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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Analysis of this cartoon (click to see the complete Sunday cartoon):

  • Tipis: Used by Plains Indians. A stereotype, but not a problem by themselves.
  • Indian in a blanket: Typically a Plains Indian. A stereotype, but not a problem by itself. Goes with the tipi—so far, so good.

  • Indian with bow-and-arrow: The headband and vest look suggests an Apache Indian. Apache and Plains Indians normally didn't mix, being a thousand or so miles apart. Apaches typically used rifles, not bow-and-arrows.
  • Face paint: Another stereotype. Indians usually wore face paint for a specific purpose, and the designs and images had specific symbolic meanings. The paint wasn't something worn as a mere decoration, like jewelry.
  • The chief: The idea of a chief and his eligible daughter is a classic stereotype from countless movies and romance novels. Are there no eligible women in any tribe except the chief's daughter? Is no chief's daughter ever to make her own decision without her father giving her "hand" in marriage?

  • The contest: The idea of an archery contest to determine who the daughter marries is another stereotype—one that casts the Native people as primitive. Real people don't give away daughters in contests; only savages who don't value life would do that. In reality, most Indian women got married the way most traditional people get married: through complex courtship rituals, not some simple-Simon contest.
  • The meta-point: No cartoonist in memory has depicted indigenous cultures from centuries ago—except in the case of Indians (and cannibals with white men in a boiling pot). There are few or no depictions of Zulu warriors, Japanese samurai, English peasants, or Australian aborigines.
  • I suspect a Zulu cartoon would come off as stereotypical, implying Africans are more primitive than they really are. I suspect that's why cartoonists avoid such historical subjects. The question is why centuries-old Native cultures are still fair game. The implication is that Indians are past, not present—that no one will care if a cartoonist fictionalizes their history because no one is alive to care. That's not true, of course.

    Another Herman cartoon appeared in this contest back in April. Looks like Herman has done it again.

    Related links
    Native comic strips vs. comic books
    Tipis, feather bonnets, and other Native American stereotypes

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    Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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