Seeing Red—Hollywood's Pixeled Skins

Seeing Red—Hollywood's Pixeled Skins: American Indians and Film

LeAnne Howe
Harvey Markowitz
Denise K. Cummings
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 180
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  • Book Info
    Seeing Red—Hollywood's Pixeled Skins
    Book Description:

    At once informative, comic, and plaintive,Seeing Red-Hollywood's Pixeled Skinsis an anthology of critical reviews that reexamines the ways in which American Indians have traditionally been portrayed in film. From George B. Seitz's 1925The Vanishing Americanto Rick Schroder's 2004Black Cloud, these 36 reviews by prominent scholars of American Indian Studies are accessible, personal, intimate, and oftentimes autobiographic.Seeing Red-Hollywood's Pixeled Skinsoffers indispensible perspectives from American Indian cultures to foreground the dramatic, frequently ridiculous difference between the experiences of Native peoples and their depiction in film. By pointing out and poking fun at the dominant ideologies and perpetuation of stereotypes of Native Americans in Hollywood, the book gives readers the ability to recognize both good filmmaking and the dangers of misrepresenting aboriginal peoples. The anthology offers a method to historicize and contextualize cinematic representations spanning the blatantly racist, to the well-intentioned, to more recent independent productions.Seeing Redis a unique collaboration by scholars in American Indian Studies that draws on the stereotypical representations of the past to suggest ways of seeing American Indians and indigenous peoples more clearly in the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-368-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xx)

    The first appearance of the movie review, or at least its direct ancestor, followed quickly on the heels of the 1896 unveiling of “Edison’s greatest marvel,” the Vitascope: a “curious object” that was capable of projecting moving life-size, color images on a white backdrop.¹ While theNew York Timesreporter who covered this highly publicized premiere had more to say about the “marvel” itself than the content and artistic quality of the several featurettes it projected (many of them, admittedly, plotless), he did pronounce the films “all wonderfully real and singularly exhilarating”² (Ebert translation: “Two Thumbs Up”³).

    As the century...

  4. CHAPTER 1 The Silent Red Man
    (pp. 1-12)
    Jill Doerfler and Cristina Stanciu

    So, what can you expect fromThe Vanishing American? Well, it was originally a silent film made in 1925, and as you might guess by the title, it’s based on Zane Grey’s popular novel of the same name. The film has been described as an “epic scale historic melodrama.” Of course, “epic scale” had quite a different meaning in 1925 than it does today, so don’t expect the visual impact of films like300—although the historical accuracy might be about the same. However, some of the scenes were filmed in Monument Valley and are quite beautiful.

    The film was...

  5. CHAPTER 2 John Ford and “The Duke” on the Warpath
    (pp. 13-36)
    Joseph Bauerkemper, Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, Gwen N. Westerman and Susan Stebbins

    In an August 28, 2008, speech when he accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency of the United States, President-elect Barack Obama explicitly positioned the aspirations of his campaign within the dominant and intertwined narratives of American exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny. Celebrating the unparalleled wealth and military might of the United States, and assuredly asserting that “our culture” is “the envy of the world,” Obama ultimately located the exceptional character of the United States in something he calls the “American spirit”:

    It is that American spirit—that American promise—that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain;...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Disney Version
    (pp. 37-54)
    David Martínez, Clifford E. Trafzer and Jeff Berglund

    What made the Red Man Red?

    When did he first say, “Ugh!”

    When did he first say, “Ugh!”

    In the Injun book it say,

    When the first brave married squaw

    He gave out with a big ugh

    When he saw his Mother-in-Law

    What made the red man red?

    What made the red man red?

    Let’s go back a million years

    To the very first Injun prince

    He kissed a maid and start to blush

    And we’ve all been blushin’ since

    You’ve got it from the headman

    The real true story of the red man

    No matter what’s been written or...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Mixed-Bloods in Distress
    (pp. 55-72)
    Gary Harrington, LeAnne Howe, Philip Deloria and Jim Wilson

    A Brady Bunch station wagon pulls up in front of the Sandia Army Base Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Five brothers, ranging in age from teenager to toddler, pile out. Regulation army haircuts, patched jeans, and collared, polyester short-sleeved shirts buttoned to the top. Although we are all Comanche/white, I’m the only dark one, smack dab in the middle of the birth order, wearing the dependent-personnel military-issue glasses and looking like Ernie Douglas’s twin from the TV showMy Three Sons. The station wagon pulls off, and we go inside to watch old Westerns and second-run movies while my mother...

  8. CHAPTER 5 You Mean, I’m a White Guy?
    (pp. 73-96)
    Dean Rader, Rebecca Kugel, Harvey Markowitz and James Riding In

    Of all the movies in this book,Broken Arrowremains one of the most problematic. No one really knows what to do with it, how to read it, how to teach it, or even where it should sit among the pantheon of Westerns. Neither an Indian film nor a typical Western, it straddles the bucking horse that is the un-PC movie. WillBroken Arrowget thrown off? Or, will it ride out its eight metaphorical seconds? And, if it does fall to the ground, what clowns will come to its rescue?

