Immigrants, Racism, Stereotypes, & MTV
By AIM Santa Barbara
When they performed their "Break Out of Jail" skit, they asked one of the white men dressed as an Indian what he did to wind up in jail. He replied, "Honestly, it was my own casino that I burned down." Before they were slapped in the face with fish, the white men said, "True Native Americans, they fish with their mouth. And with their hands." The only authentic Native American on the show, nodded his head and said, "It's true." The voiceover continues, "Native Americans are like bears. They catch fish with their mouths. This is a rite of passage for fishing."
MTV is a pillar of this economic and cultural racism. They have the power to create cultural attitudes and cultural shifts, especially among young people. But with shows like The Dudesons they are choosing to use this power to degrade and exploit.
Below is a sample:
I am writing to protest your racist show, The Dudesons: Cowboys and Pretendians. Though you were able to find a Native American to participate in this culturally offensive display, he is only one man. Many others are appalled at the negative stereotypes you are promoting. It adds insult to injury that you gave the impression that Native peoples somehow approve of being depicted as animals and self-injuring fools.
You have already run this show three times this week. I add my voice to the demand that you stop this racist attack. Immediately. If you do not take the show out of rotation and issue an apology to the Native American people by June 1, 2010, a complete boycott of your network and all your sponsors will begin.
copy & paste emails:
Melissa Barreto <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Stephanie Berman <email@example.com>; Jeff Castaneda <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Janice Gatti <email@example.com>; AJ Sarcione <AJ.Sarcione@mtvstaff.com>; American Indian Movement SB <firstname.lastname@example.org>
By Jennifer Yuhas Gall
We all know that racism is wrong—in any form. But there is much more to this than cultural sensitivity. To willfully mock and distort the traditions, culture, and spirituality of Native Americans—when they have only recently fully reclaimed the very identities that were forcibly robbed from them not so very long ago—isn’t only politically incorrect and insensitive, it is simply inexcusable. The fact of the matter is this: as long as the “stereotypical Indian” is portrayed on the screen, in print, or any other form of media, the general and largely uninformed public will, on some level, believe those stereotypes to be true—or at the very least, will continue to fail to recognize that they themselves are perpetuating racism.
I was raised in a traditional Indian family and speak my language and several others.
I have been in SAG (Screen Actors Guild) for 14 years and am a horse stuntman and actor. I have worked on over 30 productions and worked hard to have a respectable name and reputation in what I do.
It isn't easy for Native people to break into the film business and I don't understand why someone who has would throw it away with a disgraceful piece of crap for MTV--which targets the youth and will in turn cause harm to our children in and out of school.
For over a decade I have fought "Paint downs" (when non Indians are used as Indian stuntmen/women), in the entertainment business and to see what I saw with this MTV production seems to have set us back and is very disturbing. It seems to me that Saginaw is nothing more than a mascot in this show, in the eyes of MTV it may be ok to make fun our culture and heritage, and considering the amount of work I have done to assure any film/TV productions I was involved with were done in a good way with respect to the tribes represented, I find this production to be a disgrace to who we are and what we have fought for through out the generations, on and off set.
By John Goff
There is an old saying that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Yet insults and insulting creations still carry negative energies even when physical violence is not done. Insults can undermine positive self-esteem, and contribute to patterns of self-destructive behavior. Pride is needed to realize potential yet the Dudesons portrays nothing to be proud of.
No one's taking this as a satire, spoof, or joke because there's no evidence it is a satire, spoof, or joke. We know millions of people believe Indians are nothing but a mishmash of stereotypes: headdresses, feathers, eagles, canoes, totem poles, casinos, etc. There's no reason to think these foreigners are more knowledgeable than the average American.
We're waiting for the first person to defend or justify a black counterpart to this episode. Suppose the Dudesons did the same kind of stunts dressed in blackface, grass skirts, and bones and claiming they were auditioning for a primitive African tribe. Would the so-called "jokes" still be satirical, ironic, or funny?
It's difficult to find images of stereotypical African tribesmen online. I presume that's because people realize these images are racist and don't want to be associated with them. Yet you can find countless images of "primitive" Indians from the same era. Why is one racist stereotype acceptable but not the other?
Seeing is believing
Gall's point in the second posting is a key one: "As long as the 'stereotypical Indian' is portrayed on the screen, in print, or any other form of media, the general and largely uninformed public will, on some level, believe those stereotypes to be true." Yes. Again, seeing is believing.
This is especially true when a real Indian (Saginaw Grant) talks as if all Indians belong to one tribe and he's their chief. This was a clever attempt to inoculate the episode from criticism, but you have to ask why the Dudesons did it? Why bring in a real Indian if they intended the episode to be a joke? Why not get an Obama lookalike, a Japanese guy, or a blond girl--someone no one would think was an Indian--to make the "joke" unmistakable?
There's zero evidence that most Americans--particularly children--know what Indians are really like and can see through the alleged spoof. This is simply a rationalization for racism: people excusing their own desire to feel superior by mocking and belittling others. When you press those who utter such ridiculous claims, their ignorance inevitably emerges. "Well, Indians really did wear feathers, paddle canoes, ride horses, etc., so what's the problem?"
AIM Santa Barbara notes that MTV has taken down the video for this episode (The Dudesons in America #2). It could be a response to the protests, although the video for episode #1 is unavailable also. Whatever the reason, I suggest we continue the protests until MTV backs down.
For more on the subject, see Okay to Stereotype in "Satires"? and "Lighthearted" and "Humorous" Stereotypes. For more on the subject in general, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping: Facts and Evidence.
Below: Something to spoof on the next episode of The Dudesons?