March 06, 2013

Totally Biased comedian on Indians

Comedian W. Kamau Bell Discusses Natives in Entertainment and 'Totally Biased'

By Vincent SchillingComedian W. Kamau Bell, host of Totally Biased, a politically-charged weekly show on the FX Network executive-produced by Chris Rock, had the best of intentions in the days leading up to the Presidential Inauguration. Bell had made arrangements to bring the Totally Biased crew to film a segment at the American Indian Society's Inaugural Ball--but as things happen sometimes in the television world, Bell and company's commitments earlier in the day ran long and they were not able to make it as a film crew. But in an act of admirable courtesy, Bell and several of his colleagues traveled to the AIS Ball to apologize in person.

In radio interview with Bell on Native Trailblazers, hosted by Vincent Schilling and in another follow-up interview, Bell discussed his thoughts on Native Americans and minorities in the film and TV industry and what it takes to make it as a person of color.

Why do you think society does not give much attention to Native American people?

I think America loves a far-off magical story. For example, every few months there is some sort of tragedy around the world and we all love to look to the newest, greatest, latest tragedy. Tragedy tourism is a big part of being an American. "Oh, something happened in Haiti? Let me get out my cell phone and donate $10. Ok I'm done with Haiti. Oh, there is a tsunami in Japan? I got it; I got $10 for that too." That texting thing made it even easier to pretend like you care.

What do you think about minorities as role models or heroes?

With Native people I feel like we skipped over them, at least in the entertainment industry. Even now you have South Asians are getting doors opened for them a little bit, and 10 years ago all of the Latino people were on TV like Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin and George Lopez. But hey, what about the people who were here when we all got here? When are they going to get a TV show?

Until you get some success in the mainstream, where are you going to find the heroes? For me, I liked Superman because at least he had brown hair. Native American super heroes are always tied to earthly elements. Why does he always have to hang with the Wolf? And usually their powers are not in any way relevant to any sort of real history or culture.

The black superhero was the Falcon, what was his power? He was good with birds. He talked to birds, he could fly--but flying is your low-level superpower. Being good with birds will really help him when he gets attacked by a giant monster. Even Aquaman looked down on that dude.
Comment:  For more on TV's portrayal of Indians, see How John Redcorn Evolved and Stereotyping Explained to South Park Apologists.

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