Monday, March 12, 2012

America's Next Top Racist?

Tyra Banks: calling white girls "Yanks", since 2012.

So I know I am a little behind on this, but I get my tv through, so there’s a bit of a delay there. Then, after I watched this episode, I just kept thinking about it and getting more and more annoyed by what I had seen and heard.

What I'm talking about is America’s Next Top Model. The new season, or ‘cycle’ as they call it, has just begun. This cycle features half of the potential models coming from the US and the other half from Britian. Towards the beginning of the season premier, when Tyra Banks referred to the US girls as “Yanks”, I should have known there would be nothing politically correct about the show.

This cycle also happens to feature the first ever Native American hopeful. So, in a competition designed to pit the United States against England, they’ve also made sure to throw in a woman of Native American heritage. Mariah, whatever you do, do not accept gifts from ANYONE.

For those of you who didn’t immediately google ‘americas next top model native american chick’, Mariah is the name of the Native American contestant. As it turns out, not only is she Native American(yay!), she’s also from Oregon(double yay!). Granted, she's from Pendleton, which is the opposite side of the state from where I grew up, but considering that I live 3000 miles away now, a paltry 8 hour drive is practically next door.

Now, dear Internet friends, I might be a little overzealous about this topic, but since I identify at Native American myself, Native stereotypes are kind of a big deal to me, especially since my brown hair and blue eyes don’t fit the stereotype. When I see the kind of ridiculous stereotyping that occurred on this show, I get kind of upset.

Why might I be upset? It’s just a stupid tv show. That millions of people watch. Around the world.

So what was so awful about the episode?

The only Native American girl to ever be on the show, was expected to play the role of Pocahontas. Yes, they decided the first series of photographs should feature well known American figures juxtaposed against well known British figures. Sounds like a really fun idea, right? It could have been, had it featured less racism and stereotyping.

“Wait, I thought Pocahontas was a positive role model for young Native American women” you might ask yourself. You’d be wrong. Who do you think of, when you think of Pocahontas? I bet, for most of you, you think of the anorexic, top heavy, fell in love with the first white dude she saw Disney princess. Hey man, me too. The live action movie Pocahontas was far too depressing for me to want to think of that when I hear her name. It’s probably a more accurate portrayal of Pocahontas and her life though. The big problem is that Pocahontas just happens to be the only Native American female of note that any white people know, except for maybe Sacagawea("Isn’t that the chick on the stupid dollar coins I used to get as change from vending machines?").

Seriously though, pick up a book and read about other Native American women who did something more than fall in love with some white dude and become ‘civilized’.

Pocahontas vs. John Lenon....really?
So anyway....we’ve determined that Pocahontas is famous for absolutely nothing. Now lets talk about what you think of when you think of Native American dress. Does it come from a costume store? It sure did on this episode of America’s Next Top Model. Is it really that difficult to find something that identifies her as Native, without proclaiming “Let’s see how much crap I can slap onto a small piece of leather!” Also notice the shortness of the skirt, the garishly dyed feathers and the shoulder baring boat neck, all highly practical designs for hunting deer, gathering berries and growing crops.

Mariah though, was a good sport, and let them dress her up in this get up. I have no idea how much she knows about traditional regalia, but since she grew up around Pendleton, Oregon, which is right next to the Umatilla Indian Reservation, home of the tribe to which she belongs, I’d say she’s at least been to a pow-wow or two.

Being a good sport got her this:
"Guess what happened to me today?
Someone confused me with Kelly Osbourne."
Kelly Osbourne: “Coming from someone who is Native American, you would have thought they would have brought something from within. You could have done something a little bit more special.”

Has anyone seen the movie Bridesmaids? Kelly Osbourne as a judge reminds me of the fat, ugly, idiotic British sister. It’s harsh, I know, but I felt like her comments were often idiotic and she uses such long pauses in her speech that she comes of as extremely unintelligent.

Picking corn fills me with such pain.
Nigel Barker: “First of all, Mariah, I feel like you had a very easy thing to do. I mean, you are Native American. I don’t feel like you’ve committed. I just don’t see the angst. I don’t see any feeling. I don’t see the passion. I just see you looking pretty.”

Because Pocahontas, as a Native American, living during the time period when Native Americans still had their land and their traditional way of life, was filled with ANGST.     

I think what upsets me the most, is that I actually like this show. I like Nigel Barker as a judge. I like the work that the models and artists do, during the duration of the show. But all of that has been tarnished by this. Two people said some extremely ignorant things and NO ONE CARED. Their comments made the editing cuts and were aired on national tv. There has been absolutely no backlash against the things that were said.

Telling the Native girl that she should have done a better job as Pocahontas because she is Native, is like telling the self proclaimed ‘androgynous’ one that she should have been able to portray a more manly George Washington. Oh wait, THEY DID SAY THAT.

I give up. I’m officially revolting against this show.