HollywoodNatives Hollywood Natives YKTTW Discussion

Hollywood Natives
Stereotypical depiction of tribal natives
Needs Examples Tropeworthy? Description Needs Help
(permanent link) added: 2013-12-28 12:02:05 sponsor: rjung (last reply: 2014-01-05 22:24:35)

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Quite simply, this trope is the (hopefully) now-discredited stereotypical depiction of "natives" in a jungle, open prairie, tropical island, or other such unsettled wilderness. The locals will inevitably be portrayed as culturally "inferior" to the main characters — typical depictions will show the natives as unkempt, dark-skinned, and scantily-clad, decorated with Tribal Face Paint and Savage Piercings, and brandishing spears or bows. When they meet the protagonists, they will either be mesmerized by the Mighty Whitey and accept them as gods, have the heroes for lunch, or invite them to be guests of the volcano god. If they can speak the protagonists' language, expect lots of Tonto Talk or You No Take Candle. Needless to say, when these folks appear, Unfortunate Implications will be quick to follow.

While this was a popular depiction in the past, it's largely a Dead Horse Trope now, due to the aforementioned Unfortunate Implications. If and when this trope appears in modern works, it's often subverted and played for laughs; straight depictions in mainstream Western culture are sure to raise eyebrows or risk quite a backlash.

A meta-trope to Captured by Cannibals, Hollywood Voodoo, Chased by Angry Natives, Stewed Alive, and many others. A supertrope to The Savage Indian, Cannibal Tribe, and The Natives Are Restless.

Contrast with Noble Savage, which glamorizes the locals instead of denigrating them.

Not to Be Confused with people growing up near the Southern California moviemaking capitol.


Film - Animated
  • An American Tail: Fievel Goes West: On his way to Green River, Tiger is lured into a trap by the Mousican Tribe - a tribe of native mice, complete with the face painting, chanting, war cries, and everything. They plan on sacrificing Tiger, until the Chief sees him hanging by his paws above the camp fire exactly matches a butte shaped the same, they believe Tiger is their god, and then pamper him with a spread of fruits and vegetables.
  • The Indians in the Disney Peter Pan movie. They smoke pipes, wear feathered headdresses, speak in Tonto Talk, and live in teepees. They even come complete with a truly cringeworthy song called "What Makes the Red Man Red."
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown: As Sid sleeps, he's taken away by a tribe of mini-sloths, who claim Sid is their Fire King, since he previously "discovered" fire. The mini-sloths virtually mimic everything Sid does, which he then decides to use to his advantage by leading them into a devotion chant/song to him. Afterwards, the tribe attempt to toss him into a lava as a sacrifice, on the grounds that his discovery of fire is the reason behind all the ice melting and the impending flood. Only one mini-sloth (presumably the tribal chief, or some kind of head priestess) can speak fluent English.

Film - Live-Action
  • The Wachoochoo and Wachatis tribes from Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, complete with chalk-white face and body paint, fur loincloths, and bad hygiene.
  • The Hovitos in the Chased by Angry Natives opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark (blowguns, spears and a nasty attitude).
  • Invoked twice in Airplane:
    • In one of his flashbacks, Ted talks about working with the Malombo tribe in the Peace Corps. Everyone is dark-skinned and wear cloth wraps and beads, and the men brandish spears and wear feathered headdresses and face paint.
    • One appears briefly during the "news bulletin" montage, wearing a necklace of beads and horns while using Jungle Drums to deliver a news report.
  • The second Pirates of the Caribbean film has a Cannibal Tribe who worship Jack Sparrow as a god, and intend to free him from his physical form.
  • All versions of King Kong feature savage natives, who capture Ann Darrow / Dwan, and sacrifice her to Kong.
    • In the 1933 original film, they are as typical Hollywood Natives as possible.
    • Played with in the 2005 remake; the natives of Skull Island look more like orcs, while the "natives" in the New York stage show use the same costumes, dance and music as the natives of the 1933 film.
  • The Indian in the Cupboard: Little Bear pretty much subverts this, however, when Omri brings to life a figurine of a WW1 medic named Tommy to tend to a wound of his, he greets Little Bear with, "How!", much to Little Bear's confusion.
  • The Ewoks from Return of the Jedi invoke this, not in their appearance (they look like Ugly Cute teddy bears), but in their behaviour. They speak a language C-3PO calls "some kind of primitive dialect", use stone-age weapons and Bamboo Technology (which is still pretty effective against Imperial Stormtroopers), they capture the protagonists, carry them tied to a stick and attempt to eat them, and they worship C-3PO as their god.

