I thought I’d follow up my last post with some miscellaneous links/notes regarding the tumultuous relationship between the Twilight franchise and the Native American community. It’s not a topic that I’m particularly adept at discussing, but here are some of the issues and sources I’ve found interesting:
This post from Racialicious dissects some of the racial stereotypes in Meyer’s depiction of the Quileutes. The sections on exoticism and sexualization of non-whites and equating Indigenous Peoples with the animalistic are particularly interesting. It’s something I’d like to return to in the future, but I feel like my competence with the subject matter is too limited at the moment. I welcome links and book/article recommendations on similar topics.
Questions have been raised about Taylor Lautner’s Native American status. Whether he has Native ancestors or not, it’s clear that he was not raised in any Native American tradition. A serious scandal surrounds Tinsel Korey (aka Harsha Patel?), who plays Emily Young in New Moon and Eclipse. That these issues haven’t been widely discussed seems kind of odd. The Twilight franchise has a rabid fan base demanding up to date info nownownow. You’d think news outlets would be hopping all over it. Unfortunately, it may be ignored simply because it’s a First Nations issue. Non-Native American readers are probably more interested in Lautner’s abs than whether he or Korey are authentic representatives of Native populations.
I’m torn on whether or not it’s necessary for actors to be actual members of specific groups in order to play one in a movie. Their job is to pretend and convince us to willingly suspend disbelief for a few hours. Demanding utter authenticity from your actors, especially when they’re playing vampires and werewolves, kind of defeats the point of acting and verges on silly.
However, the history of casting is littered with offensively slipshod and/or racist representations, from replacing non-white characters with whites (whites are clearly the neutral, non-ethnic race, donchaknow? /sarcasm) to employing a tiny handful of Indian and Arab actors and using them interchangeably – as if the vast array of ethnic mixtures from North Africa, the Middle East, and South Central Asia were all the same.
Here’s a post from an amazing blog that explores Indigenous peoples in children’s literature. The author, Debbie Reese, offers her own critical perspectives on the Twilight saga, but I especially appreciated this post on actual Quileutes willing to share the true traditions of the tribe.
Meyer’s appropriation of Quileute name, land, and tradition is really a very sensitive issue. She has personally gained quite a bit from the association. The fallout, as indicated in the above links, is mixed for the actual Quileute people. Will Twilight tourism pump some money into the economically depressed reservation? Do the Quileute even want the attention in the first place if all they get is a bunch of tittering teens interrupting their talks on deeply-held spiritual beliefs with questions about whether they have any brothers and are any of them werewolves?
Again, this is all fairly new to me, so I don’t have an official stance on any of these topics other than to say that I would love to learn more about each of them.