December 26, 2012

Depp "too pretty" to play Natives?!

A question posted on a comics forum:

Native American Comic Book WritersHey guys,

I'm writing a paper on Native Americans in comic books, and was wondering if you would be able to provide some writers or popular books that I should look into.

I'm checking out Scalped, and plan on going into a little bit about Thunderbird, Forge, and Warpath from the X-Men, but could use a few more examples to work with. A guy at my LCS mentioned an old Alan Moore Swamp Thing issue, but he didn't know which issue or anything.

If there are any Native American writers you know off hand, I'd love to take a look at their stuff, or if you just know of any particular storylines or issues that deal with Natives, whether the representation is layered or stereotypical, it would help me out a lot to hear some suggestions!!

I found CBR's feature on Native Americans in comic books which is helpful, and I'm aware of Sheyahshes's book as well.

Thanks for any help!
I suspect he's talking about SWAMP THING #86.

Some answers:Tim Truman's Scout starred a Native American, but it was a post-apocalypse story.

Arigon Starr's got Super Indian, over here.

And, my friend and yours, the awesome Steve Judd does comics stuff, including parodies of established characters and some whole-cloth stuff.

Be aware Scalped doesn't resemble the region it takes place in (fictionalized as it is, but it is meant to remind us of Rosebud/Pine Ridge and if you've been there, that ain't it) despite its other qualities; it's not a (particularly sound) ethnography by any stretch. The rez in Batman Inc. may be the most accurate I've seen in a mainstream comic, really, outside of the previous time(s) Morrison wrote about reservations (The Invisibles comes to mind, which also had indigenous-to-the-Americas and Brazilian national Lord Fanny as a major character).

And, because Jack Kirby is that damned awesome, his Wyatt Wingfoot in early Fantastic Four is probably the first Native character to be treated like a genuine, normal, intelligent and contemporary human being.

Stumptown has a lot of Native American characters. The first volume revolves around them. I haven't read the second or third issues of the second volume yet but it looks like the tribe may play a big role with the plot again.

Blue Corn Comics is a thing, but it's fronted by a purely white guy who's secondary career is playing identity police and having fits when anyone's too pretty to be really Indian in his eyes. Some of the past and present staff are Native/Native-descent, though.
Huh? I'm not even sure what this refers to.

Does it refer to my criticism of actors like Johnny Depp, Taylor Lautner, and Brandon Routh who claim to be Native but aren't? Anyone who thinks this is because of their looks is a blithering idiot. Find a posting where I said Depp and company were "too pretty" to be Indians. Hope you don't mind growing old while you comb through my 12,000 postings for this, because it doesn't exist.

And what's the corollary to this? That I think Indians have to look ugly? That actors like Wes Studi, Irene Bedard, and Adam Beach are (un)attractive enough to play Indians, but not attractive enough to play other roles? How stupid can you get?

My primary objection to Depp and company is that they're not Indians. They don't have the blood or the culture that would make them acceptable in Native roles. This has nothing to do with their looks, and you're again a blithering idiot if you think otherwise.

The only thing I've said about looks is that the ideal is to match a full-blooded actor to a full-blooded character. A half-blooded actor to a half-blooded character. And so forth. This applies to whites, blacks, Asians, and other ethnic groups as well as Indians. Hence my occasional comment that Johnny Depp can play Tonto when Denzel Washington plays JFK or Adam Beach plays Superman.

Again, that's not saying that Depp and company are "too pretty" for a Native role. It's saying that full-blooded Indians have a characteristic look that it would be nice to match. Same with blacks, Asians, and the others, which is why we don't use white actors for these roles if we can avoid it. And why we complain when Hollywood gives us an obvious mismatch. Every group deserves to be represented by one of their own, especially if Hollywood has rendered them invisible.

Rob's career = identity police?

So far I've mentioned Depp in about 60 of my 12,000 postings. That's about one half of 1% of the time. In other words, I've spent about as much time on Depp as anyone who reports on Native issues. If one of every 200 postings means I'm "focusing" on Depp and related actors, I plead guilty.

In other words, if that's my "secondary career," how would you rank creating comics, working at, writing articles, create a website, blogging, Facebooking, tweeting, etc.? Not to mention posting about Adam Beach, alcohol, Amazon Indians, Apache, apologies, archaeology, and art, all of which I've done more than Depp. (And that's only the A's.) How many careers can you find between primary and "secondary"?

Sheesh. People who are ignorant of my work really shouldn't comment on it, should they? No, they shouldn't.

For more on casting issues, see Native Beauty = White and Thin? and Revolution and TV Diversity.

Below:  Too pretty to play Natives? No, the wrong race, dumbass.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You could say Johnny Depp's too pretty to play a real human being.

The crow headdress still looks stupid.

On Scalped, I think it's because Pine Ridge, Rosebud, lots of political issues there.

Hey, with Adam Beach playing Superman, he is Canadian, so you've still got Siegel's vision of "showing what an immigrant can do", in an odd sort of way.