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Indian Stereotypes in TV Science Fiction

Indian Stereotypes in TV Science Fiction

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  • Book Info
    Indian Stereotypes in TV Science Fiction
    Book Description:

    According to an early 1990s study, 95 percent of what college students know about Native Americans was acquired through the media, leading to widespread misunderstandings of First Nations peoples. Sierra Adare contends that negative "Indian" stereotypes do physical, mental, emotional, and financial harm to First Nations individuals.

    At its core, this book is a social study whose purpose is to explore the responses of First Nations peoples to representative "Indian" stereotypes portrayed within the TV science fiction genre. Participants in Adare's study viewed episodes fromMy Favorite Martian,Star Trek,Star Trek: Voyager,Quantum Leap,The Adventures of Superman, andStar Trek: The Next Generation. Reactions by viewers range from optimism to a deep-rooted sadness. The strongest responses came after viewing aSupermanepisode's depiction of an "evil medicine man" who uses a ceremonial pipe to kill a warrior. The significance of First Nations peoples' responses and reactions are both surprising and profound. After publication of"Indian" Stereotypes in TV Science Fiction, ignorance can no longer be used as an excuse for Hollywood's irresponsible depiction of First Nations peoples' culture, traditions, elders, religious beliefs, and sacred objects.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79685-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-X)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XI-XII)
  4. Discussion of Terms Used
    (pp. XIII-XVIII)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    I remember how excited I got when theStar Trekepisode ʺThe Paradise Syndromeʺ aired because I could lose myself in the story, and, for a single hour that Friday night it was OK for me to be me, the Indigenous me.¹ It didnʹt matter that the ʺIndianʺ characters had as much depth as a sheet of onionskin or that the way they were represented on our new color TV reeked of inaccuracy, stupidity, and that generic jumble of which Annette M. Taylor speaks. None of that mattered. It was the only time I could remember seeing TV ʺIndiansʺ who...

  6. CHAPTER 1 First Nations Voices on Hollywood ʺIndiansʺ
    (pp. 11-15)

    The Euro-American research tradition is based on Cartesian ideas related to what constitutes scientific thinking or observing that are related to the bifurcation of functions or systems.¹ Yet this long tradition, which designates itself as the group to which all others must be compared, is now understanding that some of its ideas may not be generalizable to specific groups of ethnic minorities. This belief is finally giving way to a new call for research within specific cultures by mainstream researchers for the purpose of identifying commonalities within responses of those cultures.² The impact of the culture in which one is...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Itʹs All in the Label
    (pp. 16-28)

    First Nations peoples live with stereotyping every day of their lives. A perfect example of this comes straight out of history books that Hollywood picked up on from day one. When Americaʹs educational system does include ʺNative Americanʺ history, it breezes through Pocahontas, Sacajawea, and the Trail of Tears and on to therealʺIndiansʺ who were defeated during the ʺIndian Warsʺ of the late 1870s. By focusing on the nomadic and warrior traditions of the Great Plains Nations, textbooks used in American schools have perpetuated ʺIndianʺ stereotypes that cause everybody to imagine teepees, feather bonnets, trade beads, fringed buckskin...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Future ʺIndians,ʺ Past Stereotypes
    (pp. 29-57)

    In science fiction shows, the aliens who encounter and/or interact with ʺAmerican Indiansʺ are usually non-earthlings (though generally pretty humanoid in appearance) who assist the ʺIndiansʺ in some manner or receive survival, spiritual, or supernatural help from the ʺIndians.ʺ

    Or the ʺIndianʺ as the ʺalien otherʺ in science fiction serves a similar purpose to real, live ʺIndiansʺ on display in the nineteenth century at world fairs such as the Worldʹs Columbian Exposition of 1893 or expositions such as the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and the International Exhibition, both held in 1876. These exhibits were designed to present American inventions and technological...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Shoshones and Non-Shoshones Assess Quantum Leap ʺFreedomʺ: A Special Showing
    (pp. 58-73)

    A unique opportunity arose during the course of compiling information on First Nations individualsʹ view of Hollywoodʹs ʺIndianʺ stereotyping of Shoshones in the science fiction seriesQuantum Leap. The showʹs ʺIndianʺ episode, entitled ʺFreedom,ʺ originally aired on NBC on 14 February 1990. In the episode, scientist, inventor, and time traveler Dr. Samuel Becket assumes the identity and the body of a Shoshone man during the year 1970.

    Unlike television episodes such asSupermanʺTest of a Warrior,ʺ which names no specific Native nation, andStar TrekʺThe Paradise Syndrome,ʺ which identifies existing First Nations and attempts to blend together their...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Sky Spirits in Space: ʺIndianʺ Spirituality and the Small Screen
    (pp. 74-90)

    Indigenous spirituality cannot be separated from the other aspects of First Nations peoplesʹ daily lives.¹ Hollywood has not discovered that all episodes featuring ʺIndiansʺ should also include spirituality. On the other hand, First Nations spiritual leaders are chosen by the elders and healers and must go through a long and difficult apprenticeship in order to learn how to maintain the balance of which Matthew King speaks.² This is not evidenced in Hollywood writersʹ idea of ʺIndianʺ religion.

    This chapter examines the genre of TV science fiction in the context of how Hollywood writers, directors, and producers depict First Nations peoples...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Visions for the Future
    (pp. 91-101)

    As stated in the introduction, the purpose of this project is to explore participation responses of First Nations peoples to ʺIndianʺ stereotypes portrayed within the TV science fiction genre, as represented in the seven episodes examined in this project, with the expressed focus of giving voice to First Nations peoplesʹ reactions to these stereotypes.

    A stereotype that First Nations peoples experience all too often (although not one portrayed in the TV episodes viewed in this project) is that they are not intelligent enough to articulate their concerns themselves; their words are not eloquent or sophisticated enough to be put before...

  12. Conclusion and Epilogue
    (pp. 102-104)

    Over five hundred years have passed since Columbus ʺdiscoveredʺ the First Nations peoples of the Americas, but the stereotypes generated in the media in the wake of his ʺdiscoveryʺ continue to be used and to be believed by television viewers. This is quite obvious in such productions asStar Trek: Voyager. The writers, directors, and producers of the series didnʹt consult First Nations peoples when creating a ʺNative Americanʺ crew member who, whether Robert Beltran wants to admit it or not, is a role model for First Nations young people.¹

    If, however, the writers, directors, and producers in Hollywood listen...

  13. APPENDIX A Survey 1 Form: Stereotyping Indigenous Peoples in Science Fiction TV Shows
    (pp. 105-105)
  14. APPENDIX B Shoshone Survey Form: Stereotyping Indigenous Peoples in Science Fiction TV Shows
    (pp. 106-106)
  15. APPENDIX C Survey 2 Form: ʺAmerican Indianʺ Religions and Spirituality Stereotyping in Science Fiction TV Shows
    (pp. 107-107)
  16. APPENDIX D Interview Questions for Focus Group
    (pp. 108-108)
  17. APPENDIX E Categorizing the Comments
    (pp. 109-110)
  18. APPENDIX F Common Threads: Positive and Negative Comments on Stereotypical Depictions of ʺIndiansʺ in the Episodes
    (pp. 111-114)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 115-130)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 131-136)
  21. Index
    (pp. 137-142)