Imagine it is 1956. The biggest hero in all of German cinema is seen in a hit movie driving into a Jewish Ghetto with a militia and the SS and start liberally massacring Jews while whooping and hollering with glee, heroically within the movies lightness of touch over the massacre at play. Imagine a legendary German comedic star in a movie in 1952 quipping “My daddy loved killing Jews, he didn’t consider his day complete unless at least one Kike bit the dust”. Or Germany’s sweetheart on screen repelling an attack of Jews and screaming flippant lines about sending them to their version of heaven. If such a thing existed we’d at the very least hope they would have evolved to have those films cast into the dustbin of history not celebrated works today.
Imagine that today in Germany the terminology “here comes the SS” was routinely used to descibe the arrival of heroes to save the day. That the term “off the Ghetto” was used to describe someone going rogue, comparing them to a Jew escaping confinement. Imagine that one of the biggest sporting teams in Germany was the Berlin Kikes. Hard to imagine. Hard to stomach. And if it existed the world would be disgusted and appalled and chances are they would be barred from competition.
Yet this exists… almost. Change the country from Germany to the USA and the victims of genocide from Jews to Native Americans. That heroic actor is John Wayne in The Searchers riding into a village of families with a militia and gleefully, genocidally massacring them. The comedic line was “My daddy loved killing Indians. He didn’t consider his day complete unless at least one Redskin bit the dust’. Said by the beloved Bob Hope in Son of Paleface. It was Doris Day of all people massacring Indians and hollering “Come on your redskin naked heathens, I going to give you on a one way ticket to the happy hunting grounds” in Calamity Jane.
Here comes the SS translates to “Here comes the Cavalry” who of course were riding in invariably to commit genocide. “off the Ghetto” is “off the Reservation”. And as for the sporting team. The Washington NFL franchise is named after a dictionary defined racist slur as offensive as any of the others.
Now the question is did you react with the same horror to the US reality versus the fictional German scenario I portrayed? Sadly for many I suspect not as in the mainstream, no-one gives a damn about most of this. The key question is why? When we can all grasp the vileness that would have gone with the fictional German scenarios that are near identical – though in the US’s case the people committing the Genocide were from a different continent. For me the blame lands at the door of the industry I am in. Hollywood for its entire existence has created thousands of movies and TV shows that relate to the old west and fulfill a complete narrative of the justification of genocide. The innocent settlers being attacked by wild savages and the kindly Cavalry saving the day.
The image is of a one dimensional people derived from a Hollywood mono-culture and not reflective of the amazingly diverse Native Nations that still exist today. Over 500 in the USA alone. Basically Hollywood has been the primary cheerleader in justifying one of the planets great genocides. So much so that so many of you will be thinking that my position may be somewhat extreme. But if you find my fictional Geman scenario more disturbing than the Hollywood reality then the propaganda has succeeded.
It is truly vile that young Native American kids who are as immersed in media as any others cannot see people from their world reflected back as existing in any contemporary manner and the predominant historical portrayal even today is in stereotype. This is something I tried to change with my TV show The Hub, which celebrated many extraordinary people in Indian Country that would excite and inspire that youth. But it is hard to draw an audience for such a fun show without mainstream backing. My latest feature film from the acclaimed novel Neither Wolf Nor Dog has a mesmerising performance from 96 year old Lakota elder Dave Bald Eagle at its core and its depth in itself makes it an important cultural work. But it is hard to get the industry to pay attention. They have always been more interested in the feather and leather portrayals.
Sadly this denial of consequences is continuing like the way Donald Trump can whip up fear and paranoia towards Muslims when a corner of the Middle East blows up as a consequence of a US lead invasion destabilizing and arming the region. It is so easy for people to buy into his lies and fearmongering because Muslims are so rarely portrayed in a multidimentional way in society and media. Indeed again Hollywood goes out of its way to create shows like Homeland that portray Muslims very negatively and one dimensionally. Or an Oscar winning film like Argo can be set in a Muslim country and yet not a single multidimentional Muslim character is in the movie. Most are rabid extremists screaming in the streets.
It is somewhat ironic that many of the people who committed genocide against indigenous Americans were people who had fled their own dire situations like the Highland Clearances in my own Scotland or grave oppression under the British in Ireland. The irony continues in Hollywood as so many Hollywood greats fled Hitlers propaganda and persecution in Europe yet were happy to participate in a similar pro genocide depiction of a race of people once in Hollywood.
But Hollywood’s relationship with morality has never been strong. In the late 30’s up to the US entering WW2 Hollywood’s Jewish studio heads censored their films worldwide so that the Nazi regime would allow them to be distributed in Germany. They wouldn’t let morality get in the way of the bottom line. But that brings it around to us, the audience. If we didn’t subscribe to these appalling one dimensional stereotypes then the lack of box office would motivate the change. It is our ticket buying that fuels this all. At the same time our lack of buying tickets to more enlightened and intelligent films made from more diverse voices is what is killing the chance for them to make more. It is extremely hard to make money on an indie movie and the audience needs to stand up and put their money where their mouth is. That is how we can affect change.
If you are interested in helping see this change click here https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1YiXRgFZ3qELDuWLAuPWmSxwrJ5e8Mja58XoXV35_lRs/viewform or on the tab above for the Indigenous Film Project where I am trying to create a subscription distribution model together so more native films can get made and find their audience. Thanks for listening.