November 23, 2011

"Multi-ethnic" Jones on Twilight

Julia Jones:  “It’s very exciting for us to have a contemporary Native American culture be portrayed in ‘Twilight’”

By Brandy“I’m very proud to play a Quileute; the tribe is incredible. I’ve been there to the reservation,” she said during the recent press day for “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 1” at the tony Four Seasons Hotel.

“I think it’s very exciting for us to have a contemporary Native American culture be portrayed in the ‘Twilight’ movies. I think it’s done amazing things.”
And:“I’m part Chickasaw and Choctaw, but I’m a multi-ethic person. That’s just a part of my identity. I’ve been playing Native roles for a long time, a very long time. And it (‘Twilight’) has been a really rewarding experience in a lot of ways, because there’s a lot to show. It’s an opportunity to portray a group of people who are not portrayed very frequently and very accurately at all in the media. And I cherish that. I think that there should be more roles for Native actors in contemporary pieces, and it’s an important part of who I am,” she said.

“That’s the beauty of these characters who happen to be Native American. These characters are so multi-layered and multi-dimensional, it’s about their struggle and it’s about who they are as people and their essence, as opposed to primarily falling into these stereotypes of what people think Native Americans are. And that really hasn’t been done very much.”

She doesn’t think it’s fair to say that mainstream movie-goers are only interested in American Indian characters if they are supernatural heroes.

“They haven’t had enough exposure to Native American characters to say ‘I’m only interested if they change into wolves,’ and I think that’s too bad,” she said. “I think there are wonderful stories, and it’s an incredibly important part of our history as a country. And they’re just not told because there’s so little presence in mainstream America.”
Comment:  A few things here:

  • One, The Twilight Saga barely presents any "contemporary Native American culture." The movies have given us a clan of werewolves who tell stories around a campfire. Stories that are fabrications of Quileute history and culture with hardly an ounce of truth.

  • From what I've seen and read, the werewolves don't do much except rush to Jacob's defense and attack vampires. Do the movies show anything of the Quileutes' government, business, education, social programs, or religion that isn't fabricated? Not that I'm aware of.

  • Two, her last statement contradicts her first one. The contemporary portrayals in the Twilight movies have done "amazing things"...but movie-goers are interested only in supernatural Natives because they haven't seen anything else. So the "amazing things" apparently don't include changing anyone's perceptions of Indians.

  • That's because the Twilight movies have reiterated decades of Indians stereotyped as magical shamans and shapeshifters. And more subtly, decades of Indians as secondary characters and sidekicks--antagonists rather than protagonists. If you're looking for a movie that stars Indians and portrays them as real human beings, try Dances with Wolves or Smoke Signals. Because the Twilight Saga isn't it.

    Who's an Indian, again

  • Three, note that Jones correctly refers to herself as "multi-ethnic," not Native. Which she's done in at least one other interview. But then she tries to fudge the issue by talking as if she's a Native actress.

  • Unless I'm mistaken, Jones is only a tiny bit Chickasaw and Choctaw. That puts her in the same position as everyone else I've criticized. Twilight's non-Native actors:Taylor Lautner, Julia Jones, Boo Boo StewartOther non-Native actors--e.g.,Johnny Depp, Brandon Routh, Lynn CollinsOther non-Native singers, models, and starlets--e.g.,Miley Cyrus, Jessica Simpson, the KardashiansFor new readers, I'll repeat the criteria I outlined in "Actual Indian" Defined. You're an Indian if:

    1) You're enrolled in a federally recognized tribe. That trumps any amount of "Indian blood" you may have. Indeed, a tribe may enroll someone who's pure white or black by "blood."

    2) You have a significant amount of "Indian blood"--at least 1/4 and preferably 1/2 or more. Which happens to be the minimum amount required by most tribes. When you get down to the Johnny Depp level--1/8 or less--you're talking about a single great-grandparent who probably had no influence on your life. That makes you a non-Indian with a small amount of Indian blood, not an Indian.

    3) You grew up or live in a Native community that accepts you as one of their own. I'm talking about a real Native town, village, or reservation, not a made-up community such as "Hollywood Indians in Los Angeles." A place where you've learned enough of the culture and history to fit in with the others.

