Response to Smoke Signals

October 26, 2009

Respond to Smoke Signals: How does the film address/respond to/critique stereotypes of Native Americans. You can compare it to the media you addressed for the midterm paper, but be sure to also address Smoke Signals. 5 sentences.

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15 Responses to “Response to Smoke Signals”

  1. Tatiana Galli Says:

    The film Smoke Signals addresses many present day stereotypes of Native Americans. Such stereotypes include Indians as poor and alcoholic individuals. Because this film is a full-out American Indian production, many people would think it would try to refute as many stereotypes of Native Americans today as possible. However, the movie, interestingly, supports greatly these two particular stereotypes. As the audience watch, it is consistently reminded of these stereotypes from scenes that show Victor’s parents, mostly his dad, along with other adults, extremely drunk. If the film does not specifically show individuals drunk, there are many references emphasizing it. Not only does the film support these stereotypes, but it seems to easily make fun of the Native American culture. For instance, during the scene when Victor and Thomas were on the bus to Arizona, Victor tells Thomas to stop acting like he is some type of “medicine man” and begins teaching him how to be “a true Indian.” Victor says to be “Indian” you have to have a certain facial expression: “like you are warriors or just came from a buffalo hunt.” The idea of storytelling or oral traditions is also an important factor in the movie. The audience continually hears Thomas telling stories. It is not necessarily the story telling that is found funny, it is the way Thomas tells the stories; he acts like he is some kind of wise, astute man (as said before, like a medicine man). Overall, the movie seems to support many stereotypes of present day Native Americans.

  2. Heather Putman Says:

    At first Smoke Signals appears to be endorsing stereotypes, through Victor’s comments to Thomas that he “should look like you just killed a buffalo.” That Thomas has never hunted and only fished reveals that this is an empty and contrived statement concerning his “Indian-ness”; it is a mere stereotype. Like the episode of Northern Exposure I examined, this film seems to satirize Native American stereotypes in order to reveal that they are nothing more than a form of unfounded prejudice. An example of this is when Thomas is telling a story to “barter” a ride. He tells it as if mimicking the slow, prophetic monotone of his ancestors, until Victor says he is “so full of shit.” Victor explodes the stereotype that stories, while an important part of Native American culture, are not a genetic trait inherent to all Native Americans. Overall, this film responds to stereotypes by exposing their falsehood.

  3. Alicia Fischer Says:

    I really enjoyed this film. I thought it was extremely different from Pocahontas (the film I analyzed for my midterm). In this film the Native American characters mocked some of the negatvie stereotypes against Native Americans. For instance, in the scene where Victor and Thomas need a ride the woman in the car jokingly asks them to trade a free ride for a story. She is mocking the stereotype that Indians depend on narratives. I thought this film was refreshing because it took some of these stereotypes and mocked them. It seemed like they were also mocking whites because that is where the majority of stereotypes regarding Native Americans come from. This film differend from Pocahontas in that Pocahontas never mocked stereotypes. Actually many aspects of the film encouraged these stereotypes. For example, Pocahontas was extremely sexualized, the Indians were perceived by the Europeans as savages, and all of the Indians were environmentally dependent. Smoke Signals was unique because it deviated from the typical Native American film which commonly degrades them or portrays them as anything but ordianry human beings. The fact that the director was Native American demonstrates evolution in the film industry.

  4. Irene Ruiz Dacal Says:

    One of the things I found really interesting about this film was Thomas’ characterization: he has a strong accent, wears braids and has crooked teeth. Clearly, this is not the chief or medicine man we are used to seeing in movies, but yet Thomas represents the Indian tradition in the sense that he is a storyteller. Something that this film does very well is introduce satire into the plot almost seamlessly and question some of the historical stereotypes that have characterized Western portrayals of Native Americans. Phrases like, “You know how Indians feel about signing papers,” “We’re Indians, remember? We barter,” and “You’ve got to look mean like you just came back from killing a buffalo” are examples of this. I found this usage very effective because it equates taking back the language of the oppressor: they are reverting stereotypes by using images traditionally associated with the Indian and placing them within a humorous context. That being said, there were also some historic links like Victor cutting his hair and the “ceremonial” spread of ashes on the river, but I feel that these derive less from a direct intention to exoticize Indians and more from an effort to tie them to their history.

