Monday, May 16, 2005

Uncle Walt's Wild Ride

Bitch, PhD has a great post up about the upcoming sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean. Well, less about the movie than trying to raise a child free of institutionalized racism. Which is great. For quite some time I've thought that Disney is one of the most pernicious influences on American culture, even before they started shoveling crap like Pocahontas or PoC. I'm certain this will garner from Disney the pat response "It's just entertainment, not history, and should not be taken as such."

One problem with attitudes like this is that, unlike Professor B, many (if not most) Americans lack even a single Indian acquaintance to serve as a counterpoint to the caricatures which are the standard for Indian characters in American film. And television. And literature. Most of what passes for knowledge of Indians by the average American is gained through pop culture, and pop culture imagery has been controlled by whites with little or no input from Indians.

Which leads me to another point: there are over 500 extant tribes in the United States alone. We're not a homogenous group. On an objective level, how the Carib are portrayed in a film should affect me about as much as how Germans are portrayed affects Canadians. I'm more or less compelled to take an active interest in what's going on in this film because The Man lumps all tribes together into one featureless ball. It's the Carib this time, at others it has been Apaches, but the underlying problems remain the same (except it has become pc to hire Indians to portray Indians, rather than using whites wearing makeup).

Indians are a very, very small minority in this country, it would be nice if something approaching dialogue were to occur on subjects like this, but I frankly don't see that happening until it becomes a money issue for studios/football teams/assholes. If you go see it, I hope you're plagued with racial guilt (sorry, professor). If you are plagued with guilt, go buy a t-shirt to atone for your sins. The proceeds go to scholarships for Indian kids, the poorest and most undereducated in this country. And they're funny. The t-shirts, although the kids are a hoot as well.