February 06, 2009

Are good Native werewolves okay?

In White Vampire Yes, Indian Werewolf No, a reader accepted my challenge. She tried to come up with a justification for Twilight's Quileute werewolves that I hadn't already addressed. A justification that would require me to read the books before I could answer it.Ok I have one for you :)

If Stephenie Meyer really did write the book with a bias toward Indians by playing on the subhuman vs. superhuman idea--why is the Pack always depicted as protectors? Why do they play such a key role in the protection of Bella and forks? Why do they keep their abilities and continue to protect Forks and La Push from Laurent and Victoria after the vampires bail? And I think most importantly--why does the pack exhibit the values many of us look for in the ideal family? They love each other; they protect each other, and work to keep both their biological families, and their larger community family safe.
My response:

I haven't addressed this argument all in one place, but I have addressed it. I'll outline my position and the source material for you.

White Vampire Yes, Indian Werewolf No: "Jacob the Indian werewolf is hairy, snarling, and savage just like a demon. He's literally a beast-man. So we see the duality Meyer has unwittingly set up. The white character is superhuman and the Indian character is subhuman."

Don't get hung up on the word "subhuman." I didn't say wolves and other animals are evil or bad. But they are creatures and they aren't human beings. In our culture, they're considered inferior by definition.

Pack behavior is admirable?

Jacob Black's Final Fate: Like puppy dogs, Twilight's werewolves imprint on humans. This further identifies them as subhuman animals.

Why does the wolf pack exhibit good family values? Why do good family members exhibit pack behavior? Because they're more animal-like than real people.

That's the great thing about dumb but loyal brutes. Animals like wolves (and Indians?) don't complicate their lives with moral equations or other complex thought processes. They operate by instinct. They take care of their own because they're programmed to do so.

And you consider this a good trait? Because I don't. Would a Twilight werewolf sacrifice his pack members to protect the United States from a terrorist attack? An intelligent, sophisticated Indian might make that choice, but a howling wolf-man probably wouldn't.

In fact, what would happen if all the Quileute werewolves decided to quit the pack and leave the rez? Or to overthrow the alpha wolf and elect a leader democratically? I suspect these things can't happen in Twilight because its Indians are part animal. Their pack instincts make them less than fully human.

Nobility = stereotype

Noble Savages in Twilight: In addition to this posting, see any of dozens of postings on the noble savage. Short version: A noble savage is still a savage. He may be a great guy--a loving, caring individual--but he's still primitive and uncivilized compared to Westerners.

Positive Stereotypes Are Negative: Does the nobility factor negate the savage factor? Not in my mind. A positive stereotype is still a stereotype.

Indian Werewolf in Hybrid: Indians are routinely depicted as, or associated with, werewolves, skinwalkers, and other creatures that go bump in the night. Again, these creatures aren't all evil, but they are all creatures.

Are you seriously arguing that dozens of creators have just coincidentally come up with the idea of linking Indians and werewolves? That this doesn't reflect a deep-seated belief that Indians are closer to nature and more animal-like, with their keen senses and hunting and tracking skills? If you believe that, I have a bridge you may want to buy.

Meyer's Unconscious Racism: I never said that Meyer intended to convey the message that Indians are beast-like. I said she did it whether she intended to or not. Learn about the concept of aversive racism before you try to discuss it.

Game over

Our reader continues:Now--I really don't expect you to agree with any of this because it is the exact opposite of your theories, but what I can do is simply point out that without reading the books you can't understand the relationship the reader has with the characters and the families.Alas. You can point it out, and I can point out that you're wrong. I don't need to read a word of the Twilight books to assert what I've asserted.

The "noble savage" is one of the oldest Native stereotypes. You may think it's okay, but I don't. No amount of nobility is enough to change this stereotype into an acceptable non-stereotype.

Anyone else think I haven't thought enough about the Quileute Werewolves in Twilight? Got a totally original defense of Native werewolves that I haven't heard yet? If so, bring it on. I'm ready if you are.

Below:  "I'm the 100th Native werewolf in a book, TV show, or movie. Do I get a prize?"


Anonymous said...

Also let's not forget the fact that the Twilight books are just plain terrible for countless reasons in addition to being racist and sexist.

Anonymous said...

First of all, real native Americans invented pop culture, as we all call it now, as it is part of their culture and derived from their languages. Meyer's complete disdain for America is upsetting at best, and just plain ignorant and manipulating. I'm not surprised she employs an exclusively British publishing team and lives most of her life in France. I think she should just stop with her attempts at propatainment literature, altogether.

ljones said...

I'm writing a novel where a native american is a vampire. I never thought about it being a new idea until I read your blog. Thanks for pointing out the racist themes in Twilight. Meyer seems aculturated to making people of color finish second. I doubt she was aware of this bias. I hope that I can be more aware.

octopod said...

So are Central American (Olmec) were-jaguars OK?