    Along with the non-sympathetically titledRedskin(see the review...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Indians with Fangs
    (pp. 97-108)
    Harvey Markowitz and Carter Meland

    Until it ceased operation in 1986, the Sandhills Outdoor Theater in Valentine, Nebraska, was the major venue for residents of Cherry County and South Dakota’s neighboring Lakota Sioux Rosebud Reservation to gather and enjoy B- to Z-list Hollywood fare. I’m unashamed to confess that while living on the Rosebud from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s, I was among the Sandhills’s most loyal patrons, regularly indulging in its cinematic equivalents to the cheese fries that local teens dished out in the theater’s cinder-block concession stand.

    Dwarfed by many of today’s outdoor megaplexes, the Sandhills boasted a single whitewashed screen whose many stains...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Walk a Mile in My Moccasins
    (pp. 109-120)
    Jacki Rand, LeAnne Howe and Dean Rader

    When Indians go home following a long absence, you can be sure that the road will likely be as bumpy as the roads in Medicine River, a fictional reserve town set in western Canada. No one knows what to make of long-lost returnees whose changed markings are fully observable to the home folks. Will, a long-lost Cree played by the ubiquitous Canadian actor Graham Greene, narrates his return to Medicine River to attend his mother’s funeral. When he arrives, he finds that his mother’s funeral has already taken place, and his brother James, who had left the phone message notifying...

  11. CHAPTER 8 NDNS: The Young and the Restless
    (pp. 121-144)
    Pauline Turner Strong, Daniel Heath Justice, Allison Adelle Hedge Coke and Maureen Trudelle Schwarz

    As I sit at my computer, a three-inch plastic Indian stands beside the monitor. He has a scalp lock, and wears leggings, a breechcloth, a knife sheath, and a pouch, all of yellow. Next to him is the case for a videocassette ofThe Indian in the Cupboard, with the cover reversed, so that the case resembles a weathered wooden cabinet. Beside the cabinet is a plastic skeleton key, almost as large as the miniature Indian. Although it is possible to purchase the Indian figurine independently, as well as figurines of other characters that appear inThe Indian in the...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Death Wish, Indian-Style
    (pp. 145-164)
    Theo. Van Alst, Clifford E. Trafzer and Scott Richard Lyons

    Somewhere in the wilds of northeast Connecticut, circa 2008:

    Student (proudly Irish-American, BTW): Well, just because John Ford used Navajos who spoke Navajo inThe Searcherswho were supposed to be Comanches, it’s no big deal.

    Instructor: Why not?

    Student: Because nobody would know the difference.

    Instructor: The Comanches would know. The Navajos would know. Lots of Indians would know.

    Student: Yeah. But that’s not that many people.

    Instructor: OK. I’m making a movie about the IRA and the UDF. I’m going to use people from Iceland speaking Björkian. Iceland is about as close to Ireland as Navajoland is to...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Love, Indigenous-Style
    (pp. 165-182)
    Jodi A. Byrd, Theo. Van Alst and P. Jane Hafen

    Ah, Hawai‘i. Land of pineapple, processed sugar, hula, and aloha. Well, for some I suppose, if you’re into that whole touristic exploitation of someone else’s land for your own pleasure, as most Americans tend to be. But for me? Not so much. I never in a million years thought I’d ever have anything in common with Shirley Ross, a 1930s Hollywood starlet who, it turns out, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1913, and who ends up playing a reluctant Pineapple Princess on the silver screen in pursuit of the aloha dreams that the beaches of Hawai‘i are supposed to...

  14. CHAPTER 11 Workin’ for the Great White Father
    (pp. 183-200)
    Denise K. Cummings, Frederick Hoxie, Paul M. Robertson and Deborah Miranda

    About three quarters of the way through Raoul Walsh’s 1951 Technicolor dramaDistant Drums, the U.S. Army’s Captain Quincy Wyatt (Gary Cooper) returns with his brigade in tow to the island he inhabits. In a point-of-view shot, the camera pans the charred remains of his isle’schickees(Seminole houses). We get a reaction shot of Wyatt, his face registering utter dismay, and then the camera follows him as he crosses a lagoon, slowly enters one of the blackened cypress log frames, and picks up two items off of the dwelling’s sandy floor: a singed toy dugout canoe, and a small...

  15. What the Critics Said …
    (pp. 201-214)
  16. Ratings Sheet
    (pp. 215-216)
  17. Further Reading
    (pp. 217-218)
  18. Contributors
    (pp. 219-224)
  19. Roll Credits
    (pp. 225-225)