January 10, 2011

Danny Lightfoot in Hey Dude

Nickelodeon Gets Diversity Points, But Still Overlooks RaceNickelodeon, along with Sesame Street workshop which produces “Sesame Street,” has been at the forefront of diverse and responsible storytelling on television. Nickelodeon’s first original live action television series “Hey Dude” included Joe Torres as Danny Lightfoot, a Hopi Indian who was cast after auditioning in Tucson for the role. When the show premiered in 1989 there were no other representation of young American Indians. Even today, twenty-two years after “Hey Dude” premiered there are only a handful of American Indians on television.

“The Cosby Show” was the first show on prime time television to feature a positive portrayal of an African-American family, but critics have said that it didn’t reflect any serious issues facing black Americans at the time. The same could be said about Nickelodeon’s characters because race and class issues are often not addressed. And it’s possible to have a commercially viable television show that addresses race head-on. ABC’s popular show “Ugly Betty” proved that deportations, access to jobs, education and race can be a compelling part of prime time storylines.
Joe Torres:  Where Is He Now?

Comment:  IMDB.com says Torres is Mexican American. Although he played a Hopi boy, he wasn't one.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

Below:  I presume Joe Torres is second from the right.


Anonymous said...

If we're going to be doing Indians in old children's shows, might I suggest you look at Mighty Morphin Power Rangers? Yes, it was a macekre. (In fact, if you go down the list of things Macek did when creating Robotech, Power Rangers does every single one.) Tommy was an interesting character, so much so that popular demand was the only thing that kept him from dying, I mean, "being destroyed"; they actually re-shot the ending to "The Green Candle" so that Tommy would live. Jason David Frank is apparently half Tohono O'odham.

Season 1 isn't very interesting, though it is hilarious that Kimberly mentions a future "without racism, or crime, or war", and then Time Force shows us a Nazi future. It also shows something true of my generation: Interracial couples aren't even given a second thought.

Season 2 had the annoying tendency of children's shows to practice politically correct history. We have the Rangers' ancestors apparently unaware of race, to the point that Kimberly's ancestor dated Tommy's ancestor. Wait a second, ew. There was other stupidity in the other time travel episode, such as a British colony in California. Tommy's evil clone (who is of course reformed) doesn't encounter any sort of racism in the 17th century, either. (Possibly justified by the fact that the two Tommys saved them from rat monsters.) This in spite of the fact that the other five Power Rangers were accused of witchcraft.

Season 3 and 4 gave the Oliver family tree, at this point looking weirder than the Summerses, one last wrinkle. Tommy is adopted, and his brother lives on a nearby reservation. During his quest for a crystal in the past, Tommy was given half an arrowhead by another stupidly-named Indian. ("True of Heart". What kind of lame power is heart anyway?) So Tommy meets his brother, David Trueheart (Again, what kind of lame power is heart anyway?), who has the other half. And it's the key to unlocking even more sealed evil in a can.

Anonymous said...

Back in 2009 Frank said in an interview that he has no ndn heritage the video has been removed from youtube.

Rob said...

I report on Indians in old TV shows and movies when I come across them. I don't go out of my way to look for them in shows like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.