Free essay: The Portrayal of Indigenous People in the Media

Published: 2022-11-24
Free essay: The Portrayal of Indigenous People in the Media
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Race Immigration Media
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1798 words
15 min read

Controversies exist regarding the portrayal of natives in the media which have detrimental impacts on the societal view of these groups of people. In different countries like the United States, Canada, and Australia, aboriginals have faced notable ridicule from society (Harding 312). Such developments are experienced due to the negative portrayal in the mass media. This has led to different advocacy groups to launch campaigns aimed at eliminating harmful depictions. Various scholars have collaborated to develop a better understanding of the impact of media representation. Many scholars note that aboriginals are negatively portrayed in the media which has resulted in prejudice against these communities. For instance, in Australia, different reports depict unnecessary information about violent crimes as well as alcoholism geared towards stereotyping these people. Therefore, this research intends to stimulate international discussions regarding the importance and impact of these natives' representation in the media. While numerous researchers have continued to investigate, it is imperative to disseminate findings directly. That way, the findings will aid in the understanding of this menace. Therefore, the media portrayal of aboriginals has raised significant concern regarding cross-cultural awareness. Natives experience relative invisibility in modern media, and when represented, they are portrayed as historical figures associated with crimes, poverty, illiteracy, and drug addiction.

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Most media platforms in the US show relative invisibility of native Americans. However, when they are included, they are mainly portrayed as historical figures such as people from the 18th century who worn buckskin, lived in teepees, and rode horses. When shown in modern society, they are depicted as poor individuals who are associated with low literacy levels and addiction (Kopacz and Lawton 242). It has also been noted that when natives are depicted in media, they represent particular Sioux, Apache, and Navajo. It should be noted that such a narrow depiction does not reflect the broader representation of diversity within US society. Considering that natives form a small percentage of the entire community, they are underrepresented in the media. According to the US population data by the US Census Bureau, American Indians, as well as the Alaska Natives, contribute about 2% of the total population. In most media profiles as well as filmmakers, these people contribute only a small fraction of the main characters. For example, the percentage of actors on popular TV shows as well as popular films is about 0.4% of natives. Native American children make up about 0.09% of the characters in video games. This analysis shows that natives are underrepresented in dominant media personalities and shows while being included only in primitive roles. The negative depiction has significantly contributed to psychological consequences among the population. For example, native children show harmful impacts regarding their responsibilities and abilities due to the stereotyping that they receive. In this regard, the media shows relative invisibility and stereotype of natives which is inaccurate but has detrimental effects on their wellbeing.

Traditional media has always portrayed a marginalized discourse about natives with these accounts being widely documented in different pieces of research. An example is an illustration given by Kopacz and Lawton (p.242) about an interview of a native American. The conversation indicated two young people who were seated against a wall. A short-haired man with a sporting T-shirt was interviewing a woman. Both the interviewer and the interviewee identified themselves as native Americans. As they have a candid discussion about the racial background, culture, and other issues affecting them, they refer to how they have been affected by movies and TV shows regarding how they are portrayed. The video shows that the occasional appearances of these people in American TV shows, Movies, as well as newspapers show a narrow stereotype. While racial minorities have been receiving a more respectful depiction, the natives' image appears more frozen. This explains how mainstream media has shown messages that is limited, distorted, and negative about natives which have further promoted ethnic marginalization. It should be noted that even community-oriented online platforms including the viral videos have become platforms for this depiction (Kopacz and Lawton 243). In this regard, the mainstream media has significantly contributed to the development of a stereotyped culture against the natives.

Stereotyping has been one of the main features of media construction that influence how people interpret the news. Stereotyping is one of the characteristic features of media coverage about the aboriginal people in different countries including the US, Australia, and Canada. Different discourses about these people are represented in the media. In some instances, they are shown as people with the unique ability to do manual work and defend themselves. However, this portrayal is mostly shown with a lot of negativity especially primitivity of the native population. According to Harding (p.313), major issues about the natives are excluded in the media for the public agenda. The scholar noted that there is a perception that natives are pathetic victims, angry warriors, as well as noble environmentalists who are conservative to change. Therefore, their main issues are never addressed in the mainstream media due to this negativity. In a case referring to "Discourses of Domination," Henry and Tator applied different techniques to establish a critical discourse concerning media coverage of aboriginals. Different perspectives are shown during the media coverage of MP Jack Ramsey where he was accused of sexually assaulting a young aboriginal woman and the portrayal of fishing rights of Mi'kmaq at Burnt Church. From the analysis, it can be noted that media portrays indigenous people as a threat to the social order. According to Harding (p.314), media shows them as people with consequential problems who can create more significant problems for society. In this regard, the press has demonstrated a form of polarized news reporting when covering aboriginal people as opposed to when covering non-aboriginals. The negative portrayal creates a negative perception of these people which can create ambivalent reactions and unsympathetic influences in the society.

