TV Tropes Org

Forums

search forum titles
google site search
Total posts: [60]
1
 2 3

Should I include a Native American antagonist?:

What?
Ok the story is set Twenty Minutes into the Future when Earth became a Fantasy Kitchen Sink and a variety of heroes and villains started popping up.

I was thinking that a Native American antagonist would be a nice addition as the motivation is pretty obvious and I haven't seen a story where a Native American depicted as the mastermind. But the issue is, of course, being called out for a stereotypical depiction of Native Americans.

I would have to make sure the figure is not associated with any real tribes. One way I figured this could be done is by making the character a figure from Native American mythology. But then that leads to accusations that I'm trivializing their culture.

In addition, should I put down an adjacent universe where the character musters his army? This adjacent universe functions like Marvel's Wakanda, a mighty yet isolated nation.

edited 5th Oct '12 10:18:35 PM by Worlder

I could be completely wrong here but i think by ensuring the character is disasociated from any real native american tribes you would only increase the likelihood of a negative reaction to the character. People might interpret it as you seeing the native americans as one big tribal stereotype rather than individuals with their own values and traditions unique to their tribe. They could also interpet it as you not caring enough about native american culture to research it properly.

Just look at Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager for an example. The writers wanted him to represent all native americans so didnt associate him with any particular tribe. As a result the cultural traditions and sacred rituals that he performed on the show were taken from a variety of different tribes rather than just one which not only confused viewers, cause what one tribe views as sacred another views as mundane hence conflicting values, but made the writers look lazy and ignorant. People interpreted Chakotay as being a racial stereotype because of this.

I think you should research different native american tribes and see which best suits your character. Imho by giving him a tribe and cultural tradition to belong to you would be giving the character added depth and motivation that could serve to enhance both the character and overall story.

And if your main worry is that the only native american character in the story is a bad guy why not create a good native american character to balance him out. maybe he has a family member who does not agree with his evil ambitions or an entire tribe who has cast him out because of his evil ways and must regretfully side with the good guys against their former friend/family member.

edited 6th Oct '12 5:57:51 AM by Merlanthe

 
What?
I see what you mean on the tribe association thing.

Also he is a Well-Intentioned Extremist.

He wants all the native people of the Americas to prosper.

If he has to grind a superpower to dust to do so, he'll just say "Challenge Accepted".

edited 6th Oct '12 9:48:47 AM by Worlder

 4 Madrugada, Sat, 6th Oct '12 10:10:53 AM Relationship Status: In season
Zzzzzzzzzz
a Native American antagonist would be a nice addition as the motivation is pretty obvious

What's so obvious about it? Unless you're already working from stereotypes, I don't see why one ethnic/cultural heritage makes any one type more obviously a good antagonist than another.
'He strutted across the bedroom, his hard manhood pointing the way' sounds like he owns a badly named seeing-eye dog. 'Sit, Hard Manhood!
What?
Ok okay, I'll state it outright.

The character has a grudge against the United States for what the country did during 19th century. In his mind, if he can't force the hand of the US government to give better treatments to Native Americans, he'll just have to skip straight to the dissolution of the United States.

 6 Madrugada, Sat, 6th Oct '12 11:23:48 AM Relationship Status: In season
Zzzzzzzzzz
So, yes, you're starting from a stereotype.
'He strutted across the bedroom, his hard manhood pointing the way' sounds like he owns a badly named seeing-eye dog. 'Sit, Hard Manhood!
What?
Okay, but is still possible to flesh out the character not be so much of a stereotype, right?

 8 m8e, Sat, 6th Oct '12 11:35:11 AM from Sweden Relationship Status: Wanna dance with somebody
So, yes, you're starting from a stereotype.
Exactly how? Can you give an example where this stereotype have been used?

Having grudge against the United States is kind of People Sit on Chairs. But wanting the dissolution of the United States isn't really connected to native americans.

edited 6th Oct '12 11:40:48 AM by m8e

We aren't standing on the shoulders of giants, we are standing on totem poles of dwarfs
I recall one of the old Fleischer Bros. Superman cartoons had as it's antagonist a Native American evil mastermind who wanted Manhatten Island back for his people. So the concept ain't exactly a completely new one.

I might also recommend the book "Aces Abroad" from the Wild Cards series, for a similar idea set in Central/South America.
 
 10 Deviant Braeburn, Sat, 6th Oct '12 5:09:10 PM from Dysfunctional California
Wandering Jew
This is a Native American stereotype? Do we even have a trope for this?

Everything is Possible.

But some things are more Probable than others.
JEBAGEDDON 2016

 11 Jabrosky, Sun, 7th Oct '12 5:13:16 PM from San Diego, CA
Madman
As long as you make him a multidimensional character, or at least keep the stereotypes to a minimum if you must have them at all, I don't see the problem with a Native American villain. Native Americans are human too, so why can't they have bad guys?
 12 Deviant Braeburn, Sun, 7th Oct '12 5:37:38 PM from Dysfunctional California
Wandering Jew
[up]

Exactly.
Everything is Possible.

