January 18, 2008

Dense, depraved, and diabolical

It Takes More than an Eagle Feather...“Comanche Moon’s” Trip Down a Dark Memory LaneRemember the bad ol’ days where Indians onscreen were predictably dense, depraved and diabolical? They’re baaaack!

Less than an hour into the three-day miniseries, a scene ripped from Hollywood's racist gallows was revisited to arouse our brutish impulses. Call and McCrae come upon a gruesome discovery of a white settler family; the males murdered while the women, including the young daughters, kidnapped by the plundering Natives. Fortunately, or maybe not so fortunately, the Rangers swoop in to save the terrorized captives. But too late. A brutal rape has the hysterical missus pleading for a kinder fate—death—deemed far preferable than reentering civilized society a befouled, repugnant wretch.

Speaking of dense, depraved and diabolical—enter Adam Beach as Blue Duck, the half-breed son of real-life Comanche chief Buffalo Hump. He’s so freakin’ mean he hates his daddy (played by Wes Studi, who quite frankly, phoned in his performance), tortures bears and torches settlers, and delights in defiling white women. And that’s just a typical day.
Others fare badly too:Being equal opportunity bigots, Comanche Moon’s women fare no better. Whore or virgin, trollop or victim and always defined by their man. Or men. Or many, many men. And Latinos should feel all warm and fuzzy knowing how much the sleazeball bandito image is still appreciated in film.Comment:  Although Ahumado fits the bandito stereotype, he's a Mexican Indian. In episode 2, a woman warns him that Val Kilmer's singing may call the Great Snake from the mountain...or Parrot...or Jaguar. These are references to an indigenous religion, not to Latino Christianity. Episode 1 labeled Ahumado "the Mayan" and this episode confirms that he has Mayan beliefs.

Perhaps aware of her stereotype-riddled writing, Larry McMurtry's partner Diana Ossana tried to justify it in advance:In press interviews, Ossana stayed totally on script claiming that unlike other network productions, Comanche Moon took great strides to depict Natives accurately and sensitively, such as using REAL EAGLE FEATHERS onscreen for the first time in 45 years.

Totally on script and utterly misguided.
Comment:  That's putting it mildly. I'd say Ossana's remarks are more self-delusional than misguided.

Whenever writers say they want to portray both good and bad in Native characters, you can bet they're rationalizing portrayals that are mostly bad, stereotypical, even racist. See SCALPED and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee for examples.

P.S. How could Studi have phoned in his performance when they didn't have phones back then?! (Just kidding.)


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
And why not, especially since this blogsite seeks to rationalize exterior reviews that mostly are bad, stereotypical, even racist? And such a review likely was telephoned in, hence the familiarity with the phrase, making for a couple of sore thumbs after all that texting!
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

You're saying Carole Levine's review was "bad, stereotypical, even racist"? That's not very nice.

Her review was "bad" only in the sense that she said Comanche Moon was bad. It wasn't bad, stereotypical, or racist in any other way.

I doubt Carole phones in reviews any more than I do. I don't do texting, since I don't have a cellphone. I don't have sore thumbs either.

So far your comments on Comanche Moon have been about as astute as a kindergartner's. What I said previously applies here too:

Why don't you stop telling us about your unpublished scripts and court cases and start addressing the matters at hand? Write your own reviews if you think you can do a better job of it, hypocrite.