She disagrees with the argument that the show is a comedy and not meant to be taken seriously. “Anybody that sees this show that is not familiar with Native culture is not going to know what is true, what is not, especially little kids that will go out of their way to harass other little kids.”
Saginaw Grant, a revered elder of the Sac-n-Fox, Iowa, and Otoe-Missouria Nations, discussed these issues on Red Town Radio on May 22 (which can be heard in its entirety here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/redtownradio).
Grant said that the show was trying to make people laugh and to “show how silly people can be.” He pointed out that Indians make fun of themselves vis-à-vis clowns, chicken dancing, and in other ways.
He also said he had no creative control over the show's content; however, he felt that the humor would have been worse had he not been there. (Also, the crazy stunts might have been even more dangerous.) He himself was treated with great respect by the makers of the show.
Grant wondered aloud why children were watching MTV and a show meant for adults that comes on at 10pm. He added that while he had no regrets about doing the show, he would not want his own grandchildren to see it.
Fairbanks, who phoned into the show, countered that Cowboys and Findians has been repeated in various time slots and that her own children wanted to see it because they saw Saginaw and got excited. (The family turned the show off well before it was over.) She and Grant agreed about the need for parents to monitor their children. "Parents are indeed responsible for monitoring what their own children are watching on television,” she stated, “but we cannot police other viewers all over the world and how they are perceiving what they are watching.”
Grant and Fairbanks seemed to be in agreement on another point as well: had The Dudesons depicted Blacks or any other racial group in that manner, the station would not have gotten away with it.
Fairbanks expressed regret that this whole issue is being perceived as a personal attack against Grant. “He and his personality are a distraction from the real issue, which is MTV and the entertainment industry looking for another excuse to use us as mascots for their own purposes, for their own jokes.”
Saginaw Grant says the episode was supposed to be funny. He compares the Dudesons to Indians who make fun of themselves. Great...so we've established that the Dudesons weren't trying some clever ploy to subvert Native stereotypes. They were making fun of Indians--just as we thought.
Grant says the mockery would've been worse if he hadn't been there. He also said he had no control over the content, which is a contradiction. Which is it, Saginaw? Did you influence or change the show's content or didn't you?
It's pretty obvious that Grant was okay with the tomfoolery and didn't try much if anything to stop it. How about if he launched a sit-down strike in the middle of filming? Unless the Dudesons had a spare Indian handy, that would've gummed up the works. It might've convinced the Dudesons that what they were doing was seriously offensive.
The "Uncle Tomahawk" defense
What Grant doesn't address is that his presence gave the show legitimacy. Without him there, it might be possible to dismiss the Dudesons as racist idiots who know nothing about Indians. With him there, many viewers undoubtedly didn't know what was real and what wasn't.
Finally, we have Grant saying he has no regrets, but he wouldn't want his grandchildren to see the show. I.e., to see him help perpetuate a century-plus of racist stereotypes. That's another contradiction, but I think we can guess what Grant means. He's embarrassed by his participation but too "professional" to criticize his employers, or something like that.
I think we need a name for the "it's a satire/parody/joke" defense of the Dudesons. I.e., for excuses and apologies for Stepin Fetchit-style performances in 2010. How about the "Uncle Tomahawk" defense?
For more on the Uncle Tomahawk defense, see Children and Dudesons Believe Stereotypes, The Dudesons, Polish Jokes, and Minstrel Shows, and Dudesons Too "Stoopid" to Matter?
Below: This racism is "okay" because it appeared in a movie and was meant to be funny. No one would think blacks were second-class citizens because of it, right?