Evolution, empowerment, tribute, or a "dehumanized-commercialized-pseudo-bastardized-anlgoized version"

Savage men and Exotic Women

Below is some evidence of the prevailing stereotypes among Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and Asian American women. Although there have been moves to increase cultural sensitivity and political correctness, there are still some "trade characteristics" of certain groups that are just as fixed in popular images today as they were from the beginning.

"For many Native Americans 'savage' is the 'S' word, as potent and degrading as the word 'nigger.' (Edgerton)

"The 'Hollywood Indian' is a well-established image that has appeared on movie screens around the world for nearly a century. They also offer a three-part model of American Indian characterizations on film in which men compose the first two stereoptypes, as either, 'noble anachronisms' or 'savage reactionaries,' and women are presented as 'Indian princesses' in the third." (Edgerton)

"When I first read the script, I was impressed with the beginning of the film, In fact, I was overwhelmed by it. It tells the truth about the motives for Europe and initially coming to the so0called New World. If find it astounding that Americans and the Disney studios are willing to tell the truth. [It's] the single finest work ever done on American Indians by Hollywood." (--Russell Means voice of "Powhatan" in Disney's Pocahantas , qtd. Edgerton).

"Consider the redesigning of the character of Pocahontas. Supervising animator Glen Keane remembered how former studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg charged him with reshaping Pocahontas as 'the finest creature the human race has to offer' Keane, in turn, drew on four successive women for inspiration, beginning with paintings of Pocahontas herself; then Native American consultant Shirley "Little Dove" Custalow McGowan; then 21-year-old Filipino model Dyna Taylor; and finally white supermodel Christy Turlington. After studio animators spent months sketching her, their Pocahontas emerged as a multicultural pastiche. They started with Native American faces but eventually gravitated to the more familiar and Anglicized looks of the statuesque Turlington. Not surprisingly, all the key decision makers and supervising artists on Pocahontas were white males. Disney and Keane's "finest creature" clearly is the result of a very conventional viewpoint." (Edgerton).

"The commodification of a cultural text does not leave the text unaffected, but rather profoundly alters itand the meaning it produces. The spiritual element no longer clings to mass-produced dream catchers."(Kulchyski).


"Most Americans have come to believe that Hawai'i is as American as hotdogs and CNN. Worse, they assume that they, too, may make the trip, following the path of the empire into the sweet and sunny land of palm trees and hula-hula girls.

Increasing numbers of us not only oppose this predatory view of my native land and culture, we angrily and resolutely defy it. We are not happy natives. For us, American colonialism has been a violent process--the violence of mass death, he violence of American missionizing, the violence of cultural destruction, the violence of the American military.

This latest affliction has meant a particularly insidious form of cultural prostitution. Just five hours by plane from California, Hawai'i is a thousand light years away in fantasy. Mostly a state of mind, Hawai'i is the image of escape from the rawness and violence of daily American life. Hawai'i-the word, the image, the sound in the mind--is the fragrance and feel of soft kindness.

Above all, Hawai'i is "she," the Western image of the native "female" in her magical allure. And if luck prevails, some of"her" will rub off on you, the visitor." (Trask)



The predatory reality of tourism is visible everywhere: in garish "Polynesian" revues; commercial ads using Hawaiian dance and language to sell vacations and condominiums: the trampling of sacred heiau (temples) and burial grounds as tourist recreation sites. Thus, our world-renowned native dance, the hula, has been made ornamental, a form of hotel exotica for the gaping tourist. And Hawaiian women are marketed on posters from Paris to Tokyo promising an unfettered "primitive" sexuality. Far from encouraging a cultural revival, as tourist industry apologists contend, tourism has appropriated and prostituted the accomplishments of a resurgent interest in things Hawaiian (the use of replicas of Hawaiian artifacts such as fishing and food implements, capes, helmets, and other symbols of ancient power, to decorate hotels)." (Trask)






I am not your fetish.
I am not your tight-lipped kow-towed kitchen-god
praising mystery of the orient.

Lyrics from "Not Your Fetish," written and performed by Emily Chi Hua Chang and Anida Rouquiyah in Broken Speak



LA Weekly advertisements, November 30-December 6, 2001.