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"South Park": "Red Man's Greed"

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  • Rob
    Indian Comics Irregular #97 The April 30 episode of South Park may be the most racist show I ve ever seen on TV. To label it a hatchet job would be putting
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 12, 2003
      Indian Comics Irregular #97

      The April 30 episode of "South Park" may be the most racist show I've
      ever seen on TV. To label it a hatchet job would be putting it
      mildly. Calling Indians everything from greedy to evil, it was an
      outright vilification.

      Titled "Red Man's Greed," the show begins at the Three Feathers
      casino. The stereotypes come in a torrent. A teepee stands outside
      the building. The waitresses dress like Disney's Pocahontas. The
      chief wears a headdress and has a "funny" Indian name: Runs with the
      Premise. The blackjack dealer utters homilies such as: "May luck
      run through you like the spirit of the buffalo."

      Things are no better in the casino's comedy club. The Indian comedian
      speaks in a slow, halting voice. An Indian drumbeat punctuates his
      punchline. The Indian audience laughs in a chant-like cadence. The
      closed captioning even identifies this as "Indian war chanting."

      While the character Gerald gambles away his house ("Don't the Native
      Americans know he has nowhere else to go?" "They don't care") the
      tribe's chief and "elders" hatch a dastardly plot. They'll build a
      superhighway from Denver to their casino right through South Park.

      As they buy up all the property in town, the dialog makes the show's
      position clear:

      Butters: How can they do that, huh? How can they make us all move
      away?

      Cartman: Because they're rich, greedy-ass Indians!

      The residents go to the casino to win enough money to buy back their
      town, but fail. Again, the show's stance is unmistakable:

      Stan: You people just got greedy, like the Native Americans!

      Randy: Hey, mister!! We're not like them, all right?! Now, we
      may have pie-in-the-sky dreams once in a while, but we aren't the
      ones kicking people out of their homes! So don't you compare us to
      those cold-hearted, money-grubbing, evil, stinky Indians!

      A Role-Reversal Satire?

      Then the show morphs into a bizarre "satire" of Indian-Anglo
      relations. The Indians rub Chinese men on blankets to infect the
      blankets with SARS, then distribute them to South Park's resisters.
      Seeking a remedy, Stan goes to a "wise man" in a trailer park, who has
      him sniff paint thinner to induce a vision. The imagined cure works,
      reviving the dying citizens.

      The chief's son comes down with SARS and the adversaries join to save
      him. But even as the "satire" continues, so do the insults and
      stereotypes. For instance, the medicine man who tries to help the boy
      is a classic "shaman"--half-naked and wearing a wolf's head. The show
      keeps belittling Indian culture while ostensibly criticizing the white
      man's greed.

      The second-half satire may delude some into thinking "South Park" is
      pro-Indian. But the gratuitous insults and stereotypes have nothing
      to do with enhancing the satirical "message." In reality, the satire
      is the window dressing and the insults are the message. The creators
      have tacked on a happy ending to justify their obvious racism.

      Curiously, "South Park" presented a more positive message in its
      "Cherokee Hair Tampons" episode (ICI #35). Then it satirized
      anti-Indian attitudes without belittling Indians too. But that was a
      few years ago, before tribal casinos started getting bad press. These
      days it's open season on Indians, and "South Park"--proving how
      original it ISN'T--has hopped on the bandwagon.

      For more on "Red Man's Greed," including links to the script and
      images, go to http://www.bluecorncomics.com/southpk.htm.

      Rob Schmidt
      Blue Corn Comics
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