January 30, 2009

Westerns are hostile to Indians

New animated films challenge false representation of Native Americans in the mediaPopular film and television shows have shaped the way Americans view American history--especially the frontier encounters between settlers and Native Americans. Examining the ways Native Americans are portrayed negatively in Westerns and other film genres, Joanna Hearne, assistant professor of English at the University of Missouri, describes recently produced animated films by Native directors that are countering media misrepresentations and helping promote Native-American stories and languages.

“When non-Native audiences see Native-Americans in Westerns, they often view them as part of the background, as if the actors are not really acting,” Hearne said. “Westerns rarely portray Native Americans as having families or children, presenting images of dying or ‘vanishing’ Indians instead of Native family continuity. This can have a negative impact on Native children who watch the films, because these popular images are hostile to Native families.”
Comment:  Once again, an expert states the obvious: that the media influences how we perceive Indians.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

Below:  A helpless Indian princess (Tiger Lily) waits for a white man (Peter Pan) to rescue her.


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