Concern over the lack of proper representation of minorities in the American media has brought attention to one group that has for decades been unable to escape stereotyping on the large and small screens, the Native American. However, this image may finally be changing, thanks largely to some new participants in the industry and changes in the way entertainment is presented.
In the past, the portrayal of the American Indian on the screen was usually limited to the image of a savage, often of a warrior-type but in any event less capable than characters of European heritage. Native American women would often be seen as submissive objects of desire. The situation has been made worse by the portrayal of Native Americans by stars who are of different ethnicities. The issue of stereotyping by the media of indigenous groups is examined in detail at Country.
Modern television has helped reverse some stereotypes by bringing characters into the modern world. Unfortunately, others continue to linger. In the animated series “King of the Hill,” the character John Redcorn is a “new age” healer, which may only help reinforce the hackneyed connection between Native Americans and the supernatural.
Progress in changing ethnic stereotyping is being made through the efforts of independent producers. The comedy “More than Frybread” shows American Indians competing in a cooking contest. Although appearing to encourage such stereotyping, the film could actually help break the image of the stoic Native American and create characters that are capable of having a good time. Red Nation Television, an online channel, has reached out to the Native American community through its programming. Canada is reaching out to its significant indigenous population with the Aboriginal People’s Television Network, which produces both news and fictional programs. The same media that created some of the worst Native American stereotypes may in the end have the greatest role in ending them.

Categories: Native American, Native American Culture

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