October 13, 2015

"Drug-addicted Eskimo" in Castle

This week's episode of Castle, titled What Lies Beneath, had a Native bit. Here's a recap:

'Castle' Recap: Beckett Gets Closer to the Truth

The victim was supposedly PJ Moffett, a reclusive writer a la JD Salinger or Harper Lee. He'd written exactly one classic novel a la Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird. Moffett's masterpiece, a favorite of Castle's was titled The Butcherbird's Song.

Castle noted how Moffett was known for going undercover to do extensive research on his subjects. For The Butcherbird's Song, says Castle, "He spent seven years as a drug-addicted Eskimo."

Wow. Let's count the number of ways this single line is wrong.

1) There's little or no chance of a white man like Moffett passing as an "Eskimo." Forget about seven years. After seven days, people would start asking him where he was born, who his family was, etc.

2) If Moffett had spent seven years in an Arctic culture, he would've called it by its Native name--e.g., Inuit, Yup'ik, or IƱupiat. He would not have used the generic and sometimes pejorative term "Eskimo."

3) The butcherbird is native to Australia. The odds of an Arctic Native having a connection to an Australian bird are vanishingly small.

4) The concept of a "drug-addicted Eskimo" is stereotypical, of course. It may be true-to-life, since many "Eskimos" have substance abuse problems. But Castle uses the phrase without an explanation--e.g.,"an Eskimo addicted to drugs because of his tragic upbringing." Offering nothing but the stereotype only reinforces the stereotype.

What Lies Beneath was an average episode and the Eskimo reference didn't change that. It's just funny how Castle tries to get it right but fails much of the time. Give it one point for a Native reference but take away the point for making the reference stereotypical.

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