November 21, 2009

Native aspects of New Moon

Correspondent DMarks has seen New Moon and gives us the lowdown on the movie's Natve aspects:There's probably nothing that can be said about it that you haven't already covered extensively.

Just a few things to add:

  • The only outright racial thing I saw (aside from any issues of young Native men being half-naked savages, connected to animals, etc.--well-covered in your other posts) was when Bella made a comment to Jacob about spending time with the palefaces. I do not remember the exact sentence the word was in.

  • I didn't think the "Wolf Pack" came across in a fakey bronze tone like I would have suspected from the publicity photo. However, they did stand around in all weather with just ragged cut-off pants. But unlike the Hulk's pants, their pants explode into shreds when they wolf out.
  • Yes, but did New Moon show them changing from wolves into (naked) humans? I'm sure the girls would've loved that. <g>

    The bronzed skin may look worse in the publicity photo because the photo is unnaturally dark. In the wan light of the Pacific Northwest, it may look washed out and almost natural.

    Being impervious to the weather is a corollary of being a savage, of course. Half-naked Indians rarely if ever shiver from the cold.

    Let's recall that in the books, Jacob is 6'7" and the other werewolves are almost as tall. In other words, they're that much closer to being man-monsters. By making them normal height, the movies have downplayed the books' stereotypes.
  • Jacob Black had a tattoo that seemed to be designed in what I would understand to be an authentic Northwestern US Native style. Such artwork also appeared on the refrigerator in a home at the La Push rez. This brief appearance of something authentic-looking is in line with the "Thunderbird and Whale" with its Native proprietor, which appeared in the first movie. It's a touch of authenticity made for the movies, and not for the books.

  • There was nothing distinctive about the La Push rez. It was just a regular place with a few normal-looking homes. No casino, no abject poverty. The stereotypes of Tonto-speak and layabout drunken Indians in dysfunctional families seem to be long in the past, but the "special connection to animals" and the shirtless savage warrior ideas abide.
  • Of course, New Moon could've done more to show modern Quileute life and culture, but I understand that wasn't the movie's focus. What it did show--the tattoo and the normal rez--sounds good.

    For more on Twilight's depiction of rez life, see Stephenie Meyer's Use of Quileute Characters.
  • The non-authentic Quileute legends were only briefly touched upon by having flashbacks to scenes from the first movie. While the next movie, Eclipse, may compound the errors of the wrong legends, New Moon did not really dig the hole deeper.
  • Additional points gleaned from the news:  Most mainstream reviews have said the wolf effects weren't impressive. In the trailer, the wolves look like decent CGI creations, but nothing more. I doubt anyone will mistake them for real wolves.

    For more on that subject, see How Animators Tackled Werewolf Transformations in New Moon.

    On the bad side: Jacob is "not helped any by the cheap wig he wears for half the movie," according to the McClatchy Newspapers' review. It's as if it took the filmmakers that long to realize how phony the hair looked.

    The Wolf Pack's primary scene shows them fighting among themselves. Paul (Alex Meraz) gets angry and turns into a wolf to attack Bella, and Jacob (Taylor Lautner) does the same to defend her. In other words, Indians are like beasts who can barely control themselves. They're far from the great tribal leaders who fought their battles with words and ideas, not arrows or claws.

    On the good side: Jacob speaks a few words of genuine Quileute, according to 10 Things You Need to Know About Taylor Lautner:In New Moon, Jacob speaks Spanish to Bella, and even some Quileute, the language of the American Indian tribe he belongs to. He says, ‘I did speak a little bit of Quileute, when I was leaning in to kiss Bella in the kitchen, and I’m not gonna tell you what I said. I’ll leave that to you to figure out. But it was really cool. There’s only, like, four people left in the world who actually speak Quileute, so I was able to talk to one of these ladies. It was really interesting.’In short, New Moon is about what I expected. I'm still waiting to hear about a scene where the Indians solve a problem with brains, not brawn. You know, by outfoxing an opponent rather than outfighting him? Because traits such as stealth, tracking skills, strength, and ferocity are all part of the savage warrior stereotype.

    For more on the subject, see Capsule Reviews of New Moon and Media Doesn't Know Quileutes Are Real. For more on Twilight in general, see Quileute Werewolves in Twilight.

    Below:  "I'm a civilized Indian with a long history of religion, culture, and art. No, really!"


    dmarks said...

    Yes, edited, I must have been so unclear :)

    I missed the part where he spoke Quilleute words. As I recall, such words are entirely missing from the book, and when Native-sounding names appear, they appear to be Polynesian.

    Kat said...

    If they are completely absent from the book- why did Solomon Trimble then learn to speak commands to the wolf pack in Quileute (in anticipation of playing Sam in new Moon, which then went to Chaske)? I thought that the wolf pack communicates in Quileute while in wolf form and that Weitz changed that to "communicate with yelping sounds" cause that was easier and cheaper than getting a language coach.

    dmarks said...

    Kat: I'm not 100% sure, and I have only read the books once, but I just don't recall any Quilleute words used in the books. Maybe the text said that they spoke Quilleute while in the wolf pack, but did not quote examples of it.

    "Weitz changed that to "communicate with yelping sounds" cause that was easier and cheaper than getting a language coach."

    No reason for that, considering that the movies now make so much money that they could afford to do that.

    Dean Sanderson said...

    from the point of view of someone who really enjoyed the books, i thought New Moon (the movie adaptation) was entertaining, true to the book too

    m. said...

    Jacob actually says 'palefaces' in the first installment (Twilight), and I laughed equally hard both times. First time, because it was hilarious to hear an actual paleface (or any non-Native, for that matter - pale or not) say that. Second time (while watching New Moon), because...well, who (still) says that?! I have used "palefaceD" as a descriptor, or "pasty"...but I never go around saying 'palefaces', and I'm Native. Once or twice, but it's kind of tired.
    Sickening that they ditched Solomon Trimble and Krys Hyatt for these bronzed and tanned Euro-looking guys. Still couldn't get over that, and to top it off is the fact that they were downright nasty-looking (faces and personalities) in the movie. If Summit's goal was to cast guys that don't look Native so teenyboppers and white women could relate more to the Wolf Pack, well...they failed. Most of the females in the audience seemed indifferent to their presence, regardless of how bulked up they were (buff body don't change a face). I actually laughed when Bella slapped one of them, which goes to show that making them so repulsive worked.

    Really, the representation of anything 'Native'/Native-related in these films actually borders on camp.