Arts & Entertainment | Opinion

Tiffany Midge: Hollywood needs to stop stereotyping Native people






Hollywood finally got Native people right with The Revenant! Still image: 20th Century Fox

Poet Tiffany Midge, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, can't believe Hollywood is still casting Native Americans in stereotypical roles:
Hollywood needs to stop stereotyping Native Americans. Every time I see a new movie come out that features Native Americans, we’re either wealthy hedge fund managers with a penchant for Italian automobiles, or we’re depicted as sexy surgeons who moonlight for Doctors Without Borders, and adopt handicapped children from war torn countries. Just stop it already! We’re so much more than that!

Only rarely are we given a semblance of humanity. Take the film The Revenant for instance. In the opening scenes, when a band of marauding Native Americans on horseback attack a camp of innocent fur trappers, I was like, FINALLY, producers are making an effort to get this right! Some of the Native characters even wore loin cloths! Whoa, that’s some incisive storytelling, right there! I thought, wow, the cultural consultants are spot on! Unfortunately, that isn’t the norm, and it’s time Hollywood started getting it right!

Believe it or not Native Americans are highly capable actors and have studied at reputable institutions with the best of them. Myself, for instance, I studied at Julliard, and have an MFA in Theater Arts. I am more than willing to step outside of the same old, unimaginative typecasting of Native Americans as WWII SS officers and Nazi guards. It’s as if Hollywood producers simply are not willing to see us beyond the cliché. How much longer do Native Americans have to get stuck playing roles like eighteenth century English shipping magnate or Dutch textile industrialist before change can happen? If I see another sensitive and compelling biopic of Princess Diana, or another Movie-of-the Week portrayal of Marilyn Monroe played by [insert famous Indigenous actor] I’m going to totally lose my shit. It’s just the same old colonialist narrative, the same old malarkey.

Read More on the Story:
Tiffany Midge: Reel Indians Don’t Eat Quiche: The Fight for Authentic Roles in Hollywood (Indian Country Today 1/15)