September 28, 2009

"Magical Native" TV trope

Magical Native American"Apache Chief, INYUK-CHUK!"

After centuries of various atrocities (smallpox, Columbus, Custer, the Trail of Tears) perpetuated against "the savages," white people finally came to realize that Native Americans have rich identities and cultures. Furthermore, Native American tribes have their own rich and varied beliefs, many of which hold close to the idea of the value of everything on the earth, and the spirits that hide close to us. Of course, there was still slavery, torture, and various other atrocities amongst several Aboriginal Nations, but we'd come to realize that Native Americans were a bit more nuanced than the whooping savages of early Westerns....

Of course, many non-Natives, especially those Hollywood types, saw a complex faith with a focus on ritual and spirits and broke it down to "magic." So, whenever someone needs to bring in a spirit guide, or magical superpowers, they bring in the Magical Native American. Furthermore, Native characters are usually painted as more serene and in touch with the world, and above its petty squabbles, but that's a whole other trope entirely. It can be particularly grating, because if Native Americans have such an unique claim to powerful tribal magics, then why did they put up with any of the aforementioned atrocities? This trope also applies to Aborigines, African bushmen, and First Nations, of course, but is most commonly represented via Native Americans.

Similar in vein to the Magical Negro, although usually more explicitly magical.
Comment:  This posting has a long list of examples from anime, comic books, movies, books, live-action TV, tabletop role-playing games, video games, and animated TV. Most of these are examples I haven't seen or covered. The comic-book and animated-TV categories are the only ones where I'd say my coverage is close to complete.

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