    As far as I know, everyone listed above fails these tests, including Jones. Therefore, I consider them all non-Indians with a small amount of Indian blood, not Indians. When I say I want Native actors in Native roles, I mean people who meet these criteria, not people like Depp, Lautner, or Jones.

    For more on Breaking Dawn, see Gyasi Ross on Breaking Dawn and Truth vs. Twilight.


    Anonymous said...

    Unless I'm mistaken, Jones is only a tiny bit Chickasaw and Choctaw.

    I'm not sure anything in these quotes gives any indication that her Native ancestry is miniscule? "Part Chickasaw and Choctaw" can mean anything from 1/2 to, say, 1/32. All I can find online is that her ancestry is English on her mother's side, and Choctaw, Chickasaw and African American on her father's. Here's what Jones had to say about her ancestry: “My dad is part Choctaw, Chickasaw and African American. I didn’t realize the significance of not being white until I moved to LA.” Hmmm.

    Going by looks is a bit crude, I know, but Jones's phenotype looks substantially Native American to me. I have to admit that, on that basis, it would surprise me if she's less than 1/4 Native American. Of course, looks aren't everything, and if the argument here is that she's not culturally Native, I understand that (I think I remember reading she was brought up by her English-descent mother). I guess I just never thought of her casting as being in the same category as Johnny Depp or Taylor Lautner, or her on-screen brother "BooBoo".

    And, while I'm the first to protest Johnny Depp trying to present himself as Native, if merely being "multi-ethnic" disqualifies you from being Native, then, going by the statistics, in a few generations there won't be any Natives left.

    Anonymous said...

    "That's the beauty of these characters who happen to be Native American. These characters are so multi-layered and multi-dimensional, it's about their struggle and it's about who they are as people and their essence, as opposed to primarily falling into these stereotypes of what people think Native Americans are. And that really hasn't been done very much."


    Last I checked, in the movies, Jacob's the only Indian (except that Lautner isn't) who has many lines. Also, I didn't know the Indian struggle had anything to do with vampires. And of course, Twilight, like all Mary Sue fiction, is all about how the most important thing in life is to have a boyfriend.

    Anonymous said...

    Speaking of not growing up on or near a "rez" or village or group, that's the majority of ENROLLED Native Americans in the US! Thankfully "Brandy" is not judge and can't answer ignorance with ignorance and expect a good result. We are 1% of the US population, and 90+% did not grow up on or near a "rez" or village, and most, if they did, it was not their own tribe.

    Just take one fact for example, Native Americans serve in greater per capita numbers than any other ethnicity bar none (no close seccond) and have since before there was an official USA, THAT puts those service persons and their entire families, not just not on reservations or in Native communities, but on bases, and in other countries ALL OVER THE WORLD.

    So, by Brandy's standards, all service persons and especially their children, are not Native. And for the record, I'm enrolled, not that that's any of your business, but it's to preclude more ignorance of this type from being posted.

    Anonymous said...

    In other words, Brandy's test for Native ancestry (and blood is blood) is stating that the majority of Native Americans aren't Native, because they didn't grow up like she obviously did, and in an area like hers, wherever that is, and because of that, attempting to spread more division within our community, which is who does not learn from history repeats it, and the divide and "conquer" method, works nowhere in a more foul form, that from inside our own community.

    Obviously "Twilight" is completely gross to our community, but according to Brandy's standards, the characters in it, who she trashes (and rightly so) the characters that is, characters (not the Native and completely non-Native actors playing Natives) would be fully Native in her book. They fit all the criteria. But the majority of real life, modern Native Americans, don't. And yes, I know my culture, but that's not for you or anyone to judge either.

    By the way, you didn't include the old standby for these typically ridiculous who's Native and who's not "tests", works on, with and solely for their community and has no other "job". Again, not your business, but I do that too...and the majority of our good leaders and change makers, do also, and the majority of them, don't pass your little test either.

    P.S. Everyone missed the obvious, they only gave the truly "speaking roles" of Native Americans in this franchise, the ones with more than two lines, to non-Natives playing Natives, the Natives, including the extras, had to prove blood and enrollment. Yes, the extras were CARDED!

