Someone with the handle HomeGrown tried this defense on the Indianz.com message board:
Is there a "smart" example of a movie or TV show that stereotypes Indians? What exactly would this "smart" stereotyping consist of?
Fact is, all productions and products that stereotype Indians are stupid. It doesn't matter whether they intend to be smart or stupid. If the results contradict the facts, the results are stupid by definition.
Where do you think people learn stereotypes from: carefully crafted documentaries and public television? Masterpiece Theater and Shakespeare, perhaps? No, they learn them from countless stupid movies, TV shows, cartoons, comic books, games, packages, and so forth and so on. The smartness or stupidity of the source has little to do with the stereotypes themselves.
You could apply HomeGrown's thinking to almost any stereotype in the last 500 years. No one could possibly take Magua, Injun Joe, Tonto, Disney's Pocahontas, Chief Illiniwek, Chief Wahoo, or the Dudesons seriously, right? They're blatant caricatures that a child could see through. So why bother with them?
Great. So according to this "thinking," no stereotype has ever misled someone who knows nothing about Indians. No stereotype has ever been convincing enough to merit criticism. Because if it were convincing, it wouldn't be a stereotype, right? So I guess protesters are bitchin' and moanin' for no reason--playing the victim card because it makes them feel good and worthwhile.
I hope someone will list the criteria we should use for judging stereotypes in the future. How do we tell the difference between 1) smart shows that use smart stereotypes, 2) smart shows that use stupid stereotypes, and 3) stupid shows that use stupid stereotypes? Give us examples of each so we know which stereotypes are worth our time.
In short, why are some cartoonish characters--e.g., Peter Pan's Indians or the "Fighting Sioux"--unacceptable while others aren't? I look forward to the answers.
For more on the subject, see Saginaw Grant in The Dudesons and Natives Protest The Dudesons. For more on the subject in general, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping: Facts and Evidence.