November 24, 2011

Addams Family Values Thanksgiving

Comment:  This is a timely reminder of the stereotypes inherent in our semi-fictional Thanksgiving celebration.

The scene is an outdoors Thanksgiving pageant. A white "Pilgrim" woman introduces the arriving Indians as "Chippewas" and makes condescending remarks about them. I guess the tone is comedic enough to signal that her remarks are facetious, but it's a close call. I bet a lot of people, especially children, viewed this scene uncritically.

Several faux Indians--a Plains chief, braves, and a maiden--arrive for the celebratory feast. The girl calls herself Pocahontas, though Pocahontas had nothing to do with the Pilgrims. Perhaps she was the inspiration for Bedlam's "PocaHotAss" party.

Then "Pocahontas" denounces the Pilgrims for stealing Indian land and the scenario shifts. The Indians transform from primitive children into bloodthirsty savages. They shoot arrows, burn down the village, and--in the worst case--roast two captives on a spit over a fire. The clear implication is that they're cannibals who plan to eat the Pilgrims.

In case you don't get the message, a montage helpfully compares the Indians to brutal killers--e.g., Rambo and the Terminator--from other movies. Included in the montage are vicious attack dogs. Yes, the Indians act like a wild pack of dogs.

About the only time they act like genuine human beings is when "Pocahontas" first speaks up. In the real world, that's when Indians began negotiating complex diplomatic solutions--peace treaties--to protect their lives and cultures. In the movie, they go on a rampage. Because that's how America views Indians--as brutes and barbarians who can't think or act like civilized Europeans.

For more on the subject, see Robotic's "Pilgrims & Indians Theme Party" and Thanksgiving Pageant in New Girl.


Dale Sams said...

Uhm...the actual scene from the movie is a stinging rebuke of traditional Thanksgiving trappings held by white people. It's hilarious, well-done, and the clip is trotted out evey year for FB and other social media by Native Americans and those very sympathetic to their marginilazation.

Anonymous said...

What he said!

Anonymous said...

IIRC, she says _tribe name_ (I think Chippewa.) means "orphan", which is a bit inaccurate on two levels.

Wednesday is the type of person to do such a thing, though. First off because, you know, it's the Addamses. She also struck me as the smart one of the Addams clan.

An episode of King of the Hill had John Redcorn explaining Thanksgiving to Bobby. Then Bobby did a tribute to the Anasazi, and...cannibalism.

Anonymous said...

Rob, that montage was clearly not part of the actual movie scene. You might want to base your comments on actual movie scenes and not poorly-done youtube mash-ups if you don't want to look like a dumb-ass.

Kari said...

I loved this scene as a child and still do now. With all the crap I went through, I saw this and finally felt vindicated. I felt like for once, a non-Native understood.

Rob said...

Engaging in wanton destruction and implied cannibalism isn't exactly an intelligent critique of Thanksgiving, Dale.

I'm critiquing this video more than the movie, Anonymous #3. So it doesn't matter whether the Rambo and Terminator scenes are in the movie or not.

P.S. I think I've critiqued all the King of Hill episodes about Indians in The Best (Only) Native Character and related links.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the intent of the Youtube video was, but having seen Addams Family Values (along with the first movie) I will give my opinion on the original scene: The girl playing Sarah Miller (the one making the condescending remarks) is an antagonist in the movie, the script for the fictional thanksgiving play was written by the camp counselors who were the main antagonists for the "summer camp" part of the movie. Wednesday Addams goes off script partway through the play, with her monologue about First Nations people being mistreated. The part with the "Chippewas" attacking was also planned by Wednesday. The monologue, and the attack by Wednesday and her friends, is a reflection of Wednesday’s hatred of the antagonists. Within the context of the movie, I think the scene makes a clear statement, but I think that statement is less "Let's stand up against racism!", and more "Mainstream society really sucks, doesn't it?!".