Friday, December 05, 2014

"True Blood Brothers" in NBC's production of Peter Pan

In an earlier post, I wrote about how NBC had hired a Chickasaw man to rework the "Ugg-A-Wugg" song, replacing that phrase with a word used by the Wyandott people. Other musical changes were made, too, he said. That song was replaced with a new one, called True Blood Brothers. NBC's live production of Peter Pan aired last night (December 4, 2014).

So how did it turn out?

As Tiger Lily stands before Peter Pan for this song, she says something like "O a hay" instead of Ugg a wugg. The music that plays during this song? Classic Hollywood fakery. Below are some screen captures from the video available on YouTube. At the very bottom is the video itself.

Tiger Lily steps back from Peter and crosses her arms in front of her:

Tiger Lily and her tribe begin to dance. Note their attire:

Here, they sing "Beat on a drum!" And I will come and save our brave noble warrior." With their hands, Tiger Lily and Peter Pan 'play' the drum (the backs of the men on whom they stand). Because they're both singing, I guess Tiger Lily is saying Peter is a brave noble warrior, and he is saying it of her, too:

Everyone dances to that Hollywood Indian music, and then John and Michael start singing "Hickory Dickory Dock" (rather than O-a-hay o-a-hay o-a-hay). They're pretending to be Indians at that point. See that blue feather? And that loin-cloth-thingy?

More Hollywood Indian music, more dancing, a dummy meant to be Captain Hook, and the number ends with Tiger Lily and Peter Pan singing they'll be blood brothers to the end.

As I watched the clip, I didn't see any Indian women. Just Tiger Lily. All the rest of her "tribe" are men.

The take away? Lot of stereotyping:

Indians with crossed arms: check
Scantily clad Indians: check
Playing drum with hands: check
Kids playing Indian: check
Hollywood Indian music: check
Overrepresentation of men: check

So--a question.

"O-a-hey" is supposed to be a Wyandotte word. Does that make this all better? No. Not at all.

I wonder how many kids are at school today singing "o-a-hey o-a-hey o-a-hey" as they prance about with their arms crossed? I wonder about the Native kids at school today. Are they looking at their peers doing this silly song and dance?

Here's the video:

Did you tune in? It is getting slammed by reviewers this morning. What do you think about it?

Update, 4:00 PM
As requested by Rebecca (in comment section to this post), I'll add critiques of the Native content.

#NotYourTigerLily: Nine Months Later and they Still Don't Get the Point by Johnnie Jae at Native Max Magazine

Why Fix Tiger Lily? Why Can't We Just Let Her Go? by Adrienne Keene at Indian Country Today


rebecca rabinowitz said...

Debbie, would you link any reviews that you see slamming it for *this* reason? I'm not holding my breath for them, but it would be great to see any if they exist. Thank you.

Gabriele Bianchetti said...

If I had not read your analysis first, I would have thought the video was a parody of stereotyping of Native American people in media. Hideous!
Also, I think the inclusion of true words from actual Native American languages makes it worse, since it seems to be an accurate representation of Native people, when it's just the same racist garbage as always.

Unknown said...

Debbie, Is there any way to do this play that isn't culturally offensive? I loved the music from Peter Pan when I was a kid - I used to go around the house singing "I'm Flying" and "I've Gotta Crow." I get why people want to keep this story. But Indians in Neverland? With fairies and pirates, and "Lost Boys?" The racist Victorian imagination created this. If I were directing it, I would revise it to show how children who were thrown away have something in common with Native people who were thrown away, rather than portraying NDNs as the exotic furniture of a made-up world. Allied against the "Pirates" - the ones who steal what isn't theirs, that could make for a powerful narrative, I think. Of course that would mean different songs,different choreography, different costumes (how about beaded baseball caps?) more women,and dialog that would connect the "throw aways" of Western society. That would add a depth of meaning this play never had, subverting its colonialist message. If we can't get rid of this stuff, then revise it, subvert it, disempower its power to hurt, and present alternate images of Native people to a young audience. Any Native playwriters want to take this on?

Debbie Reese said...

Unknown: It looks like the Minneapolis Children's Theater worked with Native people and came up with a way to do it:

I want to go see that production.

Anonymous said...

I had thought they were going to cut the song when I first heard about this production. (The most recent production of Annie Get Your Gun cut the cringe-worthy "I'm an Indian too")

Then I heard they were fixing it, but that was also rather cringe-worthy. I did notice that Tiger-lily accompanied Peter to save her tribesmen and the Lost Boys, so that was something.

Over all not impressed with this production.

Unknown said...

I'd love to see the Minneapolis production. That's the best idea I've heard. Bravo.

Cheryl Savageau

PS I'm the "unknown" comment, I didn't see how to post my name.

Anonymous said...

Peter Pan was the first show I saw on Broadway, so I couldn't wait to watch this version. I loved it and so did my kids. They don't see Tiger Lily and the Indians as made up. We've been to reservations in Arizona so they are aware Native Americans still exist. They see the show for entertainment, not history.

Gabriele Bianchetti said...

Maybe your kids know that 'Indians' still exist, but their representation is inaccurate and offensive. Would you bring your children to a Minstrel Show, with the excuse that they know that black people still exist?