Comics You Should Own–Scalped
By Greg Burgas
This grand plot led people to describe Scalped as “The Sopranos on the rez,” which is an unfortunate and largely incorrect description. People are often desperate to fit something new into a familiar category, so they have to break out the comparisons. Yes, Scalped is a crime-noir title, but the FBI’s case against Red Crow and Dash’s attempts to build it are by far the least interesting aspects of the book. This is partly because Aaron doesn’t do enough with Dash himself, so it’s tough to care too much whether he succeeds or doesn’t. Dash careens from mishap to mishap, many of them ridden with clichés. He gets involved with Carol, Red Crow’s daughter, with whom he was in love when they were both young teens. Carol’s story, for a long time, is itself drenched in stereotypes, and when Aaron focuses on their dysfunctional relationship, Scalped is at its worst.
Which means the feds would intervene and shut the casino down. Casinos don't operate unless the feds are certain they and their management are completely aboveboard. There are hundreds of Indian casinos and not one has been revealed to be a criminal enterprise.
If someone did have as much power as Red Crow, I'm confident the tribe would oust him and the FBI would arrest him--quickly. So an evil empire of this type is essentially impossible. Yet that seems to be the premise of the whole series: criminality far beyond anything possible in real life.
Where are the National Indian Gaming Commission and the tribe's own casino regulators? The internal and external media--such as the NY Times, ABC News, and the Oprah Winfrey Network, who all reported on Pine Ridge recently? The nonprofits, documentarians, even tourists who visit and share what they see? The activists on Facebook and Twitter who protest rez-based conditions? (You and Aaron do realize that most Indians have computers, I trust?)
I don't see any of this reflected in the Scalped I read--or in your review. The whole environment seems like a dark, isolated den of iniquity with no hint of how modern or sophisticated most Indians are. In other words, no matter how good the individual characters are, the series' vision of Native life seems cramped and ugly--i.e., stereotypical. That's my main criticism and I'm sticking with it for now.
P.S. Apologies for the links on my website not working. I've got literally thousands of pages and no time to update any of them. I need worker bees to help me, dammit!
Commenter seeks butt-kicking
Then there's this commenter on Greg's review:
December 2, 2013 at 11:29 am
Going by the review at the linked site, Rob is an absolutely terrible reviewer and shows very little aptitude for being able to read and comprehend a work. His childish responses are so ignorant it’s almost shocking. Obviously it’s one thing to like or dislike something, but his analysis of the first issue doesn’t seem to grasp the idea of fiction — it’s as if he’d watch Casablanca and think it claimed everyone in Morocco spent all their time in a bar, or read The Great Gatsby and think it claimed everybody in the New York area was spent their wealth excessively.
Ever hear of Birth of a Nation, Amos 'n' Andy, Song of the South, Mandingo, etc.? You seem blissfully unaware that works of fiction can be flawed to the point of prejudice. "Art" isn't a magic label that absolves someone's work of racism, sexism, or any other -ism I could name. Something can be artistic or stereotypical or both.
You can say Aaron's depiction of rez life is unrealistic, fictional, fanciful, or whatever word you want. I say it's unrealistic, fictional, or fanciful in ways that are stereotypical if not racist. I'm not disagreeing with you, I'm just thinking more deeply about the subject than you are. I'm assessing the fiction, not merely acknowledging it like a baby waving at his mommy.
If you disagree, you must prove there are no stereotypes and Aaron's depiction is more or less fair and accurate. So go ahead and do it. Put up or shut up.
Here, I'll make simple for you. Aaron's depiction of rez life is (choose one):
2) Fictional with racist stereotypes.
3) Fictional without racist stereotypes.
You stupidly think that *I* think it's 1). Wrong. I think it's 2). And you apparently think it's 3), since you've disagreed with me. So explain your position, if you're not too afraid. How is Aaron's Scalped a stereotype-free depiction of rez life?
As for the rest of my review, be sure to let us know when you can quote anything that isn't true. With your fact-free criticism of my criticism, you haven't done it yet.
For more on Scalped, see "Native Spiritual Adviser" Warns Rob and Aaron on Ending Scalped.
Below: Near-naked strippers, including one in a headdress, at a casino opening? Has Jason Aaron ever set foot in an Indian casino? Because this scene of debauchery would be unrealistic in Las Vegas, much less a regional Indian casino.
Depicting a girl in a headdress (right edge) is telling by itself. This isn't an "artistic choice" that contributes to Aaron's noir themes. It's pure racist stereotyping, nothing more. It's an insult to every Plains chief who earned his feathers through acts of valor.