June 04, 2008

Apache Chief in Harvey Birdman

The "Very Personal Injury" episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, featured Apache Chief of the Super Friends. This episode helped to humanize Apache Chief but didn't eliminate his stereotypical traits. Here's a synopsis:Apache Chief, the Native American former Superfriend who has the power to grow to large sizes, saves the city from a large meteor. Afterwards, he heads into Javalux for a cup of coffee; as he searches for some cash, he accidentally spills the hot coffee on his lap.

He goes to see Harvey, shrinking in fear when Harvey offers him a hot drink. Apache Chief explains to Harvey what happened, and how he has now lost his ability to enlarge. They go to court to sue the Javalux company, the other attorney being the paranoid Reducto.

Harvey brings to the witness stand some more obscure super heroes. First he speaks with Black Vulcan, whose power is "pure electricity... in [his] pants," and talks to him about how devastating a lack of powers can be. Harvey continues with Zan of the Wonder Twins, who explains why other heroes couldn't come to the aid of the city. Finally, he calls Apache Chief, and shows slides of the once proud Chief's powers.

At The Birdcage, Reducto suggest settling, but Birdman says it's not about the money, and how Apache Chief just wants to be recognized. He says that if Apache Chief felt appreciated, the case would likely go away. This causes Reducto to adopt his "scheming face" and begin scheming.

Back at court, Reducto calls the manager of the Javalux shop, a young attractive woman named Sybil Shussler. Under questioning, she says that what's happened to Apache Chief was wrong. She speaks out about Apache Chief's heroism and benefit to society, while becoming increasingly Indian-looking in dress every time the camera comes back to her. Suddenly, Apache Chief grows to fill the courtroom. Mightor dismisses the case, saying, "Chief got his teepee back."

In the end, Apache Chief and a group of other minor heroes (as well as Jesse Jackson) have decided to form the "Multi-Culture Pals." Apache Chief has also gained the love of Sybil Shussler, who kisses him, causing him to grow a foot, blushing. Everyone laughs.
Comment:  So Apache Chief drank coffee, became impotent, and filed a lawsuit. These are all things that set him apart from the traditional Indian character. But he still spoke, dressed, and acted the same. The show could've updated him, mocking the previous stereotypes, but it didn't. It perpetuated the stereotypes while it purported to satirize them.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

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