October 08, 2010

Hidalgo in FIRST WAVE #4

Another First Wave comic book, another set of stereotypes.

Here's a review of First Wave #4, but the cover kind of says it all.

Let's break it down.

The story takes place in the fictional country of Hidalgo. I thought Rima the Jungle Girl was based in Brazil, where most of the Amazon rainforest is, but apparently not.

What will you find in Hidalgo? A Maya pyramid. An Aztec calendar stone. And half-naked Amazon Indians with their bowl haircuts and bone piercings.

Rima the Native girl who looks exactly like a white girl makes only a brief appearance. Led by what looks like an Aztec priest, the Amazon Indians defend their Maya pyramid against foreign interlopers. I don't think they fare too well. (I don't know because I only skimmed this comic book in the shop.)

Seriously? I'd love to know where Hidalgo is supposed to be on a map. The Aztec empire was located in central Mexico. The Maya city-states were located in southern Mexico and Guatemala. The nearest Amazon Indians are something like a thousand miles to the south in South America.

Remember, the First Wave universe is set in the present or near-present. So where are the Indians leading the protests against transnational oil companies? Or speaking out about the 2012 prophecy? Or winning the Nobel Peace Prize (a la Rigoberta Menchú)? All we see here are the usual nasty spearchuckers found in a thousand old potboilers.

This is incredibly stupid stereotyping. It's about as bad as anything I've seen recently. White men are 21st-century giants of civilization: rich, worldly, heroic. Indians are primitive, brutish savages who haven't advanced beyond the 16th century.

Judging First Wave correctly

This is why we usually can judge a book by its cover. In fact, we could've judged First Wave by the first house ad featuring Rima. It was all there if you looked between the lines.

If Rima had been a well-dressed environmental activist fighting corporations and governments to protect her rainforest, we could've tolerated her occasional prowl as a old-fashioned jungle girl. But we saw from the beginning that she was going to be a stereotypical sex object. A chance for white boys to ogle the near-naked Native and imagine what could be.

Let this be a lesson to you, kiddies. When something looks stereotypical, it's inevitably worse than it looks. No one who's sensitive to Native cultures would think making Rima a Goth would turn her into an acceptable modern character. She's still a white's man's fantasy of an exotic Native princess. She's every sexist jungle girl throughout history except with white hair.

Not surprisingly, the other Natives are just as stereotypical. Writer Brian Azzarello obviously doesn't know jack about Indians. He thinks they're all a bunch of bad movie clichés, nothing more.

He jumbles people, places, and things into one big mess because, well, who cares about Indians? They're all dead and gone, right? If there are any left, they don't buy and read comics, right? Savages grunt and whoop and shake their spears. They don't know how to buy or read!

So whites are sophisticated and civilized; Indians are primitive and savage. I think the word we're looking for is "racist." Yep, First Wave's depiction of Indians is racist. If the loincloth fits, wear it.

For more on the subject, see Black Batman in First Wave Universe? and Minorities in First Wave Universe.

Below:  White men good! Indians bad!

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