Yesterday I wrote that I was sick of seemingly every new release movie these days incorporating aliens into their plotlines, none more so than the latest Jon Favreau effort, Cowboys & Aliens, starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde.
I have no interest in seeing the film. Super 8, Thor and Green Lantern have taken up my alien quota for the year. So I can’t comment fully on the nature of the representation of Native Americans in Cowboys & Aliens, but I think the title and the trailer tell me pretty much all I need to know. I also did some sneaky spoiler reading, so I’ll put up *spoiler alert* where applicable.
Being of Native American heritage myself, my initial viewing of the trailer grated on me. Taking the place of “Indians” in the Western genre were “aliens”—other—, which Indigenous peoples have been seen as for centuries. At ComicCon, the creators and stars of the film defended it, saying that both are genres that have been “done to death”.
I wondered if I was the only one who read it this way, and came across this brilliant article from Ms. Magazine, which asserts that the aliens and the Indians are seen as “them”, versus “us”: the white male main characters of the film, Craig’s Jake Lonergan and Ford’s Colonel Woodrow Dollarhyde. Cowboys & Aliens goes on to further stereotype the members of the Apache tribe featured in the film into categories: “the good Native”, the “savage warrior” and the “exotic” “Indian princess”, played by Wilde.
Wilde’s Ella Swenson is revealed to not be of Native American heritage, but *SPOILER ALERT* descendent from the other “others” in the film. Further to the assertion that people who aren’t white are interchangeable, Swenson is still characterised as “exotic” and not from the world of Lonergan and Dollarhyde. They’re all the same right?
After all, the central premise of the movie is that the whites have already raped and pillaged the Native people of the land, so they need a new enemy. Why not do the same to the invaders?
I’d be interested to know what others’ think of the depictions of race (the Ms. article points out that given the film is set in Arizona, there is an absence of Latino characters), come Cowboys & Aliens’ release date in Australia on Thursday.
Elsewhere: [Ms Magazine] White Cowboys & Alien Indians.
Images via IMDb.