March 21, 2009

Wahoo maker defends stereotypes

Chuck, the maker of Wahoo the Board Game, has responded to my posting on the subject. He writes:Rob, I just ran across your posting here. Regarding your suggestion that I use characters other than the stereotypical native Americans, I have on my Wahoo Mexicas version. It has authentic Mayan and Aztec characters. I would like to do a new version with authentic Native Americans, but there are so many. What group adequately represents all Native Americans? None. Also, nothing derogatory is meant by using the figures on my game. The only reason I used them is because the Original WAHOO is a replica of the ones popular in the 1960s and my primary customers are people my age that remember the game from then. It outsells my Mexicas game 10 to 1. Thanks for your comentary.My response:

The fact that someone used stereotypical Indians before you is a poor reason for using them yourself. If a tradition or custom is wrong, repeating it also wrong. If you haven't heard, two wrongs don't make a right.

If your customers wanted the '60s Frito-Lay game featuring the Frito Bandito, would you repeat that stereotype too? Probably not. Therefore, I suggest you not repeat the Native stereotypes. You're responsible for the choices you make, not your customers.

I didn't say the images were derogatory. I said they were stereotypical. They depict a tiny subset of old-fashioned Indians from a couple of centuries ago.

Nor are the images accurate even for traditional Plains Indians. All your Indians, including a chief and what looks like a maiden, are half-naked. Indian chiefs and women didn't go around with a lot of flesh exposed.

Do you disagree that your Indians are stereotypical? If so, go ahead and make your case. If not, admit you're perpetuating stereotypes.

This doesn't even address your game's association with the stereotypical Chief Wahoo. Or with the phrase Wahoo Indians, which I believe is derogatory. Really, there's nothing positive about calling a game with Indians "Wahoo."

Rob's recommendation

I recommended you get rid of the Indians altogether. If you feel you have to use Indians, pick four representative Indians from different regions (Northwest, Southwest, Great Plains, Eastern Woodlands). Or four individual Indians from these regions (e.g., Chief Joseph, Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Tecumseh).

I doubt your customers will know the difference. As your website indicates, people have produced several versions of Wahoo with different Indians. Why would buyers accept only one version of the game when they accepted several versions before? Where's the evidence that people won't buy anything but your stereotypical Indian version?

And no, I don't count your Mesoamerican version of Wahoo as a valid test. One, Mesoamerican Indians look pretty strange to most Americans compared to North American Indians. Two, of course people are going to buy the more familiar game if you offer them both. The real test would be to offer only a nonstereotypical game and see if your sales drop off significantly.

If you want to be more daring, use four modern Indians. For instance, Vine Deloria Jr., Wilma Mankiller, Dennis Banks, and Winona LaDuke. Market it as a new and improved version of the game. A nonstereotypical version that will enlighten as well as entertain. Who wouldn't be impressed by this version's potential to educate children?

In short, there are several reasons to change the game and no (good) reason to keep it the same. I suggest you change it, Chuck.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why whites are so offended on my behalf. I see nothing derogatory about the characters on the board he is selling. I see no half naked maidens and the costumes, while cartoonish, are representative of fashions worn by some of my ancestors. This was before A/C was brought to us by The Great White Father and costumes could be rather skimpy during the hotter months. They are stereotypical only in the sense that they were never meant to portray individual Indians just as cartoonish cowboys aren't supposed to be representative of individual cowboys that actually lived during that era. Why does a cartoonish representation of an Indian bother you or any white so much?

I wish you whiners would get a life and stop trying to make a name for yourself protecting those that haven't even asked to be helped. If Indians are offended they can refuse to buy the game but personally I for one am not offended and neither was my Mom who bought one of these games back in the sixties even though she was of Indian descent. I understand that the "retro" design is a big selling point to those who actually owened one of the older Creative Design boards even though you just want to ignore that point and try to involve another minority in the argument. Answer the point he raises and quit trying to inflame a different minority group of which you also don't belong.

I hope more folks bring back good, clean, non-computerized games whether they offend you as a white man or not. Why don't you do a piece on Clue while you're at it? Stereotypes abound in that game unless they've sanitized it already. If so put me down as looking for a retro remake or good old original any day.