But some things are more Probable than others.
JEBAGEDDON 2016

Considering the treatment of various tribes into the present day I'll say I'd probably sympathise with your antagonist way more than the heroes... besides, why is dissolution of the U.S. that bad of a goal anyway?

Also, whoever said that an American Indian holding a grudge is an example of "People Sit On Chairs". No, it really isn't. Because the indigenous people of the Americas are also *individual people* the reaction to the State that carried genocide against their people is also extremely variant. Even separate tribes reacted differently at the time the genocide was being carried out... the Cherokee were very quick to adapt to new Western customs, signed treaties, and even tried sue the U.S. government to avoid removal ((and actually won the trial, which Jackson then ignored and carried out the Indian Removal Act anyhow)). Whereas tribes like the Seminole never signed a peace treaty and resisted assimilation on nearly every front.

People who endure incredibly shitty things, or are descended from those who endured it, or who still experience it in a less harsh way, will all react differently because they are individual people and they experienced these things in a different way.
"They called me mad, I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me." - Nathaniel Lee, playwright, upon being committed to Bedlam in
 14 Madrugada, Sun, 7th Oct '12 8:55:58 PM Relationship Status: In season
Zzzzzzzzzz
The stereotype I was thinking of is broader than Native American, but was "ethnic or cultural minority is embittered about what was done to his (multiple-times back) forefathers, exacts revenge on the descendants of the people who did it."
'He strutted across the bedroom, his hard manhood pointing the way' sounds like he owns a badly named seeing-eye dog. 'Sit, Hard Manhood!
 15 m8e, Mon, 8th Oct '12 1:28:30 AM from Sweden Relationship Status: Wanna dance with somebody
Also, whoever said that an American Indian holding a grudge is an example of "People Sit On Chairs". No, it really isn't. Because the indigenous people of the Americas are also *individual people* the reaction to the State that carried genocide against their people is also extremely variant. Even separate tribes reacted differently at the time the genocide was being carried out...
I didn't say "American Indian holding a grudge is an example of "People Sit on Chairs"". I said "Having grudge against the United States is kind of People Sit on Chairs". You can find people having a grudge on the US anywhere in the world regardless of race/religion/whatever.

edited 8th Oct '12 1:33:21 AM by m8e

We aren't standing on the shoulders of giants, we are standing on totem poles of dwarfs
Pronounced YAK-you-luss
[up][up]Though given that the conditions on modern reservations can get pretty shitty (they've been compared, not without justification, to internment camps), a Native American domestic terrorist isn't that implausible.
Freedom of speech includes the freedom for other people to call you out on your bullshit.
Element of love
I can say from a fact that in Mexico, the education system (on a basic level) is designed for us to hold a grudge to USA.

It is due to a lot of complex stuff... I like you guys smile

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. C. S. Lewis
@m8e - Ah, my mistake, that makes a lot more sense.

@laculus - I'm not saying someone NA with a grudge is implausible rather that I found someone implying (as I mistakenly thought m8e was) that someone NA with a grudge was so obvious/likely that it was equivalent to People Sit On Chairs.
"They called me mad, I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me." - Nathaniel Lee, playwright, upon being committed to Bedlam in
What?
Ok now that the character is acceptable so long as I make him three dimensional.

But what about a Wakanda-ish NA nation?

If I do include such a concept in my story, what are the alternative ways to isolate it from the world aside from placing it in an adjacent universe?

Acceptability is going to vary between people. Some people probably are going to see it as a throwback to the Cowboys vs. Indians days, making him 3-dimensional might mitigate that in some people who are probably going to feel more sympathy for the antagonist than the hero (I'd probably put myself in that camp).

Hard to really change that. I think people forget the audience is still human sometimes and not really obligated to set their personal feelings aside and a "Perfect Audience Member" for you or your work (not to suggest you personally feel that way, it's just a trend I notice in these sorts of things). If you have an NA reader or reader of NA descent who's frustrated that they tend to be ignored and forgotten in most media except as the "villains" of a Western and they're tired of media showing colonizers, settlers, and imperialists or people who uphold those things in a positive light over those who resist them (and with good reason) then they're justified in feeling that way. If you're okay with facing those feelings in a hopefully more mature way than the common response of "suck it up and deal with it" then move forward with the story. But you are still perpetuating a long narrative of natives as villains.

And it isn't as simple, in the end, as "this is acceptable so long as X criteria is met and now no one can complain".

THAT ASIDE.

My thoughts on a "Wakanda": One of the most prominent frustrations with media is the tendency to homogenize the various native nations (there are 546 federally recognised tribes in the U.S. alone and even more still seeking tribal recognition (such as the Chinook)) into one single "Native American" image.

