Home | Contents | Photos | News | Reviews | Store | Forum | ICI | Educators | Fans | Contests | Help | FAQ | Info

Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

From a review of the new Peter Pan movie:

Peter Pan (2003)

The filmmakers are admittedly walking on a thinly drawn between morally repugnant racism and morally repugnant political correctness in dealing with the Indians. Either they stay close to the source material, which I imagine was much more offensive; or they omit the Indians altogether, which would be sort of cowardly. They do a fairly good job. The Indians in Peter Pan don't get a lot to do, but they aren't cuddly (as they were in Brother Bear, again) and they aren't savage. They're human beings, who in one scene do a healing ceremony on a decapitated teddy bear. The tone of the film seems to suggest that they take the ceremony quite seriously and their healing of the bear is a nice-ity for the benefit of it's owners. We're laughing with them, not at them. I imagine most Native Americans would look at the movie, sigh, and say "That nice, but I hope there'll come a time when we get our own pop adventure movie. And by that, I don't mean Brother Bear! Or even Whale Rider!" Pessimistically, that's probably the most you could ask for from this movie.

Rob's comment
The healing-bear ceremony sounds noble, but it's an example of Indians as mystical faith-healers. Real Indians don't conduct ceremonies for toys. They probably don't conduct them for animals either—especially dead (decapitated) ones. If they had a sick pet, they'd give it some medicine or take it to the vet, not sprinkle it with magic powder.

None of the reviews I read described Tiger Lily's role, but I gather she's less helpless and compliant, more spunky and resourceful. Just as you'd expect from a girl character in today's movies. Nice of the producers to cast a real Haida Indian in the role, too.

Tiger Lily's face paint looks reasonably authentic, but her costume appears somewhat stereotypical. I'm thinking especially of the clichéd headband and feather. I don't know if Mohican Indians wore such outfits, but I doubt young Mohican girls did.

By the way, would it hurt the people in charge of "Peter Pan" productions to make the Indians generic savages? I guess so, since no one has ventured to do it.

What about making them Huns? Or Mongols? Or US cavalrymen? Oops, I guess that would send the wrong message to our children. White men aren't a vanishing breed of savages. Only red men are.

Related links
Tiger Lily in Peter Pan:  an allegory of Anglo-Indian relations
New Age mystics, healers, and ceremonies
The best Indian movies

* More opinions *
  Join our Native/pop culture blog and comment
  Sign up to receive our FREE newsletter via e-mail
  See the latest Native American stereotypes in the media
  Political and social developments ripped from the headlines

. . .

Home | Contents | Photos | News | Reviews | Store | Forum | ICI | Educators | Fans | Contests | Help | FAQ | Info

All material © copyright its original owners, except where noted.
Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

Copyrighted material is posted under the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act,
which allows copying for nonprofit educational uses including criticism and commentary.

Comments sent to the publisher become the property of Blue Corn Comics
and may be used in other postings without permission.