What About Cultural Appropriation?

When I say “France,” what do you think of? Ah! La France! Paris! The city of a thousand lights… The Eiffel Tower… Ooh la la… Romance… Love… Croissants… Love… The Seine… Baguette… So… Let’s start from the beginning… That’s Earth, I live there. Or more precisely, in Bordeaux, France. It was on July 26th 2014, and I was at a party, hanging out with some friends. I decide, that night, to put some face paint on, for no other reasons than aesthetic ones. I’ve been asked why I have face paint on, but that was it. A few days later, I’m off to Norman, Oklahoma. Time goes by, and a month after I’ve settled in, I attend a party and decide to wear face paint again. Only this time, the question I’ve been asked was: “Are you being an Indian?” I’ve never thought about it… And then I started to think about it some more: Why, and how have I been influenced subconsciously? This aesthetic… Was it shaped by movies? Movies in which the parts are given to white actors who, in turn, create caricatures and clichés. An impassible face, wearing a headdress. Recent movies in which the hero is yet another colonizer saved by Indigenous people, like in “Avatar.” In my childhood, I remember “Peter Pan,” a cartoon in which Natives are caricatured… Misshaped… Frightening… Dances inspired by another period of time… Ancient caricatures… Movies in which Natives are slaughtered by Whites who are portrayed as heroes… Happy to shed human blood… Movies in which the colonizer is a god. No more. No less. Movies in which Natives are these mystical and magical beings. In harmony with nature. Movies in which women are nothing else than elements of romance and absolution. An object of desire. Movies in which the colonizer who sought to receive salvation becomes the one who gives it. The White man – the colonizer – is placed on the foreground. Movies in which Indigenous people seem to almost desire ethnic cleansing… But beyond representation, there is something deeper… Maybe more symptomatic… Incarnation. Where are we at this stage? What does this incarnation say about us? It seems to be born from this trope we created about Natives. This romanticized and hypersexualized trope. To “be the Indian”…”To embody the Indian,” just using a costume. But these clichés, both aesthetic and incarnated, resonate everywhere in our contemporary society. They are hurtful. They caricature. They sell… I didn’t know about all this. I’ve never asked myself these questions. Something’s not right in this picture. Even if I’m affected… Even if I’m a product of my society, I ought to recognize all of these things And act. To always try to think about it. And move forward. So… Yes. The world keeps turning. Things follow their natural course. But are we really cleared from these clichés which profoundly affect us in our subconscious mind? Are these images innocent? What damages are they engendering in their wake? They affect those who have been dispossessed and stolen. For Halloween, I intend to dress as a French cliché. But when I’ll take off the costume, I’ll still be 21st century Peter. I’ll still have all of the privileges that I currently have. What about the “Indian costume”? What about cultural appropriation?

4 thoughts on “What About Cultural Appropriation?

  1. Wow, this was really good and the editing was amazing. I like how you referenced the cliches that your people have to deal with but that they are no where near as detrimental as what American Indians have to deal with. The only criticism I really have is that the length was over 4 minutes. Overall, really good job.

  2. This was beautifully created and articulated. I loved how you related this back to your own culture and the appropriation that can occur there. I think that when you related your own, albeit accidentally, mild appropriation of Native cultures it really showed the significance that that has on all of us, no matter where we are from. In one form or another, we are all guilty of it even if we are ignorant of it. I liked that you mentioned something along the lines of how our ignorance does not excuse our actions. That is really powerful especially in this day and age. I am glad you provided the statistics regarding poverty and abuse in Native American lives. This was beautifully done. Love the editing! Can you teach me? I am not sure if the Grad student obligations were different than undergrad, but your video was over four minutes. Again, very good job

  3. Absolutely astonishing video. Your incorporation of personal views as well as generalized ideas made for a great story. Your video showed a very well thought out analysis with your discussion of incarnation and cliches. I also found the way you spoke, your voice, timed perfectly with the points you were making. I found the different facts you incorporated towards the end interesting and impactful to read. Finally, your editing skills are impeccable. As for constructive feedback, while I really enjoyed the French I found myself struggling to listen, read the subtitles and study the image being shown. At times I was trying to gather my thoughts on your comment but then missed the image or if I looked at the image first I missed the subtitles. Besides my general struggle with the juggling it was a great video!

  4. I found this video to be well made. You decided to narrate in French which caused me to switch from my thought process to focusing on what you were saying. It was interesting to see how the films you watched caused you behave in a curtain way. I also thought that it was brilliant that after you stat how the images are wrong, you then ask when we move forward are we truly free from the imagery while having the images briefly flash in the background.

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