  5. Eunice Heredia Says:

    In the movie Smoking Signals there are stereotypes of how Native Americans act and look. This movie is quite different from the movie I analyzed which was Pocahontas, it demonstrated the Native Americans needed help on everything and are belittled by others. There are other stereotypes Smoking signal represents Native Americans as long time storytellers, alcoholics, and believing the are illiterate.In Pocahontas there was not any stereotypes of how Native Americans act.There was a scene which dealt with the tribe leader and the interpreter, who pulled out dust or a powder to make figures and telling who the new comers were. Smoking signals has a part where Thomas is telling stories, yet he is seen as entertainment rather than an actual Native American.He is serious, yet there is some majestic feel that he gives off when he is telling the stories. This is how Native Americans were seen in the both movies Smoke Signals and Pocahontas.

  6. Montana Hammonds Says:

    The movie Smoke Signals presents Native American representation with stereotypes of storytellers, alcoholics, and the need to look tough. I felt as if this movie looked at Native Americans in modern times today and what western influece has driven them into. In my movie critique of Pocahontas I referred to colonization and trying to bring western influence to Native American culture.The one specific aaspect of this movie that stood out to me was alcohol. Through history I have learned that Native Americans bartered tobacco for alcohol in which bartering was also another Native American stereotype throughout the film. In all I believe that Smoke Signals tries to portray a modern stereotypical result of Native Americans since colonization.

  7. Emily Sadler Says:

    Smoke Signals does a representation of Native Americans that is once again negative and degrading to their community. In the film one does not see Indians acting like savages, but there are other negative stereotypes that are present and perpetuating their negative representations. In the “Little House on the Prairie” episode I analyzed, the Native Americans mistook white children for Indians, and wanted to kill the “white man.” These representations are different from Smoke Signals, yet the stupidity stereotype of Indians can be seen as prevailing in many media representations of Native Americans. The movie has its moments of trying to incorporate certain Native American traditions. It ultimately tries too hard to do so and fails because of its overpowering depictions of Native Americans as alcoholics and storytellers; negative portrayals that are major themes throughout the film.

  8. Gwen Baldwin Says:

    After viewing and reading, “Smoke Signals”, it is clear that the film portrays negative stereotypes of Native Americans. The film solidifies the idea that Native Americans are alcoholics who have unhealthy living situations and dysfunctional families. Although the film attempts to use some realistic interpretations of Native Americans, they are exaggerated and therefore false. One aspect that the article addressed was that Native Americans tend to be submissive and therefore the “white man” agrees more with them. In the film, this is definitely seen, and even when the boys are younger, they still compare themselves to films where Native Americans have been submissive. Although the boys tend to acknowledge stereotypes of themselves, the film also solidifies them by using certain aspects to mimic them.

  9. Ari Lifschutz Says:

    The movie Smoke Signals has to be examined thoroughly in order to get the real meaning behind it. Most viewers would believe that this movie is just emphasizing on the stereotypes of modern day Native Americans, however their intent is to do the opposite. By mocking the stereotypes, they are trying to prove that they are not true. At the same time though I believe they do a poor job of making these impressions. This probably led to a lot of viewers being confused as to why a person of Native American descent would put a negative spin on his own race, especially when it includes his family. I found a lot of subtle similarities between the clip from the Chapelle Show and the website involving what white people like. Smoke Signals is much more serious but by playing into the stereotype they are trying to refute it.

  10. michelle everst Says:

    Smoke Signals strongly enforced stereotypes about Native American people. This surprised me since it was written and produced by Native Americans and I assumed that the film would attempt to refute stereotypes. Instead the entire first half of the film did nothing but continuously point out the the characters were Indian and that they were supposed to act and look a certain way. Victor’s character has a lot of hatred against the white man and he actually lectures Thomas on how to be a proper Indian. Thomas portrays a more contemporary character but he often tells stories and he seems to be pretending to be a “real” indian. I think the film was meant to show other races that the Native people are aware of the stereotypes about them but I think that they fell short on disproving any of them.


