November 19, 2012

Cigar-store Indian in The Mentalist

I noted the Native subplot in last week's episode of The Mentalist. In the following episode, Red Sails in the Sunset (airdate: 11/18/12), Patrick Jane stops at a souvenir shop in the California desert. We don't get to see any souvenirs, just drugstore-type goods. But it seems like the kind of shop that might have a cigar-store Indian.

And sure enough, it does. As Jane leaves the store, he passes a typical Plains chief carved in wood.

This stereotypical wooden Indian isn't all bad. It subtly reinforces the idea that the desert, like most of America, was formerly Indian land. Indians lived and prospered in the kind of environment we'd call "hostile."

I don't know if the writers called for a cigar-store Indian, or if the set designer included it as a whim. Either way, it shows a vague awareness of America's Native history. Combined with The Mentalist's other Native episodes, that's good. Even if the show doesn't always get it right, it's trying.

For more on The Mentalist, see Treaty Payments in The Mentalist and Maya Artifacts in The Mentalist.

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