May 21, 2010

Natives protest The Dudesons

Natives have reacted swiftly and angrily to the blatant stereotyping in the Cowboys & Findians episode of The Dudesons in America.

Immigrants, Racism, Stereotypes, & MTV

By AIM Santa BarbaraWe watched The Dudesons last night. It was horrible. Over and over these crazy white men in headdresses and feathers would injure themselves and scream things like, "I'm becoming a Native American!" One man injured his testicles and anus, screamed, "I think I ripped my a***ole!" and his friends replied, "You're the Chief now!"

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.
And:AIM SB is asking you to take 5 minutes--5 minutes to call or shoot off an email to MTV.

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.

Sincerely,

copy & paste emails:

Melissa Barreto <melissa.barreto@mtvstaff.com>; Stephanie Berman <stephanie.berman@mtvstaff.com>; Jeff Castaneda <jeff.castaneda@mtvstaff.com>; Janice Gatti <janice.gatti@mtvstaff.com>; AJ Sarcione <AJ.Sarcione@mtvstaff.com>; American Indian Movement SB <aimsb@ymail.com>
The Dudesons in America ~ Racism and Stereotyping at its Finest…and Lowest.

By Jennifer Yuhas GallThe episode “Cowboys & Findians” stands apart in terms of stereotyping and racism. You have sent a negative and hateful message to millions of people. But I ask you: would you even attempt to parody an African tribe in such a manner? I think not. The backlash from the NAACP, the media, and public at large would be immediate and powerful. What you fail to recognize is that it is no less unacceptable to portray Native Americans in such a light.

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.
In Response to THE NEW MTV SHOW... Cowboys & Findians... With an Elder I once respected.... I bow my head in sorrow...My name is Rod Rondeaux and I am ENROLLED CROW Tribal MEMBER.

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.
Of Vine Deloria & Native Portrayals in Media (for Nov. 2010)

By John Goff“Dudesons” and/or dudesons.com for comic effect has four friendly Finnish men coming to the United States to undergo various tests of endurance, etc. before being able to be awarded “honorary” Native American status. The tests invariably involve being beaten to a pulp, and/or being physically injured while doing inappropriate things with Native American sacred regalia, canoes, totem poles, etc. The series is so ill-conceived, it would be like watching, in the name of “humor” a Catholic religious service and/or church interior get insanely desecrated by Protestants, or an old slapstick comedy series like the Three Stooges be recast to specifically target and degrade one ethnic group.

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.
Comment:  I'm not sure this episode first aired this month. And only one episode mocks Indians, not the whole series.

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?

6 comments:

Kathryn Price NicDhĂ na said...

Good post, Rob. Thanks for covering this.

jennifer1119 said...

Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Rob says: "We know millions of people believe indians are nothing but a mishmash of stereotypes:"

Is there any shred of evidence that such "millions of people" believe in this? I doubt it, the average American who tunes in doesn't necessarily support the notion that they actually believe in racial stereotypes. They already know this is a spoof of some sort, not the genuine part. But yeah sensational journalism can be a polite form of ignorance.

~GENO~

America the Spoof said...

Actually GENO, Rob is right! In America alone, there is a shared ignorance and revival of old west racism due to the "gaming" and mascot issue. Personally, I think racism against natives has always been here, it just resurfaced with a new generation of ignorance.

Many of the media savy people are from the flower power generation who wore beads and wanted to live in teepees during the sixties.

Rob is correct in using "millions" because I have been overseas and have firsthand experience of how other countries view American Indians. Americans are not the only nation to have viewed this stupidity and racists affirmation of American belief systems.

The American media and public at large have done a phenomenal job in stripping away indigenous culture to the point that identity can be an issue for many Indians.

Why? Because I believe this nation does not want to accept the fact that civilizations existed long before America was a word and that any and all cultures must melt away any original identities to become a part of the great "melting pot".

Kill the Indian (culture and identity) to save the man (taxpayer and soldier).

The American Indian cannot and will not claim or be a part of the bastard culture, that is for those whom do not claim any roots to their forefathers traditions. And I am not talking about traditions less than 300 years old.

Anonymous said...

If you don't like it, don't watch it. Let the majority of the nation enjoy the show.

Rob said...

If you don't like my criticism, Anonymous, leave. No one's forcing you to read it.

There's no hard polling data about what Americans believe, Geno, if that's what you mean. But I've been compiling anecdotal evidence about what they believe for more than a decade. I'm confident that my reading of the evidence is as good as anyone's.

For more on the subject, see Idiot's Guide for Dudesons Defenders and Children and Dudesons Believe Stereotypes.