May 13, 2010

Review of Apache vs. Gladiator

Speaking of Aztec vs. Zande on Deadliest Warrior, last year I watched the first episode about a Native warrior:

Apache vs. GladiatorApril 07, 2009--An Apache--the greatest stealth fighter in American History, versus a Gladiator--crowd-thrilling killer of ancient Rome. It's stone versus steel, devious against direct, surprise versus slaughter, as these two go toe to toe in a no-holds barred battle to the death.Click on the link to view the hour-long episode online.

The show has several flaws that qualify it to be a Stereotype of the Month entry:

  • The harsh language used to describe the Apache. For instance, the "fierce, scalp-taking master of death." Even if this were true in some circumstances, it's a one-dimensional portrait of a complex culture.

  • The Apache are shown living in tipis. As I discussed before, this may have been true among the eastern Apaches in Texas, but it's not representative of the culture as a whole. Since the show presents a typical Apache warrior, it should present him living in typical Apache dwellings--e.g., wickiups.

  • The Apache are shown attacking an army in colorful uniforms. I guess it's supposed to be the Mexican army, which would be accurate. But showing the Apache attacking makes them look like the aggressors--i.e., like violent marauders. There's no context explaining why the Apache might've attacked. For instance, because the foreign army was encroaching on Apache land.

  • The show presents no context for either the Apache warrior or the Roman gladiator. But...most people already know something about ancient Rome. Monuments, statues, emperors, armies, togas, laws, Latin, etc. They don't know anything about the Apache. So the lack of information preserves the status quo. In the viewers' minds, it's the savage Apache vs. the civilized Roman.

    Apache = semihuman?

    A quote from Wikipedia explains the stereotype that Deadliest Warrior reinforces:Of the hundreds of peoples that lived and flourished in native North America, few have been so consistently misrepresented as the Apacheans of Arizona and New Mexico. Glorified by novelists, sensationalized by historians, and distorted beyond credulity by commercial film makers, the popular image of 'the Apache'—a brutish, terrifying semihuman bent upon wanton death and destruction—is almost entirely a product of irresponsible caricature and exaggeration. Indeed, there can be little doubt that the Apache has been transformed from a native American into an American legend, the fanciful and fallacious creation of a non-Indian citizenry whose inability to recognize the massive treachery of ethnic and cultural stereotypes has been matched only by its willingness to sustain and inflate them.This stereotyping is lame because Deadliest Warrior could correct it so easily. Just present a couple sentences of background information to put the warriors in context. Something like:The Apache had a complex religion, culture, and language, but when foreigners invaded their land, they were forced to go to war.For more on the subject, see Al Carroll on Tarantino's Scalping and Tarantino's Apache Warfare Fiction.

    Below:  Lots of Apaches who weren't deadly warriors.

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