We could come up with several reasons why Parker and company hired Japanese people to play Indians besides doing a satire. For instance, they couldn't find any Indians and didn't care enough to look. Or they thought all Indians look vaguely Asian so Japanese was close enough. If this sounds farfetched, recall that major studios hired Mizuo Peck and Boo-Boo Stewart to play Indians using the same "thinking."
Suppose you're a child who's never seen an old Western. Explain to me how this "satire" works. You see the Japanese "Indians" and you immediately think, "That's wrong"? More to the point, you think, "The filmmakers must be doing that intentionally because no one could do something that stupid unintentionally"?
What would the same children think if you showed them an old minstrel show that caricatured blacks as buffoons? "That's wrong"? "The producers must be doing that intentionally because no one could do something that stupid unintentionally"? Maybe they'd say that, but maybe not.
Examples of "satirical" stereotypes?
I trust you know that many people, especially children, think Indians no longer exist. It seems more likely to me that a typical child would say, "Look, the Japanese are playing Indians. That must be because all the Indians are dead. I thought that was true and this movie confirms it."
We can even try to quantify these assumptions. Here are my best guesses about the numbers:
Do you think that a stereotype can't be harmful because some people may be clever enough to see through it? That "everyone knows" things like minstrel shows and Indian mascots are phony so there's no reason to criticize them? Is that really your position?
I thought you knew better than that, DMarks. Here are some examples you brought to my attention:
And many more.
What's the difference?
Are you now defending the stereotypes you previously condemned? Based on what, exactly? What's the difference between, say, Dudley Do-Right's "Kumquat Indians" and Parker's Japanese "Indians"? Tell me why some stereotypical "Indians" are offensive but others aren't.
Because Parker and company intended their casting to be "satirical"? How do you know what any of these products' creators thought? If they claimed their choices were satirical, comical, or "just plain fun," would that excuse them? How do you know they didn't claim that: to their colleagues or to the public?
If you questioned the creators, they might say that they weren't stereotyping Indians. That they "knew" Indians aren't animals, savages, or big-nosed cartoon characters. That they were using stereotypes to make fun of our stereotypical notions of Indians.
This sounds good, but it's pure crapola. Again, if a so-called "satire" is indistinguishable from something that's not a satire, the satire doesn't exist. People are using the "satire" excuse to justify their stereotypical beliefs. They're slapping a label on their actions so you won't think about the message they're sending. And you're naively falling for it.
Let's consider a few examples. If white students dressed up in sheets and hoods but said, "We were just mocking the Ku Klux Klan," would you excuse their behavior? If a husband cheated on his wife but said, "I still love you, it was just meaningless sex," would you believe him? If a crook robbed your house but said, "I was just testing your home security," would you buy it? Why not, if the wrongdoers' rationalizations are paramount?
Satirizing with stereotypes
What you've missed is that this isn't an either/or situation. It's not "they're using stereotypes but not satirizing" or "they're satirizing but not using stereotypes." They may be doing both: satirizing and using stereotypes.
Proving how old and tired this issue is, I reported on Howard Stern's Native-themed Son of the Beach episode back in 2000. In this parody of Baywatch, some Malibu-area Indians hoped to open a casino near the beach. The episode was clearly a satire overall, but it was an uncomfortable mess. Half the time it mocked Native stereotypes and half the time it was used and reinforced these stereotypes.
In 1998, I reported on an Animaniacs cartoon--in the very first issue of my Indian Comics Irregular newsletter. Again, the show straddled the uneasy line between mocking and perpetuating stereotypes. The example I remember is someone carrying a bull in a headdress to represent Sitting Bull.
Was that mocking our ignorance of Sitting Bull and his name, or mocking Sitting Bull himself? If someone mentioned a black man named Washington and the Animaniacs responded with George Washington in blackface, would that be a "satirical" response too? Why not, since it's conceptually identical to portraying Sitting Bull as a reclining cow?
I thought these examples were lame, but they're comedic gold compared to Parker's feeble "satire." He gave us no reason to think the Plains stereotypes were a joke and little reason to think the Japanese actors were a joke. The same scenes could've appeared in an old children's book featuring dogs as Indians with the same pathetic excuses. "We weren't making fun of Indians, we were making fun of people who think Indians are mutts and mongrels." Ha ha...very funny.
So yes...creators such as Parker and Stern may intend to satirize stereotypes, or think they're satirizing stereotypes. That doesn't mean they've done it. If they present the stereotypes exactly as a stereotyper would, there's literally no difference. Looking for imaginary differences such as their intent is pointless because the effects are the same.
As I've said many times, we judge a racist act by its results, not by the perpetrator's thought processes. Chief Wahoo is a racist caricature even if the Cleveland baseball team "intends" to honor Indians. And Cannibal! The Musical's stereotypes are wrong even if the filmmakers "intended" them to satirize old Westerns.
You can apply this analysis to all sorts of issues that arise in this blog. Cowboys & Findians in The Dudesons, "Tardicaca Indians" in South Park, the rapacious cavalryman in Family Guy, the Indian jokes in Parks and Recreation, the redskin-wearing Mardi Gras Indians, the foreign videos featuring dancing Indians, the hipster headdresses, etc. Basically, any time someone claims their stereotypes are a satire, a parody, ironic, humorous, or just plain fun. All these claims are false attempts to "have your cake and eat it too": to display your racist, stereotypical views under the guise of "satirizing" them.
For more on the subject, see "It's Just a [Fill in the Blank]" and Equal Opportunity Offenders.
Below: Stupid stereotypes, or satires? How do you know which is which? Show me the evidence that the creators intended or didn't intend to "satirize" our perceptions of Indians. Hint: If you can't prove the creators' intent beyond a reasonable doubt, you lose the argument.