rock blog (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/newsrock.htm)
. In the last year or so, readers have learned that Thunderbird was supposed to flunk out in GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1, not be killed two issues later. That Captain America met Geronimo in the MARVEL TREASURY SPECIAL featuring "Captain America's Bicentennial Battles." That Lois Lane adopted an Indian baby to prove she was a good mother in LOIS LANE #110. And that Tomahawk the Revolutionary War hero fought a giant Indian robot in TOMAHAWK #70.
Blue Corn Comics