    As far as Julia Jones journey, that's between her and God, she's not enrolled, grew up in a city, and whether she is Native or not, we don't know. Yes, I know she's not enrolled, the five tribes, thanks to Andrew Jackson, have their Blood Quantum and Ancesters, names, numbers (yes, they were numbered, think the Holocaust) and plastered on the Dawes rolls.

    Did you also know that the majority of Federally Recognized Tribes (not the Five Tribes, that's part of our "agreement" with the US Federal Government) don't have blood quantum regulations or anything close to CDIB's (Certificates of Degree of Indian Blood)??? Most major casino tribes don't. The smaller ones can't because of the lack of a "paper" where is the awful discussion going???

    BQ and what we look like, the fight that will go away I hope...who knows...

    But calling out Julia Jones (who I don't know from a can of paint btw) aside from the publicity, never met her, just know she's not enrolled, for being contradictory, when you are doing the same...

    Maybe not the way to go?

    And yes, we all have to deal, if you're not an elder...there's no such thing, no matter what anyone says, of being 100% Native (in Blood Quantum) in 2011, there's maybe a 100-200 people who can really claim that...Tribes, certain ones especially, saying their 100% percent because they know their clans, but being enormously tall for their tribe's lineage, lighter skinned (we have an OZone layer problem now, we didn't pre contact) and having curly hair, or pardon me for being crude and crass here too, as with the previous commenter, to go on ones physical body types, larger than flat (think the Asian migration theory to go way back) not 100% "Native" now I've gone back there quite a bit, however, it's 2011, God, literally the Creator of all things knows if she's Native or not, and if your argument is, as you State, that she isn't (one of the reasons she isn't according to your blog) is because she contradicts herself on the issue, you also contradicted yourself on what you consider "facts" of "being native" as well, so...

    Anonymous said...

    I will give you one point Brandy, she is definitely not being forthcoming about how she really feels about being Native American, maybe she hasn't figured it out yet, because as she said, when she was growing up and where, she had the luxury of it not being an issue.

    Is she on a search or statement of declared ancestral claims here, confused or dodging, I don't know, but she is responding according the the "Twilight" franchise press code, she drank the "Twilight" Kool Aid.

    Should she have more backbone on it, maybe, I think so, but I'm not her, I'm not in her position, so I don't know, I'd fly my flag, but I can, unfortunately for me though, or fortunately actually, I don't appear to pass your test because of one thing, I didn't grow up in the prison camp that became the reservations in Oklahoma.

    Happy future blogging.

    Rob said...

    I'm going by what I've read elsewhere, Anonymous, not what was in this blog item. I'd be surprised if Jones were more than 1/8 or 1/16 Chickasaw and Choctaw. But I don't know for sure.

    Yes, part of the issue is that she's grown up culturally "white." I'm suspicious of people who "find" their Native sides only after it becomes convenient for job applications.

    I don't know why you're ragging on Brandy. Did she say anything about the criteria for who's an Indian in her posting? Most of the opinions expressed here are mine, not hers.

    I understand that most Indians are technically "multi-ethnic." The question is which ethnicity predominates biologically and culturally. In the people we usually consider Native, it's usually the Native side.

    If Jones and Depp were both 1/8 Native, wouldn't their situations be the same? I'd say yes. But Depp has more awareness of his Native roots than Jones seems to have. That would put him in a slightly better position.

    P.S. Where is this "awful discussion" going? I've tagged more than 150 items in Newspaper Rock with the identity keyword. The discussion is going where these postings say it's going. ;-)

    Anonymous said...

    well she identifies as being "multi-ethnic" and i can mostly see the native in her clear as day. I believe she has more native american in her than other actors who mention having native heritage. She has more native features than me and im a "full" native who identifies as one. I dont know, but since she itentifies as multi-ethnic i do not consider her native even though her features stand out soo much as native. I am of english heritage and have wavy hair and my eyes are not as almond as hers. I wonder how much native she has in her. I think maybe 1/4th to 1/6th or else it is distant but very visible.