January 31, 2008

Raymond loves Indians

An old episode of Everybody Loves Raymond shows what Indians have to endure.

Everybody Loves Raymond--The Bird--Part 2Robert and Amy convince their families to spend Thanksgiving together. When the Barones arrive at the Pennsylvania home of Amy's parents, they find that their differing family traditions encourage lots of lively conversation. If only the MacDougalls owned a television set! Things start to come together when the families separate into Pilgrims and Indians for the annual MacDougall Thanksgiving Family Pageant. All is well until a bird flies into the house and Pat MacDougall decides to "put it out of it's misery."

Comment:  Go to the 3:12 mark for the first appearance of "Indians."

This 2003 episode features several Native stereotypes:

  • The "Indian" boys enter doing war whoops.
  • They and the other "Indians" have headbands or headdresses with feathers.
  • The boys aren't wearing shirts.
  • The brother who always plays Squanto has streaks of "war paint" on his chest.
  • When Raymond wants to play Squanto, he takes off his shirt.
  • Playing Squanto "feels good," he says. "Heap good."
  • Mr. McDougall calls the people playing Indians "savages."

  • About the only honest moment comes when Mr. McDougall, playing a Pilgrim, says, "We promise to protect your people and treat you with kindness." Robert, playing an Indian, responds, "Lies. They're going to screw us."

    This episode is a typical example of Native stereotyping in the media. Several million people watched it when it first aired, and many more have seen it in reruns. For every person who has read about or discussed Indians in person, a thousand people must have seen it. Therefore, it must have had a thousand times the effect of other sources of information about Indians.

    5 comments:

    The Local Crank said...

    The only good non-offensive humorous take on Thanksgiving I've seen on television was on "King of the Hill," with John Red Corn (who, up until Adam Beach on Law and Order was the ONLY Indian series regular on TV). Hank Hill asks, "Heck, John Red Corn, do your people even celebrate Thanksgiving?"

    John's one-word reply: "Once."

    Rob said...

    Right. I covered John Redcorn in Indian Comics Irregular #119.

    Rob said...

    On a short-lived sitcom called Thanks, Michael Horse did half an hour as Squanto without stereotyping or insulting Indians. So it's definitely possible.

    russell said...

    Writerfellahere --
    What is implied here is that Michael Horse WROTE the role that he performed. WRONG-O!! Check the credits!
    All Best
    Russ Bates
    'writerfella'

    Rob said...

    Mark Legan and Phoef Sutton wrote the script, not Michael Horse. You may have inferred something else, but I didn't imply it. Nothing in my brief comment says who the writer was.

    Horse played a role that the pair wrote with care and sensitivity. Whether he took the part because of the careful portrayal or despite it is immaterial. He chose the role and executed the performance and I credited him for it.

    The only thing relevant here is that Legan and Sutton wrote the script and role well. It's proof that it's possible to write a humorous Thanksgiving show without stereotyping Indians. Ray Romano and his staff failed at this task while Legan and Sutton succeeded.