Recently, the "triple w" has been buzzing over the portrayal of Native Americans in the popular band, No Doubt's latest video. After surfing various social networking sites and media comments sections, there's "no doubt" (heh heh heh) that there's some debate over the subject.
My newsfeed on Facebook was flooded with different people of Aboriginal decent, upset and disgusted with the way they and their ancestors were portrayed in the video, appropriately named, "Looking Hot." The video starts off with Gwen Stefani, doing her best "Blue Steel" in front of a camp of teepees, while dressed in native regalia. Her character must be from Arizona, because as she rides her horse into town, she is immediately apprehended, for what I assume was failing to provide proper documentation and identification.
The video is kind of hard to follow because it jumps all over the place between shots of pink smoke signals, Gwen riding her horse in different outfits, "natives" dancing around a fire, and cowboys drinking in a saloon. She eventually gets busted out of jail by a fellow "native" inmate, who was able to smuggle in a tomahawk in the front of his loin cloth. Brilliant stuff.
Now, first off, as far as reactions to this video, I'm only referencing what I'm seeing on Facebook and media comments sections. It's not like I call up my kokum (Ojibwe for grandmother) and ask her what she thinks about racism in music videos. It just doesn't happen.
Personally, this video doesn't really offend me. There are more important issues in the world, particularly on reserves, but that doesn't mean this isn't an important issue. Obviously, some people take serious offence to this video, otherwise it wouldn't be up for discussion.
What I'm noticing is that it's primarily native people who were offended by it, leading to the band's decision to pull the video entirely. The majority of non-natives seem annoyed by that. What the non-natives may not understand is the extreme sense of pride of native culture, by its people. Hollywood has inaccurately portrayed us since the early days of film, and this video is just an extension of that. Most of what I know about this subject, I learned from a documentary called, Reel Injun.
You may not know this, but not all natives lived in teepees. I, for one, grew up in a duplex. In all seriousness, it was the Plains Indians who had access to buffalo hides and actually built teepees. I think the real issue that native people have with the video, is that it glamorizes the 500+ year, rocky relationship between natives, colonialists and their descendants. If I were to tell a different version of the story of Jesus, you can be certain, several religious groups would speak out about how offensive it was. This is no different.
No Doubt posted an apology on their website, said they never intended to offend anybody and immediately pulled the video from Youtube, Vevo and wherever else it was posted. I did, however, find a copy of it on Vimeo.
I respect no Doubt for making the decision to pull the video, and apologize. If The Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Disney, various major league sports teams and other non-natives who inaccurately portray native people in film, photo, and merchandise could follow No Doubt's lead, we'd be getting somewhere.
I think the video did what it needed to do, not based on its content, but by the reaction to its content. If we don't start to discuss issues like these on a grander scale, society won't learn to be more sensitive when portraying culture in media.
FIRST NATIONS PROTESTS: FROM OKA TO CALEDONIA
Canadian soldier Patrick Cloutier and Saskatchewan Native Brad Laroque alias "Freddy Kruger" come face to face in a tense standoff at the Kahnesatake reserve in Oka, Quebec, Saturday September 1, 1990. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Shaney Komulainen)
A warrior raises his weapon as he stands on an overturned police vehicle blocking a highway at the Kahnesetake reserve near Oka, Quebec July 11, 1990 after a police assault to remove Mohawk barriers failed. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson)
A Quebec Metis places a stick with an eagle feather tied to it into the barrel of a machine gun mounted on an army armored vehicle at Oka Thursday, Aug. 23, 1990. The vehicle was one of two positioned a few metres away from the barricade causing a breakdown in negotiations. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Grimshaw)
A Mohawk Indian winds up to punch a soldier during a fight that took place on the Khanawake reserve on Montreal's south shore in 1990. The army broke up the fight by shooting into the air. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (CP PHOTO)
Two aboriginal protesters man a barricade near the entrance to Ipperwash Provincial Park, near Ipperwash Beach, Ont., on Sept. 7, 1995. (CP PHOTO)
Ken Wolf, 9, walks away from a graffiti-covered smoldering car near the entrance to the Ipperwash Provincial Park in this September 7, 1995 photo. A group of aboriginal protesters were occupying the park and nearby military base. (CP PHOTO)
Caledonian activist Gary McHale (right) is confronted by a Six Nations Protester as he attempts to lead members of Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE) in carrying a makeshift monument to Six Nations land in Caledonia, Ont., on Sunday February 27, 2011. CANACE claim inequality in treatment for Caledonian residents from Ontario Provincial Police compared to that of the Six Nation population. They planned to plant a monument of six nation property to demand an apology from the OPP, but were turned back by protesters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
First Nations people of the Grand River Territory stand with protest signs as they force the redirection of the Vancover 2010 Olympic Torch Relay from entering The Six Nations land Monday, December 21, 2009 near Caledonia, Ontario. The Olympic torch's journey across Canada was forced to take a detour in the face of aboriginal opposition to the Games, with an Ontario First Nation rerouting its relay amid a protest from a splinter group in the community. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)
Six Nations protesters guard the front entrance of a housing development in Hagersville, Ont., just south of the 15-month aboriginal occupation at Caledonia on Wednesday, May 23, 2007. The protest was peaceful. (CP PHOTO/Nathan Denette)
Mohawk protestors block a road near the railway tracks near Marysville, Ont. with a bus and a bonfire Friday April 21, 2006. The natives showed their support to fellow natives in Caledonia, Ont. where they were in a stand off with police regarding land claims.(CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)