March 20, 2011

Wounded Bird in Rango

Stephen Bridenstine reviews the movie Rango in his Drawing on Indians blog:

Wounded Bird the "Crow" Indian in RangoAs I write in the review:

"The film plays like a classic Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western crossed with a Nickelodeon kid's comedy with a little Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas thrown in as well. As a Western, the movie has everything from high noon gun battles to bitter fights over water rights to the stereotypical stoic Indian who once again seems incapable of speaking in complete sentences."

That last part refers to the character Wounded Bird.
In the film, Wounded Bird plays a bit part as the token town Indian. He's quiet, mystical, and knows exactly how to track in the wilderness, just like the classic Hollywood Indian.

That being said, he is the source of some comic relief with his one-liners and ends up being a clearly heroic figure in the end. Then again, the bad pun where Rango refers to Wounded Bird's "ingenuity" only to say "no pun intended" put a bad taste in my mouth.

The official film website over at includes this description of Wounded Bird:

"A solid creature of the Crow Nation. Wounded Bird draws his inspiration from Native American Indian principles of harmony and quiet observation. His tracking skills are legendary and he's big in Finland for some reason."

I disagree. Wounded Bird draws his inspiration directly from the scores of Indian depictions in countless Hollywood Westerns. Rango is filled with every other Western cliche--saloon brawls, corrupt mayors, spineless townfolk, a mysterious stranger--so why not the quiet mystical stereotypical Indian! It wouldn't be a true homage without one!

Personally, I'm a fan of subverting tired cliches and stereotypes to challenge our expectations and get those cerebral juices flowing. Rango does just that when the Beans character (voiced by Isla Fisher) subverts the traditional female role to become a gun-slinging, posse riding hero in her own right.

So why couldn't they have done the same thing with Wounded Bird?
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Rango Funny, Racist and Gil Birmingham in Rango.


Rob said...

dmarks said...

"Then again, the bad pun where Rango refers to Wounded Bird's 'ingenuity' only to say 'no pun intended' put a bad taste in my mouth."

Might have been better if Rango had just said "Indianuity" and left it at that?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, um, portraying Indians as animals has a bad history. Granted, for a funny animal story, it might work (Maus portrays Jews as mice, after all), but the pun "injunuity" is stupid. Would I tell a black man who saves all his money that I'm glad he's so niggardly? I don't think so.

Jaine said...

Rob said
"but the pun "injunuity" is stupid."

It is stupid and you have to be American, I think, to get it.
I was trying to figure out the pun with ingenuity as I didn't see it. I think you need be raised hearing such slurs to see or hear them automatically.

dmarks said...

Are you deleting comments again Rob?

Jaine said:

"I was trying to figure out the pun with ingenuity as I didn't see it. I think you need be raised hearing such slurs to see or hear them automatically."

Unfortunately, they are being perpetuated by those who really should know better. Such as those involved with "Reel Injun".

Rob said...

No, I'm not deleting comments at the moment, DMarks. I had to repost this item for technical reasons. When I did, I also reposted the only two comments that were there at the time.

I didn't say "injunuity" was stupid in this posting, Jaine. Stephen Bridenstine said it put a bad taste in his mouth. That was "our" only comment on the pun.

For more on this particular subject, see Injunuity Showcases Ingenuity.

Rob said...

Apparently Rango only alluded to the word "Injun." It didn't actually use it. So we're talking about an implied slur, not an actual one.

The people behind Rango, Reel Injun, and Injunuity are all trying to be clever or ironic with their use of "Injun." I'd cut them a little slack for that reason. Unlike some people--e.g., Michael Steele--they aren't using the word because they're ignorant about it.

Jaine said...

Burt said...
"I didn't say "injunuity" was stupid in this posting, Jaine."

No you didn't Rob - I was agreeing with Anonymous (not that I consider Maus a funny story) but I agree on the stupidity of this pun.

Natasha said...

"Big in Finland", huh. In-universe, or in real life? Just interested since I myself am from Finland and I do like Wounded Bird quite much.

dmarks said...

I'd give Steele more slack for being ignorant about a slur, compared to those who know about it, and use it.