Crystal Skulls and Stereotypes
- Indian Comics Irregular #171
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," the fourth installment in the swashbuckling series, features spear-wielding Amazon Indians. That isn't much different from "Raiders of the Lost Ark," which also featured spear-wielding Amazon Indians. The thrust of these movies is clear: Smart Westerners beat stupid Natives.
Sadly, this is part of a trend of stereotyping Mesoamerican and Latin American Indians as superstitious, senseless, or savage. Consider the following examples:
* A trailer for the upcoming "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" depicted the Aztec people as dogs.
* In "Aztec Rex," a movie on the Sci-Fi Channel, Aztecs sacrificed virgins to placate a carnivorous dinosaur.
* In the book and movie versions of "The Ruins," a malevolent Maya entity attacked hapless white collegians.
* Last year a Kahlua ad showed dancing Mesoamerican Indians asking white visitors if they were kings.
* In "The Emperor's New School" cartoon series, Inca Indians live in a fantasyland devoid of history and culture.
* Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/apclypto.htm) portrayed the sophisticated Maya civilization as a spectacle of death and decay.
* In "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/pirates.htm), the Indians were gibbering cannibals who used body parts for decorations.
* The 2006 Zagar and Steve commercials (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/zagar.htm) presented an Amazon Indian who brutalized the city folk around him.
* The 2005 "Jungle Love" episode of "Family Guy" involved a typical "primitive" Amazon tribe: a headdress-wearing chief, his nubile young daughter, and a host of undifferentiated tribal members. When someone said the wrong thing, they turned into--you guessed it--spear-wielding savages.
Why is this happening? As I theorized, creators exploit these remote Indians so they can "indulge in their wildest fantasies about headhunting, human sacrifice, and cannibalism. Just as important, there are few if any advocates for these Indians to protest their unfair treatment in the media."
This trend is serious enough that I chose "Apocalypto" and the Zagar commercials as the 2006 Stereotype of the Year loser and dishonorable mention. You can find out more about these problematical shows in my "Indiana Jones and the Stereotypes of Doom" roundup at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/indy.htm .
Comics Worth Noting
I recently came across an interesting new project: TRICKSTER. It's a graphic novel-style anthology of Native trickster tales created primarily by Native writers and artists. I posted an exclusive Q&A interview with writer/artist Matt Dembicki and publisher Christian Beranek at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/dembicki.htm .
The Healthy Aboriginal Network, makers of the anti-suicide comic book DARKNESS CALLS, has come out with two more issues. ON THE CALL deals with a teen's gambling compulsion and AN INVITED THREAT tackles the dangers of diabetes. Read about these comics and my thoughts on them at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/hlthyabo.htm .
An American publisher is translating and reprinting YAKARI, a Belgian series by the team of Derib and Job. Yakari is a Sioux Indian boy who has Disneyesque adventures with talking animals. You can learn about this and other comics developments at http://www.bluecorncomics.com/nacomics.htm .
Blue Corn Comics