Live-Action TV
  • Various tribes of this type appear throughout the run of Gilligan's Island. For example, the episode "Gilligan's Mother-In-Law" has a native family — complete with grass skirts, feathered headdresses, and bad language skills — choosing Gilligan to be a husband for their overweight daughter.
  • Used as a gag in the short lived series Black Tie Affair. One of the main characters is a catalog magnate a la J. Peterman and is shooting the photos for his upcoming catalog. The shoot in this instance is of a (white, female) explorer trussed up in a pot surrounded by natives. The black male models playing the natives complain that it's racist, so they are dressed as lawyers instead - but they still have the girl trussed up in a big pot.
  • Green Acres: In the episode, "The Rains Came", Mr. Haney attempts to make it rain over a drought-ridden Hooterville with a rain-dancing Indian, who speaks broken English, refers to Lisa as, "Pret-ty squaw", and greets people with, "How!" He fails to conjure up rain, though.
  • Hogan's Heroes: Both inverts, and surprisingly (given the period of which the show was on) averts it at the same time in the episode, "Drums Along the Dusseldorf", which reveals Carter is a member of the Sioux tribe (his tribal name is Little Deer Who Goes Swift And Sure Through Forest), despite being fair-skinned and fair-haired. Many of the others razz him throughout the episode with stereotypical war cries, and peppering him with silly questions - not only is Carter clearly annoyed by all of this, but also uncharacteristically slips into Sarcasm Mode. He does, however, take the time to build a bow and arrow set, which he shows little skills with, despite claiming winning a lot of trophies for his archery skills back home.
  • The Munsters: While on vacation, Herman is separated from the rest of the family, and stumbles onto a tourist attraction that is a show business tribe, and although most everyone is an actor dressed up as and acting like a Hollywood Native, the tribe somehow has an actual Native American Chief, who is so old and delusion, that he believes his tribe is real, and even attempts to marry Herman to his daughter.
  • F Troop treats us to an inversion, with Stand-Up Bull, an Indian comedian, and while he certainly doesn't really speak Broken English (neither does his tribe for that matter), he does misuse certain nouns (again, as does his tribe).
    Stand-Up Bull: Seriously tribe, take my brother, him not lazy, him too light for heavy work, and him too heavy for light work! (Immitates a trumpet flourish)
    Chief: Stand-Up Bull? No smoke-signal us, we smoke-signal you.
  • Seinfeld parodies this in, "The Cigar Store Indian", of which Jerry gives to Elaine as an apology gift, not realizing that her friend Wynona is a Native American (and clearly offended by not only Jerry's gift, but his apology card that says, "Let's bury the hatchet. We smoke-em peace pipe". Jerry and Wynona do eventually put it aside, only for Jerry to end up offending her again by implying she's an Indian giver, for wanting back a copy of TV Guide she had given him.

  • Played with in Bally's Gilligan's Island pinball. While there is a shirtless native brandishing a spear and holding up a shrunken head, he's also unmistakably pale and wearing face paint that looks like a pair of oversized Nerd Glasses.

Video Games
  • The Crash Bandicoot series have the tribesmen of N. Sanity Island, who worship various monoliths and attempt to capture and/or eat anything that entered their territory. They are led by Papu Papu, an obese chieftan who wears a grass skirt and has his hair tied up in an elaborate tribal mask/headdress.

Western Animation
  • In an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, Buster, Babs and Hamton are stuck on an island and chased by natives. Animated Actors is invoked at one point, where Buster says "Look, there are some naivetes," and Babs points out that it's a typo in the script, at which point Buster screams and runs away.
  • Occasionally seen in Looney Tunes:
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle: Features such stereotypical Indians in the story arc, "Bumbling Bros. Circus"; the rain dancers capture Rocky and Bullwinkle and attempt to burn them at the stake to please Great Spirit, however, Bullwinkle's humming comb gives them dance fever, and they literally dance up a storm, putting out the flames. The circus comes to their rescue, Boris and Natasha escape, and the tribe realize who the real good and bad guys are, naming Rocky and Bullwinkle honorary chiefs of their tribe, and making peace with the circus (complete with a peace pipe).
  • On Timon & Pumbaa there's a tribe of masked natives that kidnap Pumbaa and make him their king. Subverted when at the end they take off their masks, revealing them to be urbane yuppies with British accents on some sort of corporate retreat.
  • The Pen Guans in Surf's Up, who try to cook Chicken Joe and occasionally attack the camera crew.
  • In The Chipmunk Adventure, the Chipmunks are taken by an Amazonian tribe who wear grass skirts and big floppy headdresses. They make Theodore their Prince of Plenty and plan to sacrifice to a volcano.
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