Examining Native American Popular Culture

Essay add: 24-10-2015, 21:50   /   Views: 175

Do you know Jackie Chan is dead? A Los Angeles hospital reported that Jackie Chan had died of a heart attack on 3/29/2011. Fans swarmed Facebook after confirmation of his passing came through a source close to Chan. It shows that people believe information from the media, whether true or not, and are unable to distinguish which is correct.

This relatively minor news story reflects how media can inaccurately depict reality even over long period of time and with whole segments of the population, such as Native Americans. We have all been affected by the media, and this includes a perpetuated misconception of our image of Native Americans. There were once more than 500 tribes in the United States, each with their own culture and society. But from books, television and movies, they are shown as vicious killers on horseback, screaming, and scalping people. Our popular culture has characterized Native Americans as inferior and hostile, which is based on a history created by white men to justify their exploitation of Native Americans.In Sherman Alexie's essay "I Hated Tonto (Still Do)" (1998), he argues the conflict between himself and the stereotypical Indians in the movies.

Alexie supports his claims that he was inspired by the movies to be a blue-eyed and lighter skinned person; however, he found that he had lost his self-esteem. His purpose is to show that the movies do not represent the real Indians, such as himself, but portray that of the stereotypical Indians. He seems frustrated as he tries to suggest that Americans should change their perspective of Native Americans. In the beginning, Alexie explains "I was a little Spokane Indian boy who read every book and saw every movie about Indians, no matter how terrible".

Alexie states that he loved all Indian movies, good and bad. He would get so into these movies that he would imagine himself as a cinematic Indian. As Alexie matured and began to realize that the Indians he knew in his everyday life were nothing like the Indians portrayed in these movies, he began to accept his Indian heritage. This was one of the main reasons he did not like Tonto; he was an Indian who actually played the role of a real Indian but shown through the eyes of the television producers, not that of real life of Indians.

It is good that he got over these stereotypes as he got older, as it opened his eyes to see that he could also become the stereotypical Indian, but was actually far different from what was being portrayed.In Walter C. Fleming's "Myths and Stereotypes About Native Americans", he examines the correct ways to look at the real Native Americans from the popular culture. Fleming supports his claims that American Indians are the vanishing red man from the perspective of stereotyping, while in fact, approximately 4.4 million Native Americans are living in the United States. His purpose is to tell Americans that it is time to restore the Native American's image; the myths and stereotypes on which America was built need to be confronted.

James Earle Fraser (1918) "End of the Trail", shows that Native Americans are a dying race; they look like the tired horse and person in his painting. In fact, there are still Indians around, and they are one of the fastest growing population groups in this country. But people wouldn't realize that if they spent time watching movies about Indians. In the movies, Indians are dead and gone.

Depending on the movie, they may be seen as "good" (Dances with Wolves) or "bad" (The Searchers), but it's almost always a fact that they are shown to be hostile against whites. And even if the Indians don't completely physically disappear, then their culture disappears, leaving them, "not really Indian anymore."There are limitless popular cultural examples that manifest how Americans view Native Americans as primitive culture whose women are sexual predator. One such example is Disney's 1953 film Peter Pan. In one scene of the film the Indians sing "What Makes the Red Man Red?" The music becomes primitive drum beating and is suspenseful and ominous in various deep-throated grunts and face painting.

Peter Pan dances with the slender Indian girl, Tiger Lilly, who is cute, sexy and with long hair. She flirts with Peter Pan and actively invites him to dance with her; on the other hand, Peter Pan feels extremely flattered and flustered. He enjoys dancing with her accompanied by the monosyllabic music.

Peter Pan never had this kind of experience before, and it seemed that he fell in love with the attractive girl. But Wendy, in her role as a mother figure, was jealous that they danced together. This scene suggests that Indian girls attract white men, and the white women are struggling to keep white men.

It also shows the idealized depiction of women that should have responsibilities and civilization, while showing the unfavorable depiction of Native American girls as being uncivilized and irresponsible. The worst part is that almost all of the Indian characters are literally drawn exactly the same way, as if to say, "If you've seen one, you've seen them all".In the movie The Searchers (1958), the dramatized person, Ethan Edwards, an ex-Confederate soldier from the Indian Wars, finds that his family had been massacred and his niece Debbie captured by the Comanche Indians and vows to bring her back and kill every one of the Indians who did this to him. He is joined by his nephew, Martin Pawley, who is 1/8th Indian and there's nothing in the world that Edwards hates more than Indians.

They travel for five years in order to find his niece. And when he does, he realizes even though she has been found she has become one of the Indians. In the Comanche tent, Ethan and Martin see Debbie who is now a teenager.

Unfortunately, Debbie tells them to leave her; the Comanche are her people now. Ethan moves to kill Debbie, but Martin blocks him. Ethan is confused; how can he face his niece, who has now become assimilated and accepted into the tribe?

Finally, an inner transformation shows him love, community, and fraternity instead of his usual violence, solitude, and racism. The great scene is that he is cradling her in his arms and says, "Let's go home, Debbie." Debbie eventually returns to the white wAt is time to restore the image of Native Americans who have played important roles in American history. Of course, their role in history was sometimes hostile due to the fact that whites were exploiting them and they were only trying to protect what was rightfully theirs. Today, many reservations have casinos to bring income to their residents because the U.S. government does not provide even basic housing for them, but state governments are upset because the income from gambling is tax free.

The Americans owe the Indians, at the least they can show respect for the people they are.

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