February 05, 2014

Indiana Jones in Saturday Night Live

After much controversy, Saturday Night Live hired Sasheer Zamata, its first black woman in years. She made her first appearance January 18, 2014.

Somewhat ironically, the same show featured a somewhat racist skit, described thusly:Audience member Rahat gets confused after being invited on stage for the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular.

Rahat was supposed to be some sort of ethnic person, probably Middle Eastern. She wasn't just "confused after being invited on stage." She was apparently confused by everything. She had no idea what an amusement park show was despite being at an amusement park.

That alone is arguably racist. But then SNL inserted Rahat into the most racist aspects of the Indiana Jones movies.

Drake played the tour guide who introduced the Indiana Jones scene. He described it as a "forbidden temple" with a "priceless ancient artifact." Okay so far.

Then Kenan Thompson appeared in a grass skirt as a witch doctor or some other primitive savage. At least Drake called him a "native" rather than a "savage." And Rahat's reaction was to hug him and say "my friend." But still, SNL was repeating the worst stereotypes: Indians as lost races with hidden treasures that they'll protect with unholy violence. As if the problem is their defense of their religion and not the white man's destruction of it.

It got worse when Drake tried to get Rahat to grab the artifact. Instead she bowed down and prayed to it. So she's so ignorant that she doesn't have her own religion and meekly adopts whatever's presented to her. And her idea of Native religion, which is also the show's idea, is nothing more than idol worship.

Finally, two "evil temple guards" appear. They seem to be turbaned South Asian Indians from The Temple of Doom. No one informs us that these particular Indians were members of a death cult and thus extremely atypical. The message is that all "foreigners"--Rahat, the native, and the guards--are strange, exotic, and ignorant or evil.

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