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Monday, April 30, 2012

Native American Characters

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Mostly because one of the love interests for my main character is a Mohawk Indian, and it seems Native American characters are "trending" right now (thanks to Twilight and other media) and I really don't like that. Of course I am delighted to see more Native American characters (and other characters of color in general) on the shelves...but for the love of GAWD can we stay away from the overused racial clich├ęs, please? 

One thing I've noticed about many Native American characters (who are written by non-Native Americans) is a type of racial fetish-ing or exotification. Kinda like a modernization of the "Noble Savage" caricature. If you don't know what I mean, just re-watch James Cameron's blockbuster hit, "Avatar," (REVIEW) or "Dances with Wolves," or even Disney's "Pocahontas" (Omigod, this review for Pocahontas made me crack up!) I sort of touched on this topic when I wrote that blog post about the "Last of the Mahicans." But anyway...I digress.

Stereotypes I'm tired of seeing:
1. The Native American characters are inherently more connected to nature than the white characters. And not only are the Native American characters more "in tune" with the natural world, they can "communicate" with it too--as in, they talk to animals...and trees...and shit. 
2. The Native American characters are either stoic warrior people or peaceful pacifists. Nothing in between. And they are always...always...looking to a white hero to save their way of life. 
3. The Native American character is a "shifter" who can transform into Sasquatch, werewolf, or some other non-human form. 
4. The Native American character and a white character fall in love to create a desperate Romeo and Juliet situation. 
5. The Native American characters happily teach the white characters all about their morally-superior  but "simpler" way of life so the white characters can become less bigoted people. As a result of this harmless one-sided "cultural exchange," the white character becomes a militant environmentalist, marries a scantily-clad Native American girl, and "Goes Native." 

There are many more stereotypes but I can't possibly list them all. All I can do is treat my Native American character with as much respect and sensitivity as I can. I am some parts Cherokee (every fucking idiot in America says that) but I don't claim to know or presume all of the difficulties and challenges that Native Americans face. However, being a black psychology student, I know a little something about stereotyping and cultural appropriation. I know we ALL can try a little better to think about the images we see when we're dealing with various forms of media. That's all I'm saying. Over and out, minions. 

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