“When people like Mrs. Whitlow use [the term ‘savages’] they are not, for some inexplicable reason, trying to suggest that the subjects have a rich oral tradition, a complex system of tribal rights and a deep respect for the spirits of their ancestors. They are implying the kind of behaviour more generally associated, oddly enough, with people wearing a full suit of clothes, often with the same sort of insignia.”
Quite simply, this trope is the (hopefully) now-discredited stereotypical depiction of "natives" in a Hungry Jungle
, Desert 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 You No Take Candle
A variation comes up with stereotypical depictions of American Indians in Injun Country
— the approach is the same, and the only difference will be in the superficial details. They will wear Braids, Beads and Buckskins
, speak using Tonto Talk
, and add tomahawks to their arsenal. Their camps will be filled with Tipis And Totem Poles
, they greet other people with a gruff "How," the chief will wear a giant feather headdress, and the elders will sit around a big bonfire for a "pow-wow." If they befriend the protagonists, a peace pipe will probably be smoked, and maybe the heroes will end up being honorary chiefs of the tribe.
Needless to say, when any of 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
and Magical Native American
, which glamorizes the locals instead of denigrating them.
Not to Be Confused with
people growing up near Los Angeles
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- The British Anthology Comic The Beano has "Little Plum", a comic strip set in Injun Country about a young indian boy from the Smellyfoot tribe. It is full of indian stereotypes, and all of the indian characters speak broken english, which consists of normal English but with words replaced with "um."
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 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 that 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. Afterward, 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.
- 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.
Film - Live-Action
- The Kukuanas from King Solomon's Mines. Not only are they savage warriors living in unexplored Africa who attack all trespassers, they're also easily convinced into accepting Quatermain's party as great white "visitors from the stars" by their false teeth, glass eyes, and pale uncovered legs.
- 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 à 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 plays with this trope in the Hekawi indians, who have some superficial Hollywood Native traits mixed with Borsch Belt comedy. Then there's Stand-Up Bull, an Indian comedian, and while he certainly doesn't really speak Broken English, he does misuse certain nouns — as does the rest of 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!" (Imitates 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 also 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.
- 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 chieftain who wears a grass skirt and has his hair tied up in an elaborate tribal mask/headdress.
- 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. When the tribe realizes who the real good guys are, they name Rocky and Bullwinkle honorary chiefs, and making peace with the circus 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 Littlest Pet Shop (2012) episode "Heart of Parkness" features a group of raccoons styled after this trope, complete with face paint, head dressings and a chief that speaks entirely in "crazy woodland gibberish".
- Subverted on Taz-Mania, where the Mud People all speak in an upper crust Yale dialect like Thurston Howell III.