6/10/2005

Into the Hollywood West

I just watched episode one of Spielberg's Into the West and I was disappointed. I tried to approach this with an open mind and I was entertained by real native actors - how refreshing is that! But I'm confused at the instances of Injun-speak ... that Tonto-esque language ... written into the dialogue. If the producers and developers had the good sense to feature real Lakota language in the show, why not feature an authentic story line instead of the usual iconic schlock? We always have to see a young boy on his vision quest romantically, dramatically coming of age and receiving his new prophetic name - in this case - Loved by the Buffalo (hardly a step up from Dances with Wolves) And then we see the tragic Lakota woman tenderly cared for by the sensitive white guy who can protect her from the nasty wild west ruffians. Please. All those people smelled bad, even the sensitive white guys. Let's be real. I'm really hoping for comments by someone in the know about the native writers and consultants who contributed to this project. Please, please tell me I'm so wrong. You know, none of this would matter except for the fact that Episode 5 (this was episode one, so four weeks from now) features content about the Carlisle Indian School. I'm planning to watch every week to learn the family tree in order to place the Carlisle characters. I am keeping my fingers crossed that TV audiences can meet an authentic character. There are so many resources available to writers today, most notbably, real descendants of students who lived the Carlisle experiment and who can influence a script into an authentic presentation. I predict, judging by the first episode's stereotypical story line, I'll be wrong. Unless, of course, I completely misread (misviewed?) this evenings program. I'd love to be wrong about this.

4 comments:

Paul said...

I just viewed the Into The West episode with the story on the Carlisle Indian School. How sad. Just another great example of Anglo-Saxon prejudice. Women, blacks, Indians, Arabs, Mexicans, gays, ... When will ever figure out how to live together and appreciate diversity and squash it.

Anonymous said...

As an african-american male in his thirties, i have to say, this has a modern day "roots" feel to it. i wonder if if young native-americans see anything "refreshing" about this story(into the west)? is just seeing their story told give any sort of pride since it's being told to the general public? our american history is full of half-truths and its good to see some inroads being made into those distortions we have been fed all our lives. of course it is hollywood so nothing is perfect!

marlon sherman said...

Fact is, I'm thankful to Spielberg and company for making this series, because now I'll have something to use in my Spring 2006 semester class on Natives in film. And believe me, I won't be ac-cen-tu-ating the positive...mainly because I could find very little. As a Lakota born and raised on the Pine Ridge Rez, I waited in anticipation for a TV series featuring REAL INDIANS for a change besides Floyd Westerman, whom I like in spite of myself, if for nothing else than his songs Custer Died for Your Sins and We Don't Need Your BIA. Oh, and the fact that he can speak real Lakota/Dakota. Which, by the way, there was very little of in any of the episodes, maybe one or two real Lakota speakers per week. I gave birth to a small red cow when I heard the first Lakota exchange, which the actors, none of whom were Lakota, butchered more ably than I with my red cow in the living room. The accents were so bad, and so how/ugh, that I turned the TV off after the first scene, denying myself the chance of a full and meaningful critique. Well, I confess, I did watch a later showing after I had cooled off some. It was amazing that the same crew that could produce the technical wizardry of War of the Worlds or the historical realism of Schindler's List was not able to find or teach enough Lakotas to hold a credible conversation. After that, the story lost just about all of its believability for me. But ah, subtitles, aren't they wonderful, for they can tell the audience the story that the editors and scriptwriters want you to hear. Even so, I did get tears during the Carlisle episode, if for no other reason than that my father went to a Catholic boarding school where the nuns beat the kids with rubber hoses for speaking Lakota, my mother went to an Episcopal mission school, and my dad's stepfather and great uncles George and Luther (who could well be the George of this latest episode) got sent to Carlisle. But the emotion I felt was because of that background, I think, so how can I expect non-Indians to understand the pain that we still all feel for those who have gone before, a pain that lives even today, because there has been no redress, no repayment whatsoever for the pains they endured? And so I found the series sadly lacking...

That's enough for now. Thank you, Barb, for all your hard work on behalf of all those Carlisle students who never made it home, and for those who did, only to find it not the home they would have wished.

Marlon

Debbie said...

I found the show Into The West to be quite accurate on how Indians were really treated. My Grandmother attended Indian Boarding Schools and said she was really lonely. She was also ashamed of being Indian and to this day we still don't know what tribe we belong to, etc. I do know she was cheated out of her mineral rights in Oklahoma. She also worked as a servant for a wealthy family in Ct at the age of 15. This too follows the farming out program of the Indian Schools. I feel the loss of identity has left a big hole in the hearts of our Indian ancestors and us as well, for we don't know where we belong.