I'm curious as to how you might possibly create a "Wakanda" tribe that doesn't do this? I'm also curious about the physical appearance of the fictional tribe since this 20 Minutes Into The Future and many tribes register members based descent and culture rather than BQ which is sometimes considered an imposed/foreign/Western notion. This makes many modern nations phenotypically diverse. And even amongst some groups which do enforce BQ more strongly, like the Seminole which require a registered Seminole grandparent to be considered for registry, still are racially diverse because they took in and made members many people of African descent before BQ was enforced via the government who also intermarried, as well, someone with a 1/4 BQ can appear phenotypically white or asian if they are white or asian mixed.

FURTHERMORE.

Even in pre-Columbian times different NA tribes looked very different from one another and were racially diverse. Tribes in the Northeast could be very fairskinned and, vs. darker midwest "horse culture" tribes that are most commonly seen, vs. Inuit people in Alaska, and if you move down into Mexico or the West coast (the Aztec Empire once stretched from Mexico to Oregon) the people could be a very dark brown. Pre-Columbian "America" was incredibly culturally and ethnically diverse.

I have a hard time imagining that being boiled into one nation that's supposed to be able to read as "Native American" (probably the same is true of Africa and "Wakanda" but I know a bit less about Africa so it doesn't jump out as hugely immediately weird to me).

tl;dr - I can't imagine creating "recognizably Native American nation that isn't real" that doesn't relying on homogenising native people and therefore alienating and irritating a good number of NA people in your audience. But using a real tribe would require a good deal of research. I dunno, you've set yourself a difficult task here.

EDIT: And someone I know wants me to add their Po V on this: "how terrible fucked up to want to make a historically marginalised and oppressed group of people, whose land was stolen and people killed in the wake of imperialism, who have been depicted from the beginning as antagonistic bad guys for merely wanting what was rightfully theirs and to stop the violence and oppression and land theft, into a villain yet again." They're also curious what message you intend people to carry away from this, my guess, you probably don't intend any message... unfortunate thing about human nature though is that people are going to find a message whether one is intended or not so I would keep that in mind in writing. Also, I do agree with my friend that your villain is simply trying to take what should belong to his people to begin with... that's not really villainous. Though, I've mentioned my sympathies would lie more with him already.

Your heroes sound villainous to me, your villain sounds like a hero.

edited 8th Oct '12 6:58:24 PM by TheFedoraPirate

"They called me mad, I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me." - Nathaniel Lee, playwright, upon being committed to Bedlam in
 21 nrjxll, Mon, 8th Oct '12 8:00:02 PM Relationship Status: Not war
Your heroes sound villainous to me, your villain sounds like a hero.

I really hate the possibility of getting involved in a debate here, but I think that depends a lot on the precise goals and MO of the "villain".

Well, "dissolution of the United States" was the stated goal and I have no moral objection to that... and the MO would logically involve the attack of government targets. There's no need to directly attack/target civillian populations.

Unless he's writing some kind of "reverse genocide" villain here. In which case, holy shit should that NOT be done. "Reverse Discrimination Future*" are nearly universally a horrid idea and there's been a plague of them lately. Or I hope I don't have to explain why, "In the Future, Native Americans commit genocide against the white people!" is a really horrible idea.

  • Is that a trope, yet, btw? It really should be.
"They called me mad, I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me." - Nathaniel Lee, playwright, upon being committed to Bedlam in
What?
Ok perhaps dissolution should be a long term or "wishful thinking" goal.

A relatively more humble goal would be to carve out a new Native American nation right down the middle of the United States (from Canada to Mexico), thereby disrupting commerce between the two coasts of the US.

Oh and scrap the Wakanda-ish idea.

Also I would have to tell you this character ranks as a Provincial Threat, and tries to win his battles with as little bloodshed as possible (no so much with property and economic damage).

There other far more dangerous villains in my story and they are willing to spill much more blood. The heroes prefer to deal with those national/global threats and prefer to leave this dude to the national guard; that is if he wasn't capable of using superpowers and now they are obliged to do so.

edited 8th Oct '12 11:20:11 PM by Worlder

Pronounced YAK-you-luss
[up][up]Terrorist groups usually have similarly noble goals. It's just that attacking civilians tends to give you a bigger PR footprint. It helps to look at the justifications that real-world terrorists use for their actions, then work from there.

And Wakanda is basically a nation of annoyingly insular high-tech African stereotypes (seriously, their military fights with explosive assegais). Modelling an independent Native American nation (especially a villainous one) off them is a goddamned awful idea if you want to approach the concept with anything vaguely resembling sensitivity.
Freedom of speech includes the freedom for other people to call you out on your bullshit.
In interest of not starting a debate here I think I'm going to skip my opinion real world 'terrorist' groups I'm most familiar with and just say that from what I know of this particular fictional case, I'm already cheering for this guy.

edit: And to be fully honest, as a premise, this makes me rather uncomfortable... if there are other, more important villains, why is this guy necessary?

edited 9th Oct '12 9:19:38 AM by TheFedoraPirate

"They called me mad, I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me." - Nathaniel Lee, playwright, upon being committed to Bedlam in
Total posts: 60
1
 2 3


TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy