Dan George:Hollywood's Chief. An Analysis Of White Ownership Over Native American Imagery In 1970s Hollywood Cinema.

3558 words - 14 pages

Dan George: Hollywood's Chief.An Analysis of White Ownership over Native American Imagery in 1970s Hollywood.erhaps no other event more ideally encapsulated the ludicrous, almost anarchical, extremes of mainstream Hollywood's politicization during the 1970s then Oscar night 1973. As the evening's festivities approached their inevitable conclusion, time came to announce the winner of one of the film industry's most coveted honours, the Academy Award for Best Actor. When the envelope was opened, and the name "Marlon Brando" was announced, audience members were most likely not expecting a young woman adorned in traditional Native American garb to accept the award. As Sacheen Littlefeather addressed the exclusive crowd on behalf of Mr. Brando, she declined to accept the Oscar, stating "And the reason for this being…the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry"1. Despite being one of the oddest, and some would say most tasteless moments in Oscar history, this event was highly symbolic of a growing trend in 1970s Hollywood, a widespread advocacy on behalf of oppressed Native Americans.As the decade which spawned the civil rights movement came to a close, the filmic depiction of African Americans had in a few short years evolved from that of subservient slaves, butlers, and "mammy" types, into complex examinations of society's collective social conscious. Few would deny that Hollywood was at least partially responsible for breaking down many racial barriers and helping to usher in an era of increased tolerance. Perhaps it is because of this ideological success, that as the 1970s approached, there arose an increased emphasis on a more egalitarian treatment of Native people within the film industry. For several decades prior this, Hollywood popularized heroic images of Indian eradication, equating these "red skins" with savagery and hatred of Christian values. Having essentially created many of the same "Indian" stereotypes they wished to eliminate, the film industry now encouraged the creation of films in which courageous white men fought to preserve native culture rather than destroy it.If Sidney Poitier was the primary Hollywood icon associated with film industry's advocacy for African American civil rights, then Chief Dan George was his 1970s "Indian" equivalent. Undeniably charismatic, Chief Dan George made his movie debut at the age of seventy, and starred in less than a dozen films. More than thirty years after Marlon Brando's infamous attempt to rectify the mistreatment of Indian people by the American motion picture industry, Chief Dan George's relatively minute contributions to film remain amongst the most notable cinematic examples of sympathetic Natives. Although influential in humanizing the image of Native Americans within Hollywood, the popularity of Chief Dan George was utilized as yet another ideological tool which catered primarily to the desires of a white status-quo. In many of his most celebrated performances,...

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