September 26, 2015

Mike's Tribe in My Wife and Kids

I recently watched this old episode of a TV show:

My Wife and Kids: Season 3, Episode 14
Michael's Tribe (18 Dec. 2002)Michael (aka: Chief Bald Eagle) is recruited to camp out with Kady and her friends and teach them Native American lore. Meanwhile, Clare and "the new Tony" plan to stay out all night themselves: they're plotting to sneak out to a "rave."The Brady Braves blog ripped this episode apart:

My Wife and Kids "Michael's Tribe," Part IWhen he hears that his daughter’s “Indian” Princesses group will be camping at the house of a family he does not know, Michael demands that the camping be at his house. As he tells his wife Jay/Janet (portrayed by Tisha Campbell), “I’ll be the chief. I’ll watch the game and then I’ll go out there and play ‘Indian.’”And:As the rest of the episode unfolds, he shows that he is clueless about as well as racist towards Indigenous Peoples. The only clue he has is being well-versed in Hollywood “Injun” stereotypes, which suffices for the sitcom’s “Indian.”A typical example of the episode's racism:

"Michael's Tribe," Part IIMichael tells the Princesses of Claire’s plan and asks them to help make sure Claire stays “here in the village” (i.e., at home). Next, the Princesses prepare for what Bald Eagle labels as “war” while dancing senselessly and chanting “hi-ya uh-ya-ha hi-ya uh-ya-ha” with their chief. Chief Bald Eagle also leads the Princesses in a rendition of “the sacred song of our Indian People.” In unison, they sing “three little, two little, one little Indian” from the well-known Septimus Winner nineteenth-century minstrel song (and later nursery rhyme) “Ten Little Indians.”Comment:  I agree with these analyses. The episode actually was worse than the "Brady Braves" comments indicated.

Recall that this aired in 2002, or 12 years after Dances with Wolves in 1990. It's significantly worse than Running Zack in Saved by the Bell, which also aired in 1990. There's no excuse for this level of stereotyping appearing so recently.

Damon Wayans has a history of making racist and sexist comments. He was the executive producer of the show and co-wrote Mike's Tribe. There's no getting around it: Wayans is responsible for the episode's racism.

No comments: