August 18, 2008

Twilight's missed opportunity

Don’t Blame Taylor LautnerJacob is a Native American; a member of the Quileute tribe from northwest Washington.

Taylor Lautner, by contrast, is not Quileute. In fact, he’s not Navajo, Cree, Lakota, Cherokee, Mohawk, Seminole, or Ojibwa. He’s not Native at all (unless you consider his recent “discovery” of a long-ago Indian ancestor lurking in the family tree).

Yet the winsome 16-year-old from Holland is Hollywood’s idea of Quileute’s werewolf teen heartthrob. Look at it this way....Imagine casting Kate Bosworth as Celie in The Color Purple.

Outrageous? Offensive? Yup, on both counts, which is why the screaming silence from the self-appointed arbiters of the culturally correct is all the more...well...outrageous and offensive. And not at all new.

Native Americans have been minimalized, trivialized, co opted and appropriated for as long as there have been movies; burnished caricatures of the savage, Indian princess or mystic played by White folk speaking pidgin English. By today’s standards, the vision of Natalie Wood, Chuck Connors and Burt Lancaster in brown makeup and bad wigs might seem quaintly amusing. Think again.

It has been a hard, long slog for contemporary Natives to break free of these overtly racist stereotypes—which is why a major film like Twilight is such a prime opportunity to introduce the world to a contemporary Native who isn’t an alcoholic or New Age spiritualist.

The claim that no young Native actors have the qualifications to fill the role is nonsense. For starters, Nakotah Larance, who appeared in HBO’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and was a standout in Spielberg’s Into the West miniseries definitely has the resume and looks. Yet the six-time world champion hoop dancer was passed over as were other capable Native actors.

Too “Indian,” perhaps?
Comment:  If too Indian means not "hot" enough, I think Carole is on to something.

As I wrote to her, aren't I a self-appointed arbiter of the culturally correct? Haven't I done more than scream silently? <g>

For more on the subject, see Quileute Werewolves in Twilight.

Below:  So cute you just want to pinch his cheeks.


Anonymous said...

True, I find it offensive that Jacob isn't going to be played by an authentic Native American. My cousin would have played the role perfectly. But should we riot and protest Summit's casting? Am I more of a Twilight fan than a Native American? Just because you make it out to look offensive is it wrong for me to take Twilight's side? Not really, cause it's not offensive... If they made Taylor Lautner put on a headdress and dance around a fire, I would be pretty offended.. If Stephenie Meyer wrote Jacob's father Billy as an alcoholic I'm sure that couldn't be ignored. But all the little things you point out doesn't make any sense... The book isn't offensive. The movie isn't offensive. Give it up.

dmarks said...

Actually, the guy on the right in this picture is a lot closer to how I have imagined Jacob Black to look as I have read the books. Sometimes long hair like that, sometimes not, because it changes in the books.

Rob said...

Drew Quyatt of Peace Party is not a werewolf! ;-)

Give up my criticism, Real Fan? No. You give up your worthless comments.

Did you even read what Carole wrote? Well, read it again:

"Native Americans have been minimalized, trivialized, co opted and appropriated for as long as there have been movies."

Apparently you're unaware that Natives often question the casting decisions made in Hollywood. Are you telling them as well as me to stop protesting the inequity? Why should we? Because you said so?

Get serious. No one's going to stop protesting so you can live in a happy bubble world where racism doesn't exist and you can enjoy your fantasies without qualms. Stop excusing the people who have stereotyped your people as savages, devils, and beasts. And who have shut your people out of the creative jobs they deserve.

Anonymous said...

You are SO right. I live more or less in the area and I really think that the reason that they cast Taylor Lautner in the role is because actual members of the local tribes don't look enough like people's PERCEPTIONS of the tall, beautiful Native Americans Meyer wrote about. I, for one, am highly annoyed at the casting choice.

Anonymous said...

its a movie. Racism does suck, but to be honest he's a werewolf,and I'm pretty sure native americans are not werewolves so he is gonna look a bit different, if you want to be all technical. If they cast a white person as Jacob then I'd agree with the annoyance. In the book Jacob himself speaks out against racism, so get over it. it is a movie. Theres more important things in life.

Anonymous said...

Oh, please! Are you all insane? Why get all worked up about nothing? I am a HUGE Twilight fan. Twilight is a FICTIONAL book and that means that nothing in it has to be true. Do you see vampires running around in Washington? Unless your drunk or something, no! Saying that wrighting something in a book about a Quileute and changing it around is racist, is like saying that anyone with the last name Cullen is liable to sue Stephenie Meyer about being 'misunderstood' and called a vampire. Even if Meyer had ment to be racist toward the Quileutes, (which she didn't) don't you think she would have made it more obvious? Wouldn't she have made Jacob a gay or something? If she really disliked Native Americans she would have done something much more drastic than making up a couple legends. So just leave poor Stephenie alone!