  11. The Native American characters in Smoke Signals were portrayed through stereotypes in a similar manner that various other Native American characters are throughout media. Throughout the film, Native Americans appear as a minority group that live in a world of their own, full of poverty and despair. Though Thomas and Victor are able to overcome the ways of their Indian society, their beliefs in the end parallel stereotypical Native American attitudes. Victor’s willingness to forgive his father reflects the lifestyle of the Native Americans who live on the reservation. Because of Victor’s actions they are able to renew their spirituality and continue living their life, but in a new direction. However, Smoke Signals redeems its use of stereotypes by using satire. For example, the “it’s a good day to die” line pokes fun at Indian stereotypes that Hollywood has always seemed to endorse.

  12. Erica May Says:

    The portrayal of Native Americans in the movie Smoke Signals appears to touch on negative stereotypes such as an impoverished lifestyle and scenes including inebriation. While this film was produced by Native Americans, there are still stereotypical ideas such as these that tend to show through. However, just because a stereotype has been formed concerning the ways of life for Indians, it does not make it untrue. Although at times these stereotypes seemed to become overpowering in the movie, perhaps the producers were attempting to show a form of reality. By including what they wished to portray as the truth, stereotypes might have been involved as a result. In addition, not all stereotypes are negative; for example, there is a sense of community seen in the movie and a presence of spirituality. In some forms of media such as Smoke Signals, these positive stereotypes tend to override or downplay the negative depictions. The producers obviously wanted the audience to see both positive and negative images of Native Americans. There is a reason for this, possibly to point out that Native Americans do not see themselves as immaculate or perfect humans, and also to reveal the fact that no ethnicity or culture is devoid of unfavorable stereotypes.

  13. Amy Slay Says:

    After an in-depth analysis of the use of stereotypes in the film Dances With Wolves, I found Smoke Signals very refreshing. The film, which is an entirely Native American production from start to finish, actually portrays the characters as normal human beings. They are not objectified in the typical, commercially successful way that Hollywood usually goes about portraying Native Americans. What I particularly enjoyed about this film was how it uses stereotype against itself. This especially came across in the character of Thomas. While he isn’t what audiences have come to expect a medicine man or a holy man to look like, that stereotype still lives through him in the Native American tradition of storytelling. It is countered by the open mocking of such stereotypes. Sentiments such as “We’re Indians, remember? We barter,” and “You’ve got to look mean like you just came back from killing a buffalo” unveil the unique personalities of the characters in contrast with the stereotypes they are associated with.

  14. Brittany Fisher Says:

    The film “Smoke Signals” characterizes the Native American culture by placing negative stereotypes upon their society. Though the film doesn’t portray these Native Americans as violent “savages”, as Michael Mann’s film “Last of the Mohicans” does, there are other negative representations that are degrading and stereotypical to their historical customs. The film persistently exaggerates Native American tradition into the theme and dialogue, but not as much as it portrays the characters and the culture as a whole as dysfunctional alcoholic storytellers. They way the characters dress, talk and function throughout the film is also what our contemporary society associates with the Native American culture. Because Victor and Thomas even acknowledge that these stereotypes are placed on themselves, this greater resembles that the mocking in this film is contradictive because it tries very hard to flip the viewers outlook on the Native American culture.

  15. Kaitlyn Says:

    Victor is an excellent example of a stereotypical Native American playing the role of the warrior fighting for his life everyday. Victor is self confident, healthy but depicts the pessimistic outlook on life. Thomas illuminates the stereotype of a healer and one who helps others this is also a stereotype that a Native American can represent. Thomas is smart but also stems an unusual personality. Since Victor’s and Thomas’ personalities are completely different, this allows the stereotypes of a Native American to be divided. The conquering of the unalike stereotypes lets the characters remain different and allows the audiences see both sides of a Native American.


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