Negative representation of natives in the media has been noted to be a major cause of prejudice against the indigenous people. The media has shown in different times reports that relate to violent crimes as well as alcoholism of these aboriginals. This is among the stereotyping that is common in the modern- day media regarding natives (Carstarphen and Sanchez 321). According to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the negative portrayal of indigenous people in the mass media has become a significant concern in modern journalism where journalists require special education regarding cross-cultural awareness to reduce the social challenges that are prevalent due to this reporting. Therefore, media is rarely positive regarding natives and further demonstrated in films. The Hollywood version of "how the West was won" represents a perfect example of stereotyping of aboriginals in the media. The film relied heavily on the natives who were being wiped out. The movie portrayed aboriginals as primitive people who are violent and devious as well as passive and submissive. Such depictions are common even in many TV series as well as comic strips and have become a common point of reference for most people. This has necessitated some film directors try to develop movies that seek to improve the portrayal of indigenous people in the TV shows. An example is the 1990s Spirit Bay, North of 60, and The Rez. Despite these efforts, the TV industry in the US has been slow in responding to these challenges and criticism that has been prevalent in modern communities.

Romanticization is a common feature in modern media regarding natives in the community. Different media platforms have tried to ensure some images of natives capture the imagination of non-aboriginal (Nairn, McCreanor and Barnes 13). Examples include the Indian Princess, the Noble Savage, and the Native Warrior. The native warrior is a common stereotype in the film industry that portrays a native warrior as a formidable and fierce person who is a threat to the civilized society. The warrior is mainly depicted as a bare-chested as well as brandishing war lance which is the epitome of savagery. In this regard, he must have enough courage to overcome some progressive elements that are pushed by the West. In different films, there is a romanticized as well as eroticized figures of strong silent but a brave person. An example is the portrayal of Jacob Black, a character in the Twilight series which represents a "noble savage" in different literal ways. These demonstrations indicate the efforts that have been made yet little progress has been made t change the traditional stereotype of the natives in modern societies. The Noble Savage is also used to show the effort of redressing the past wrongs in the society. This represents the mythic unreachable good in a contaminated White society where the native people can give a vision or prophesy. However, some of these portrayals are historical inaccuracies of how the natives behaved. While the media shows some truth in historical movies, modern media does not take into account the transformation that has taken place regarding religious functions, dressing and even ceremonies in society.

Lack of proper representation of aboriginals in the media especially the struggles they go through has created a particular bias that affects even the K-12 education as well as pop culture. It should be noted that nationally, the natives are likely to live in poverty, experience sexual abuse, be unemployed, and be brutally murdered by the police. Besides, the communities face the highest number of systemic racism as well as oppression that is invisible from the bigger community (Carstarphen and Sanchez 320). Therefore, there has been low support of these communities regarding struggles and social injustices. This implies that many other people do not have a proper understanding of the real natives. Such people depend on the media portrayal as the only practical source of information (Nairn, McCreanor and Barnes 15). However, the rare occasions that media portrays natives are likely to show them full of negativity. For example, even with well-intended issues, the natives are likely to be displayed as people vulnerable to alcoholism and suicide as opposed to roles like lawyers. In different TV shows, these people are shown to flush with casino money while being dependent on government benefits for survival. While the natives are likely to be subjected to poverty, the media has played a significant role in enhancing negative stereotype within an ignorant society that has gravitated the problems aboriginals face.

The discussion illustrates that natives are relatively invisible in the modern media with the only representation stereotyping these people with issues of alcoholism and drugs abuse, poverty, and illiteracy dominating the media. Although these portrayals, especially in the movies, are aimed at ensuring the audience is captivated, the analysis shows that the depictions of natives are based in a broader perspective than just winning the audience. Some people also think that the stereotype of the native people must be maintained somehow in the modern society.

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