November 25, 2009

New Moon fits Hollywood pattern

A good posting on the Racialicious blog fits New Moon into the broader context of Hollywood's treatment of minorities:

New Moon:  Old Story?

By Wendi MuseHave you ever heard something along the lines of “dating someone who is [insert ethnic/racial group] ok, but you’d better not marry one!” or “Native Americans are so in touch with nature!”? Have you ever seen a film or tv show that relegated the person of color as the trusty sidekick, loyal friend, or temporary romantic plaything, only then to have the white hero enter in medias res and get all the praise and attention? Have you ever seen a piece from an ad campaign or historical policy discussions in which non-white people are portrayed as animalistic, in both their behavior, thought processes, and athletic ability? Have you, as a person of color, or if you are not, any of your POC friends, ever complained of feeling that their societal value was reduced to their physical appearance or a specific body part?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you have already seen New Moon.
And:But beyond all the drama, there is a story that we have seen played out countless times in every other movie, tv show, etc. that decides to employ a character of color, only to put them on time out when the fun really begins. Despite being abandoned by her (technically) dead boyfriend, Bella, in true masochistic form, continues to go after him, even though living and breathing Jacob is a better choice for a beau. Not only is he charismatic, attractive, and fun, he can protect Bella too, which seems to be at the crux of her very existence. Playing the damsel in distress is Bella’s forte, so Jacob could fit the bill as a boyfriend who would suit her most important need. Yet his big character flaw, beyond actually being interested in Bella, is the fact that he’s not white.

Yes, poor Jacob, as “beautiful” (Bella’s words) and awesome as he may be, is one of the Quileute, an indigenous group of the northern Pacific coast. While it’s not explicitly stated in the film that this is the reason Bella doesn’t continue the relationship with Jacob, any audience member who knows a little bit about American film already knows quite well that it’s a rare case when a main character of color, especially if surrounded by other main characters who are white, actually succeeds in the end and remains a romantic interest.
Comment:  For more on the Quileute werewolves' savagery, see Why New Moon's Werewolves Go Shirtless and Wolf Pack Shows Savage Side. For more on whether they're heroes or role models, see Are Good Native Werewolves Okay? and Noble Savages in Twilight.

Below:  Leading men who get the girl? Not in Hollywood.


Anonymous said...

Did you see the Macy's parade? First there was a marching band which made their own neon green headdresses as a band ritual, then a teenager in a headdress and gold dress doing a dance that was more Rockettes than rain dance with the rest of the girls in her band... right after the float with real Indians on it!

Srs cultural whiplash.

DineBoo said...

I saw the gold dressed dancer with the headdress, too. I turned to my husband and said, "Am I seeing this correctly? Especially after a real tribe went before them?"

I was more hung up on the fact that a woman was wearing a headdress since, (according to my husband's tribe: Navajo) only warriors and chiefs wear it. But in that situation, I'm assuming ignorance is bliss.

And it's obvious that some just don't get it when it comes to Native Americans and their cultures and histories, especially regarding Thanksgiving.