"South Park": "Red Man's Greed"
- 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
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
Butters: How can they do that, huh? How can they make us all move
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
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.
Blue Corn Comics