08 June 2007

Playing "Indian," The Week in Review

this week ... the Bureau of Brady Braves spotted a quick instance of redface in a rerun of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1957-1960, CBS). the usual characters of lucy, ricky, ethel, and fred performed a skit set in the wild west. fred played a bartender; lucy played an "indian." with tomahawk in hand, she tackled fred behind the bar. they reappear in a few moments with fred's bald head now covered with lucy's hair, and lucy wears a bald skincap. so, playing "indian" means here: scalp or be scalped? of all american sitcom characters (and that includes thousands since the 1940s), lucille ball (the actress) may have played "indian" more than any other non-native character: in I Love Lucy episodes "the adagio" (as an "apache" dancin' 'round foolishly) and "the indian show" (as a hiawatha-wannabe) and in The Lucy Show (as the "wife" of an "indian chief" who gives her the state of utah for a wedding gift).

and where can you, like the bbb did this week, catch Lucy in redface? on a local Christian channel. no, not surprising. for the bbb, a local Christian channel supplies viewers with occasional "indian" players in the forms of Little House on the Prairie, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Beverly Hillbillies (i.e. "wholesome" family programming for ... you know ...) Ever thought about what constitutes family programming on Christian channels? ever thought who's included and who's excluded, exploited, and exoticized in their comedic programming?

earlier today, on superstation wgn, aired an episode of the sitcom home improvement. looked like an early episode, maybe season 1, in which the youngest son and his cub scout friends want to play "indian" like some other cub scouts they know did: by constructing a tipi and eating "beef jerky made from real meat," as the youngest son said. i had heard recently from a Ho-Chunk friend about home improvement and "indian" play. i'm guessing she was referring to this episode.

yesterday, on everybody loves raymond, a guest character (who's better known for portraying uncle leo on seinfeld) teased frank, ray's dad. there was talk of the macho, tough-talking frank petting a pet bunny that ray and his brother had when they were little. and the guest character said that he and frank's other friends were going on and on about it. while motioning like he was banging drums, frank's friend said, "it's like tom-toms. [chanting] 'Frank pet a-bunny, Frank pet a-bunny.'" a strange bit within the realm of "indian" play? [note: the bbb is not known for watching a lot of tv, especially since not much good is on tv. all three of the above references, for example, were caught while flipping channels during a time (5:00-6:00 pm) that the bbb's 10-month-old daughter was not chewing on the remote.]

elsewhere in playing "indian" this week, a "California man won $3.2 million on penny slot machines at the casino owned by the Pauma Band of Mission Indians." okay, not exactly playing "indian," but still worth noting it's the biggest prize ever in penny slots in California.

the bbb emailed martha stewart's tv people about the "katonah" trademark but no response. not surprised.

recently-retired "chief illiniwek" (formerly of the university of illinois) is currently accepting offers for summer gigs. so, for your next lone-ranger-and-tonto-themed birthday party, atlanta braves' tomahawk chop soiree, or intimate new age gathering, consider hiring "chief illiniwek" for your entertainment. call 1-900-ANTI-N-D-N, ask for the "Retired Racism" department, and tell 'em the BBB sent ya. first 50 callers receive a free foam tomahawk.

to read about three real indigenous folks (all Navajos) not playing "indian," but instead receiving doctorates in engineering in spring 2007 from the university of arizona, check out this article at indiancountry.com. congrats to all three and to all other indigenous graduates! the bbb wishes you well. may you use the education to benefit your peoples, your nations, yourselves.

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