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?
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.