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