August 06, 2009

Indian artifacts in Warehouse 13

Reader Patrick Barkman alerted me to Warehouse 13, a SyFy show I hadn't seen or even heard of:

Warehouse 13Warehouse 13 is an American science fiction series which premiered on July 7, 2009 on Syfy. Executive-produced by Jack Kenny and David Simkins, the dramatic comedy from Universal Media Studios has been described as "part The X-Files, part Raiders of the Lost Ark and part Moonlighting." The series follows United States Secret Service agents Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) and Peter Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) as they are reassigned to the government's secret Warehouse 13, which houses supernatural objects. They are tasked to retrieve missing objects and investigate reports of new ones.

Episode One (Pilot)

Aztec Bloodstone--This stone exhibits the ability to control individuals whose blood comes in contact with the stone. Bloodletting in Mesoamerica was often used to legitimize a prominent social, political, and/or ideological position. The stone's influence over Gordon in Episode One causes him to attempt to kill the President (actually an attack on the Mexican Ambassador's daughter, as the "Bloodstone" craves virgin sacrifices). Artie is able to disable the stone and close its mouth by inserting what resembles a large, flat key into the top of the stone, giving it the appearance of a Mayan headdress.

Mayan Calendar--Artie mentions running into a Mayan Calendar that caused 2 agents to have "their clocks stop" (with the implication that they will resume life in 100 years). To avoid this from happening again, the question, "Do you have the constant feeling that today is yesterday?" is now asked when a potential artifact is around.

Episode Five

Fox Skin Coat--Native American coat that allows whoever wears it, and puts the hood over their head, to pass through solid objects easily. One feather detached from it can convey this property up to the elbow of the user's arm.

Lenape Cave--Located deep underground, whoever can use all the elements will gain immense power over all the world.
Comment:  We can note a few things about the Indian objects in Warehouse 13.

  • The objects have no connections to any real Native beliefs or myths. Which is probably good, since the show may use them for secular or sacrilegious purposes.

  • Of the four artifacts, only the "Aztec Bloodstone" sounds potentially evil. The show doesn't seem to be explicitly associating Indians with "black magic."

  • Four of the 27 objects listed in the first five episodes are Native. That implies Indians are more associated with the supernatural than other people. (Indians = 1% of US population. Indian artifacts = 15% of Warehouse 13 objects.)

  • Reviews

    Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly doesn't like this show:

    'Warehouse 13':  Why, Syfy, why?Well, I guess it was only fitting that a cable channel with a goofy new re-branding should premiere a goofy new series: Syfy’s Warehouse 13 is not, I think it’s safe to say, the series that is going to replace Battlestar Galactica in the hearts and minds of us old Sci Fi network fans.

    Did you watch this thing? Some unholy cross between The X-Files, Bones, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Warehouse 13 gave us a couple of supposedly-mismatched, but we knew made-for-each-other, federal agents (Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly, looking at each other as if to say, “How many episodes of this did you sign up for?”).
    Regarding the series and its fifth episode, Barkman says:It's been fairly decent, what little of it I've seen, but this episode was pretty dreadful in an "Indians = elves" kind of way.For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

    6 comments:

    winterfoxf said...

    Your stats should be changed as I'm pretty sure Mexican-Indians are not counted as part of that 1% of the population of America. But the inconsistency in representation will likely remain.

    Simone said...

    you might also want to consider the Lone Ranger/Tonto thing going on in the Lenape episode..white guy trying to save the "artifact" and his helper is an Indian working under cover ..says little.dies..

    Rob said...

    Good point, WinterFoxF. It raises a few questions. For instance, should we count the country where the objects originated (Mexico) or where they're presently being stored and used (the US)?

    Moreover, if the US has two objects from Mexico but none from other foreign countries, what does that tell us? It still seems to suggest an overreliance on the idea that Indians are magical.

    But let's redo the statistics as you suggest. Assume Mexico has 110 million people and 30% are Indian or predominantly Indian. That's 33 million. Assume the US has 304 million people and a generous 4.5 million are all or part Indian.

    Doing the math:

    (33+4.5)/(110+304) = .09 or 9%

    Conclusion: Indians are overrepresented on Warehouse 13 no matter how you look at it.

    Rob said...

    P.S. I'll consider the Lone Ranger/Tonto thing in the Lenape episode if I ever watch the series, Simone. ;-)

    Simone said...

    well Rob I consider anything with the Lenape considered in it :)

    Tablesaw said...

    Hello. I'm an occasional reader of and linked-to-er of your blog.

    I've been looking at the racism, cultural, imperialism, and general historical inaccuracies of Warehouse 13 for a few weeks now. You might be interested in my take on the Pilot (with the "Aztec Bloodstone" and "Mayan Calendar"), "Elements" (dealing with Lenape artifacts), and the general framework of cultural imperialism in the show.