What have we been learning about Native Americans?

24 Apr

Today’s media has undoubtedly become a staple of American life.  Everywhere we go, we are inundated with images and implications of the “correct” way to dress, speak, live, and what we should believe in.  What I want to focus on is the media’s portrayal of Native American’s, specifically in adult cartoon television shows.

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540, hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print


Native American individuals are essentially invisible to the public eye, and the representations that do actually get shown are unfortunately extremely stereotypical.  I would like to urge my reader to think of the portrayals of Native Americans that he/she has personally experienced in the past.  Has there been much diversity?  Are Native American individuals taken seriously, or are they merely there for comic relief?

What I’ve found in my research is that the media gives the public a highly skewed vision of the realities of Native American life and thus dehumanized the entire ethnic group.  This can consequently have disastrous and lasting effects on the perceptions of Native populations.  Because of the lack of information and coverage, White’s and non-Whites form stereotypical opinions about particular groups they don’t typically have contact with. In this case, the minority being generalized and hurt are Native Americans.  A study entitled, “The portrayal of racial minorities on prime time television” attempted to explore the relationship between mass media and it’s portrayal of ethnic minorities.  The relationship tended to shape the way in which the majority viewed minorities and consequently, the way in which minorities interact with the majority of the population.  The study, using an extensive method for gathering data, broke down the overall racial coverage into six categories.  Not surprisingly, the results showed that no Native American was found in the full sample of prime time television in 1996.  Asian American’s fared not much better, coming in at 1% of the TV population and 4% of the census.  (Mastro, Greenberg 699).  What I found interesting was that after giving those statistics, the study then omits both Asian American’s and Native American’s from further exploration.  The audience is thus left in the dark as to why the Asian and Native population aren’t given nearly enough attention in entertainment media until the final discussion of the study.  Mastro and Greenberg briefly state that the reason for this massive under representation of these particular minorities represent the need to uphold mainstream, white conventions (699).

In my future posts, I will be giving examples of various adult cartoon images our society gets of Native Americans.  The television shows Family Guy, King of the Hill, and South Park will be utilized as a small sample of this misrepresentation of Native populations.


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