October 22, 2007

Natives aren't stars...but could be

'Hollywood Casting Call':  Native Americans need not applyHave you watched a movie release lately starring a Native American actor as the main character? How about one cast in a supporting roll? The answer is, most likely not. For whatever reason, Hollywood seems to make it a point of not casting Native Americans in movies to include television network shows.

When given a chance Native Americans like Russell Means, Cher, Valerie Red-Horse, Rodney Grant, Wes Studi, Burt Reynolds and Mr. Las Vegas himself--Wayne Newton--not only became big stars in America, they archived worldly fame. Elvis Presley was called a White man, said to sing like a Black man even though Elvis had Cherokee Indian heritage. Elvis made it a point in his film career to show his Indian heritage pride. The national media made it a point not to cover Elvis' Indian heritage. This was back in the days of when it was not cool to be Indian or go around telling people you had Indian heritage thanks to you know who--Hollywood.
Comment:  I saw Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Imprint a few months ago. I didn't see Pathfinder or Apocalypto (with its all-Native cast). But I'm not the typical Hollywood viewer.

It's highly debatable whether Russell Means, Valerie Red-Horse, Rodney Grant, and even Wes Studi have become "big stars." I'm guessing fewer than 5% of Americans would recognize any of them. But I think the author's point is still valid. People of diverse ethnic backgrounds--e.g., Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, the cast of Heroes--have become big stars. Therefore, why not seek out and promote people of color?

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