three rewatch articles I wrote, in honor of Indigenous People’s Day

In honor of Indigenous People’s Day, I present three of my rewatch articles from Tor.com that cover the subject of how Indigenous folk were treated in episodes of the original Star Trek, the 1966 Batman, and Star Trek: Voyager.

Star Trek‘s “The Paradise Syndrome

And that’s not even getting into the racist hogwash. Kirk is amnesiac, but he can still perform CPR, come up with a canal network, create lamps out of pottery, and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Meanwhile, the locals are so stupid that Miramanee is stumped when confronted with the notion of taking off Kirk’s shirt, and they go from zero to stone-the heretic as soon as a storm hits and Kirk can’t get into the obelisk. The setup of the Preservers saving a race from extinction is one that could shine a light on genocide, but instead we just get the standard white-folks-are-smart-Indians-are-savages horseshit.

Batman‘s “An Egg Grows in Gotham”/”The Yegg Foes in Gotham

More problematic is Chief Screaming Chicken. There’s a fine line between satire and offensive stereotyping, and this episode just keeps dancing all over it. Mind you, there are some brilliant moments. The genuine American Indian blankets made in Japan bit is hilarious, and Batman’s story about Screaming Chicken’s time as a bottlewasher when someone told him to go back where he came from, and Robin sadly notes that this country is where he came from is a biting bit. But there’s the egg-scruciating thing where Screaming Chicken talks like a not-too-bright five-year-old. The fact that it was, at this point, pretty well entrenched in screen portrayals of Natives (especially in comedy) doesn’t make it any less horrible.

Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Tattoo

In order to apologize for centuries of oppression and war and genocide, and for many decades of portrayal in popular culture as inferior, we instead get New Age environmentalism. As a result, we get shiny happy Indigenous people who commune with nature and are pure and wonderful, which is just as patronizing an attitude as viewing them as technologically inferior savages was, albeit one that’s at least, y’know, nicer. It comes from a better place, but it’s still self-righteous, prejudicial nonsense.

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