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