May 05, 2015

Natives to Hollywood: Stop stereotyping

People are still criticizing Adam Sandler for his racist Ridiculous 6 movie:

Adam Sandler, You Don’t Represent Me

By Amalia RubinOne would hope that you, Mr. Sandler, would realize how important it is as a Jew, especially as a Jew in public, to recognize that the struggles and horrors our people have suffered should inspire solidarity with others who faced and continue to face the same. From the unspeakable nightmares of genocide to the daily attacks of racism, what we have suffered has been suffered by innumerable others.

That is why your disgusting treatment of Native Americans in your upcoming Netflix film release The Ridiculous Six is so abhorrent. Like your fellow Jews, the indigenous people of America have suffered a massive genocide. Like your fellow Jews, they were demonized by the media and press. Even American children’s cartoons only a few years ago, like the ones published by Nazi Germany about Jews, showed Native Americans as barbarians who deserved to be killed. Like the Jewish boys kidnapped into the Czar’s armies, Native American children were forced away from their families into boarding schools where they were forcibly stripped of their cultures, faiths, and languages. And much the same as my father was beaten up as a kid for being a k***, native kids are attacked by fans at sports games, wearing fake head dresses, hooping and hollering “war chants,” dumping drinks on them, and calling them r*******. Like our Jewish grandmothers who were raped in the pogroms and shtetls of Europe with no legal recourse, Native American women are two and a half times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than your average American woman.

So for you to make a film where you hire native actors then mock them by promoting racist depictions: showing them as dirty and uncivilized, demeaning the women by giving them names like “no-bra” and “beaver breath,” mocking and profaning their ceremonies and cultures, is unforgivable. For you to still defend a project so offensive that a dozen Native American actors and cultural consultants walked off the set is a sign of either willful ignorance or overt racism. When we have fought to be depicted as something other than the hooked nose ganef and the miserly, conniving Shylock, you make a movie showing stereotyping Native Americans as “savages.” You, as an actor and a Jew, of all people, should understand. I stand with each and every actor that walked off the set that day. And as a Jew, Mr. Sandler, you should have too.
Racism hurts

They're pointing why the movie is harmful:

The Reason Adam Sandler’s Racist Depiction of Native American Women Matters

By Jacqueline KeelerThe promotion of these outdated stereotypes is particularly harmful considering a 2010 Department of Justice report that found Native American women have two and a half times the rate of rape and murder of any ethnic group of women in the country. And the report found that in nearly 70 percent of the assaults on Native women the assailants were white men. This is unusual as most women in the United States are assaulted by men of their own race/ethnicity. If it were not for the additional assaults by white men, Native women’s rates of murder and rape would be closer to average of other American women.

On many Native American reservations, gaps in jurisdiction mean no one is prosecuted for these assaults. A recent revision in the Violence Against Women’s Act (2013) expanded tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians for Domestic Violence offenses but the law is still only being implemented.

For many Native American women the question is not if, but when women in their family will be raped. Lisa Brunner, an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in her community, the White Earth Nation in Minnesota, told The Guardian, “I call it hunting—non-natives come here hunting. They know they can come onto our lands and rape us with impunity because they know that we can’t touch them.” Tragically, her teenaged daughter was also gang raped by four men from off the reservation before the new VAWA law was passed.

On her Facebook page, a former Miss Navajo Nation (and the first African-American/Navajo winner) wrote, “We have to control how we are satirized and make fun of ourselves. We need to stop allowing Hollywood to perpetuate unoriginal, antiquated, racist stereotypes that have long been used by media in general, or since the settlers first made contact with us … As for Netflix defending Adam Sandler and his movie, this shows that they themselves care little about being original or creative when it concerns Indigenous people.”

Native American Actors Work to Overcome a Long-Documented Bias

By Cara BuckleyThe walkout prompted a rhetorical “What do you expect from an Adam Sandler film?,” and a Netflix spokesman said that in the movie, blacks, Mexicans and whites were lampooned as well. But Native American actors and critics said a broader issue was at stake. While mainstream portrayals of native peoples have, Mr. Wente said, become “incrementally better” over the decades, he and others say, they remain far from accurate and reflect a lack of opportunities for Native American performers. What’s more, as Native Americans hunger for representation on screen, critics say the absence of three-dimensional portrayals has very real off-screen consequences.

“Our people are still healing from historical trauma,” said Loren Anthony, one of the actors who walked out. “Our youth are still trying to figure out who they are, where they fit in this society. Kids are killing themselves. They’re not proud of who they are.” They also don’t, he added, see themselves on prime time television or the big screen. Netflix noted while about five people walked off the “The Ridiculous Six” set, 100 or so Native American actors and extras stayed.

But in interviews, nearly a dozen Native American actors and film industry experts said that Mr. Sandler’s humor perpetuated decades-old negative stereotypes. Mr. Anthony said such depictions helped feed the despondency many Native Americans feel, with deadly results: Native Americans have the highest suicide rate out of all the country’s ethnicities.

The on-screen problem is twofold, Mr. Anthony and others said: There’s a paucity of roles for Native Americans—according to the Screen Actors Guild in 2008 they accounted for 0.3 percent of all on-screen parts (those figures have yet to be updated), compared to about 2 percent of the general population—and Native American actors are often perceived in a narrow way.
Stop the stereotyping

And they're demanding that Hollywood change:

How do we stop misrepresenting First Nations culture? Just ask

Television shows and movies are the biggest culprits

By Don Marks
Perhaps these people believe in the old adage, "There's no such thing as bad publicity"—if the controversy draws attention to your product or event, you get free "advertising."

Then there could be those who are simply arrogant enough to think they are above the fray; they believe they can brush off the critics by saying they are "too sensitive."

And then there are those who are naive enough to think they can convince First Nations they meant no harm and/or the image is actually good for them.

So what can we do to prevent this calamity from creeping up time and again? Ask First Nations people what they think about the appropriateness of the action you are planning beforehand.

And take the time to listen to and understand the concerns First Nations are raising. Perhaps there is a way to compromise and work together for the common good.

A turning point for Native Americans in Tinseltown?

By Esther CepedaSo far, Rolling Stone reports, a producer promised the cast that a disclaimer at the end of the movie would reiterate that Sandler's movie is not an accurate portrayal of Native American culture.

Understatement of the year.

The truth is that the 500-nation Native American culture is richly diverse--with different regional customs and beliefs--and will never be accurately portrayed in the media until Native Americans are integral parts of the production and creative teams that tell stories about individuals, not a monolithic Indian people.

There will probably always be ridiculous portrayals of Native American culture in entertainment, but for some, this felt like a precedent.

Maybe this headline-grabbing Native American uprising will end up making filmmakers think twice next time--even for a fleeting moment. Or maybe inspire more Native American actors to bypass Hollywood and start creating and promoting their own authentic content.

This would be, at least, a start.
Listen Up Hollywood: It’s Time To Let Native Americans Tell ‘Our Own Stories In Our Own Words’

"I would love as a Native actress to be able to go out and audition for the lead in a superhero film."

Comment:  For more on Adam Sandler, see Ricky Lee Defends Ridiculous 6 and Adam Sandler's History of Racism.

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