May 28, 2010

Children and Dudesons believe stereotypes

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly's PopWatch, the Dudesons talked about their show:

'The Dudesons in America' stuntman Jukka:  Finnish people heal pretty fast

Blogger Stephen, who originally brought the Dudesons to our attention, uses their own words to condemn them:

The Dudesons:  A RetrospectiveIn my mind, these quotes reveal three things about the Dudesons:

1. They thought of American Indians as a fundamental theme of America.

2. Their "research" consisted of simply brainstorming, stuff "we could think of," and gleaning ideas from "movies or cartoons."

3. They didn't think there was anything wrong with what they were doing.

Together, these three elements reveal a group of young men who were exposed to simple stereotypes and caricatures while growing up. They simply collected their thoughts, feelings, and childhood nostalgia for Indians, lumping them together into one hot mess known as "Cowboys and Findians."

Regardless of how you feel about the Dudesons or their honest intent, you have to agree that Indian stereotypes in popular culture played a fundamental role in the creation of this episode!

Cowboys and Findians is a perfect example of the pernicious nature of these stereotypes. Growing up in Finland, the Dudesons must have learned about America and American culture through cultural imports--particularly film and television. They probably received a steady stream of cowboy and Indian flicks (hence the stunt with the Findians trying to escape from jail). They only ever utilize the most salient and camera-friendly elements of native culture (feathers, totem poles, canoes, etc). And thanks to popular notions of noble savagery, the Dudesons' Indians are simultaneously savage and noble (catching fish with their mouths like wild beasts but also strong and brave with "balls of steel").

Lastly, they honestly didn't think they were ridiculing anyone because in their minds, the silly stunts and Indian motifs fit with what they learned growing up. How can you find something offensive if it feels so right and you know no alternative?

Right or wrong, the Dudesons would never have created this episode if it were not for the stereotypes that came before....
Comment:  Stephen calls this his Stereotypes Beget Stereotypes theory, which was the title of a recent posting of mine. His theory is obviously true. Like monkeys, people see something, they believe it, and they repeat it. When people repeat it often enough, it become the conventional wisdom--the standard way of thinking.

Maybe Buffalo Bill understood that he was promoting misleading Native stereotypes in his Wild West shows. Maybe the audiences understood it too--although I doubt it. But anyone who knew the truth of the situation died long ago.

Since then, people have been seeing and repeating Native stereotypes without the knowledge to separate truth from fiction. These days, a child's parents, teachers, friends, movies, TV shows, and books perpetuate the stereotypes without contradiction. Why would the child believe all these sources of information are lying?

It defies belief that our culture would engage in a society-wide propaganda effort to stereotype Indians. Yet that's essentially what's happening. Even most adults don't get it, so it's not surprising that children get taken in. They literally don't know any better.

Ignorant children and Dudesons

Most children don't know about the 560+ federally recognized tribes. They don't know about pre-Columbian civilizations, broken treaties, or termination policies. They know what they see. They go with the preponderance of evidence, a logical response in their situation.

If you see a hundred images of police officers helping people, you assume a police officer will help you when you need one. If you see a hundred images of planes flying, you assume the next plane you take will fly too. And if you see a hundred images of Plains Indians, you assume that's what an Indian looks like. Where there's smoke, there's fire.

Anyway, great analysis, Stephen. If everyone wrote more analyses like this and sent them to me, I could take a break now and then. So keep the good work!

For more on the Dudesons, see MTV vs. AIM on The Dudesons and The Dudesons, Polish Jokes, and Minstrel Shows. For more on what children think, see Students Draw What They Know and Seeing Indians Is Believing.

Below:  "All Indians paddle canoes."

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's a fair way of quoting it:

"Like Monkeys, people see something, they believe it and they repeat it."

Likewise, that analogy seems quite true of Whites who wish they were "Injuns". If Kei$ha wants to be an "Injun", that's fine. Her fans should be able to call her a little "injun" girl, not a White one. Or shall we call her a monkey too?

~GENO~

Stephen said...

I wasn't exactly out to condemn anyone with my analysis. I think a better line would be:

"uses their own words to understand them"

Rob, I'll let you do the moralizing since that is your expertise. I'm just trying to figure out what makes them tick. (and I'm still scratching my head)

Anonymous said...

Hilariously enough, the plains Indians (the origin of quite a few of the stereotypes) didn't paddle canoes except in the east.