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Discuss the perceptions of Amerindians in popular culture (literature, theater, TV, film,etc). with particular attention as to how this perception has changed over time - Essay Example

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The perceptions of the Amerindians in the popular culture have always vacillated between the portrayal of this race as a noble savage living in harmony with nature to that of a deceitful, cunning and uncivilized ‘bad guy’, as portrayed in the conventional Western genre. Once…
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Discuss the perceptions of Amerindians in popular culture (literature, theater, TV, film,etc). with particular attention as to how this perception has changed over time
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of the of the Concerned History and Political Science September 13, Perceptions of Amerindians in Popular Culture
The perceptions of the Amerindians in the popular culture have always vacillated between the portrayal of this race as a noble savage living in harmony with nature to that of a deceitful, cunning and uncivilized ‘bad guy’, as portrayed in the conventional Western genre. Once the Europeans came in contact with the Amerindians, their perceptions about the Native Americans were to a great extent influenced by the cultural blinders dawned by the Europeans.1 This led to many misunderstandings regarding the beliefs and values of the Native American way of life. The misconceptions and beliefs that people tend to carry as an integral part of their value system tend to influence a lot as to how the two races and cultures view and interact with eachother. The views and decisions arrived at on the basis of the stereotypical ethnographic perceptions of other cultures and races do give way to, too many misunderstandings and misconceptions. It goes without saying that the Amerindians have been the victims of such trends.
To begin with the European-Americans heaped a generalized and collective identity on the Amerindians under the guise of a monolithic term ‘Indian’.2 Realistically speaking, the Amerindians never preferred themselves to be identified under a single umbrella identity. They rather preferred to be known more in terms of their tribes and ethnic beliefs. It was under the influence of such a generalized approach towards the Amerindians that they were more or less portrayed in a negative way by the European-Americans. The remnants of this belief system had a marked influence on the projection of the Amerindians in the future popular culture, be it the literature, cinema, or TV. Almost all the earlier Western Films portrayed the Amerindians as hopeless and stupid savages, who were unhygienic, immoral and illiterate and people who simply cannot be trusted by the Whites.3 Some of the recent films like Dances with Wolves did project the Amerindians as wise and humane. Yet, the irony is that the perception of the Amerindians in such films is more or less patronizing, inaccurate and to a great extent superficial.
However, in recent times, with the augmenting of interest in the Amerindian diversity and way of life, the popular culture perceptions pertaining to the Amerindians have started to get more realistic. The popular interest has started to grow around the Amerindians’ way of life and the beliefs and values of the varied Amerindian tribes. A great deal of this change could be attributed to the educated and young generations of the contemporary Amerindians who are using the tools of popular culture like the print and digital media to educate others about their diversity and the essential wisdom inherent in the Amerindian way of life.4 Many people today know that the Amerindians are not one homogenous race, but a diverse community with a variety of beliefs and aspirations.
Historically speaking, the popular media had been somewhat unjust towards its perceptions about Amerindians. But, in the contemporary times, these stereotypical perceptions are diluting and the people are getting more aware of the culture and beliefs of Amerindians.
Bibliography
Bird, S Elizabeth. Dressing in Feathers. Boulder: Westview Press, 1996.
Moses, LG. Wild West Shows and the Images of American Indians. Albuquerque: University
of New Mexico Press, 1996. Read More
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