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Everything old is new again in the movies.

Everybody knows that movies are cyclical. Every couple of years, romantic comedies are popular for a while, then science fiction movies are in vogue. Next to catch the audience's eyes are the teenage comedies. And so on. Oddly enough, it's the same with movies celebrating or featuring Native people. Every once in a while, unexpectedly, a string of movies dealing with Aboriginal issues or characteristics hit the local Cineplex.

This fall and winter, it seems we've hit a new cycle.

The most obvious example right now is New Moon, the next installment of the Twilight teenage vampire romance (three different genres right there, in one movie). Basically, some of the local Native teenagers are werewolves, and they have an ongoing disagreement with the teenage vampires, which as you know, can make dating a bitch. Taylor Lautner, who plays Jakob, sports 30 extra lbs of muscle for the role, as do several other fine examples of Native beefcake (or would that be moosecake?). Recently, I got back from a lecture tour of Germany, where, unfortunately, I had to tell the German audience that contrary to what they may see in the movie, those young men are not typical examples of Native youth in First Nations communities. Baloney only has so much protein for bulking up. Though once we actually did put the ab in Aboriginal.


I guess transmogrifying is good cardio. And it can't be brain food, since these particular youth spend most of their time running around the Pacific Northwest in winter time dressed only in shorts. Regardless, there was a groan of disappointment from the German girls.

Several other movies that are out right now have hints of Native content, or at least some influence, though not as obvious as New Moon.

Quinton Tarintino's Inglorious Bastards, for example, features Brad Pitt as an American from Tennessee who runs around Second World War Germany with his soldiers, literally and graphically, scalping Nazis. The reason being: Pitt's character claims some diluted Native blood, giving him inspiration and authorization. Remind me never to powwow in Tennessee.

Then there's 2012, a story of global destruction, which also claims to have an Aboriginal origin. Supposedly, according to the Mayan calendar, the world is to end in December of that year. The problem is, most contemporary Mayans have publicly stated that was news to them. Not only that, it was a highly unlikely event as most of them have car and house payments extending well past then. As the old joke goes "I can't die now. I owe too much money." Mortgage and credit companies have more of a say in our destinies than gods.

Most interestingly, the science fiction epic Avatar introduces some familiar ideas. This movie, in its own way, is more Native than most dreamcatchers. It is an unabashed futuristic version of Dances With Wolves. I am not joking. Imagine, if you will, an obviously American company of marines (or cavalry) on a distant planet, planning to forcefully remove or relocate (or exterminate if all else fails) the Indigenous population in order to gain access to mineral wealth that exists underneath their village.

At one point, they even built schools in an earlier attempt to educate and civilize the savages, but with limited success. One soldier, sent to infiltrate the local population for information, slowly begins to develop a better understanding of the people and himself. He even falls in love, and chooses to betray his own people to help the Natives in an epic battle. Any of this sound familiar? Add to this, Wes Studi, the famous Cherokee actor, is the unmistakable voice of the wise tribal chief, and you can practically smell the corn soup.

In particular, one of the lines of dialogue in the movie grabbed my attention. It's spoken by one of the corporate leaders, hungry for the mineral unimaginatively called "unobtanium." In discussing options, he says, ironically, "Killing the Indigenous doesn't look good." Wiser words were never spoken. Just ask the OPP near Ipperwash, or the Saskatoon police department. We kind of find it annoying ourselves.

But perhaps the most subversive movie of the past number of months was called District 9, a fascinating and well-made movie. Since it took place in South Africa, many would argue that it was more of a commentary on the now dissolved apartheid regime that once flourished there. But I like to think about it as an Aboriginal 'what if ...?' Strangers arrive in your country, and instead of taking over the entire land and imposing such bizarre concepts as a harmonized sales tax and Canadian Idol, you put them on plots of land they are forbidden to leave, and you control every aspect of their poverty-stricken life.

Hey, I think I've heard a variation of this storyline before. ...
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Title Annotation:THE URBANE INDIAN
Author:Taylor, Drew Hayden
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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