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Ghosts of Indian Country: Filling in the Map

  • Amy Lynn Corbin
Chapter
Part of the Screening Spaces book series (SCSP)

Abstract

Multiculturalism’s project at the end of the twentieth century was to offer a complete map of American diversity and model the image of a nation that makes space for all groups. What has been missing from our cinematic map of late-twentieth-century America, however, is Indian Country. As noted in chapter 1, films that the-matized white-Indian contact in a manner ostensibly sympathetic to the Indian perspective peaked in 1969–1971. Then, the three landscapes key to depicting multiculturalism in the post-sixties era—the South, the inner city, and the suburbs—all drew on themes that can be traced to that primal American contact zone: themes of white rebels or primitives, of spaces in opposition to modernity that offered either chaos or liberation. However, direct representations of Native American cultures or Indian Country were largely absent from popular cinema.

Keywords

Cultural Landscape Home Video Indian Country Childhood Friend Horror Film 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    The actor in the commercial was Iron Eyes Cody, an actor who lived his life and built his career around being Native American, but was actually of Italian descent. Angela Aleiss, “Iron Eyes Cody: Wannabe Indian,” Cineaste 25, no. 1 (December 1999): 30–31.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    See the middle-aged protagonist in The Swimmer (short story by John Cheever, 1964; film directed by Frank Perry, 1968) who wants to feel his physical prowess through swimming, but can only swim in man-made pools, and another suburban husband who tries to recover his masculinity by digging a pathway from house to road in Revolutionary Road (novel by Richard Yates, 1961; film directed by Sam Mendes, 2008). Timothy Aubry, “John Cheever and the Management of Middlebrow Misery,” Jowa Journal of Cultural Studies 3 (Fall 2003): 64–83; Michael P. Moreno, “Consuming the Frontier Illusion: The Construction of Suburban Masculinity in Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road,” Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies 3 (Fall 2003): 84–95.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    See Murray Leeder, “The Fall of the House of Meaning: Between Static and Slime in Poltergeist,” The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, no. 5 (August 12, 2008): n.p.; and Bernice M. Murphy, The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (Basingstoke, Hampshire, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 132. Poltergeist 2 brings both types of ghosts together when it presents the next Freeling family home as built over both a Native American graveyard and a cave where poor white religious cult members died. It also uses a Native American shaman to help the husband fight the dangers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 5.
    Gesa Mackenthun, “Haunted Real Estate,” Paradoxa 3, no. 3–4 (1997): 439.Google Scholar
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    David Laderman, Driving Visions: Exploring the Road Movie (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002), 201.Google Scholar
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    Armando J. Prats, Invisible Natives: Myth and Identity in the American Western (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Jeffrey Walker, “Deconstructing an American Myth: The Last of the Mohicans,” in Hollywood’s Indian: The Portrayal of the Native American in Film, ed. Peter C. Rollins and John E. O’Connor (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998), 170–86.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Philip Joseph Deloria, Playing Indian (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 174.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Strong emphasizes this in the song entitled “Colors of the Wind.” Pauline Turner Strong, “Animated Indians: Critique and Contradiction in Commodified Children’s Culture,” Cultural Anthropology 11, no. 3 (August 1996): 412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 15.
    Kiyomi Kutsuzawa, “Disney’s Pocahontas: Reproduction of Gender, Orientalism, and the Strategic Construction of Racial Harmony in the Disney Empire,” Asian Journal of Women’s Studies 6, no. 4 (2000): n.p.Google Scholar
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    Timothy W. Luke, “Picturing Politics at the Exhibition: Art, History and National Identity in the American Culture Wars of the 1990s,” Australasian Journal of American Studies 16, no. 2 (1996): 3–23.Google Scholar
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  13. 20.
    Vivian Sobchack, The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 10.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    This is actually Alexie’s poem, found in The Summer of Black Widows (Brooklyn, NY: Hanging Loose Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    Laura Marks, “Video Haptics and Erotics,” Screen 39, no. 4 (Winter 1998): 336. Marks expands on haptic cinema in The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 23.
    Giuliana Bruno, Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film (London and New York: Verso, 2002), 207.Google Scholar
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    Amy Corbin, “Traveling through Cinema Space: The Film Spectator as Tourist,” Continuum: A Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 28, no. 3 (2014): 314–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 26.
    It also functions as a nod to some Native critics who are disturbed at the popularity of Alexie’s poetry and fiction, which they feel put Native poverty, dysfunction, and alcoholism on display for outsiders. Alexie signals his awareness of the way a Native writer might perform cultural otherness for profit by presenting a caricature of how he thinks his critics see him. See in particular Gloria Bird, “The Exaggeration of Despair in Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues,” Wicazo Sa Review (Fall 1995): 47–52; and Louis Owens, Mixedblood Messages (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998): 74–82.Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, in Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), employ this term, derived from Mikhail Bakhtin, to describe the presence of multiple discourses, a more accurate way to represent a social world.Google Scholar
  21. 28.
    Louis Owens, in Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992), 9, argues that this distinction between author and storyteller is a central problematic of the Native American novel.Google Scholar
  22. 29.
    Quoted in Meredith K. James, Literary and Cinematic Reservation in Selected Works of Native American Author Sherman Alexie (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2005), 85.Google Scholar
  23. 30.
    Trinh Minh-ha, When the Moon Waxes Red: Representation, Gender, and Cultural Politics (New York: Routledge, 1991), 2.Google Scholar
  24. 31.
    Stephen A. Tyler, “Post-Modern Ethnography: From Document of the Occult to Occult Document,” in Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, ed. James Clifford and George Marcus (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), 125–26.Google Scholar
  25. 32.
    Melissa Olsen, “Alexie’s ‘The Business of Fancydancing,’” The Circle: News from an American Indian Perspective 23, no. 6 (June 30, 2002): 10.Google Scholar
  26. 33.
    Karen Lynnea Piper, Cartographic Fictions: Maps, Race, and Identity (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002), 13.Google Scholar

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© Amy Lynn Corbin 2015

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  • Amy Lynn Corbin

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