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The Top 7… Native American stereotypes

 

Tala - Darkwatch

Nothing captures the American imagination quite like the mythology surrounding the Wild West. Darkwatch took it one step further and added a bevy of gothic supernatural weirdness, including the luscious Tala (who was voiced by Rose McGowan.) Tala is a Native American Darkwatch agent tasked with hunting down head vampire Lazarus Malkoth. After a sexy romp with protagonist Jericho Cross, she too becomes a vampire and abandons all clothing for a life of blood suckery.

While it could be argued that the only thing stronger than the white man’s lust for land is his lust for women, I’d argue that Tala is a vast improvement over the appalling depiction of Indian women in Custer’s Revenge. Tala’s an empowered female who’s not afraid to be sexy and go after what she wants. But is it insulting to Native Americans to make one of them the object of goth lust? A quick peek at the Suicide Girls makes us think that goth lust is A-OK, regardless of ethnic origin. Tala created such a stir that she was featured in Playboy’s hot videogame chicks spread with luminaries Lara Croft and BloodRayne, quite an honor for a relative newcomer.

 

 



Nightwolf  - Mortal Kombat 3 

What better place to explore the notion of the Native American warrior than in a fighting game. One of the divisive new characters introduced in Mortal Kombat 3, Nightwolf is an ass-kicking native who becomes a “sin-eater” to protect his tribe. By absorbing the tribe’s sins, he can use their evil power to bind the Dragon King to the Netherealm. Mortal Kombat’s plot was always a bit off-center, but with 3 any semblance of coherence went off the cliff like so many panicking buffalo.


Above: Nightwolf playthrough in MK3

Best of all, when you beat MK3, “Nightwolf peacefully regains the lands his Native-American people lost over many years. They establish their own proud nation and soon become the great leaders of the world.” Wait, they what? Obama vs Nightwolf: FIGHT!


Above: This has exactly nothing to do with Mortal Kombat 

While this pro-Indian sentiment is certainly heartwarming, much of Nightwolf’s character is wide of the mark.  Sin-eating is usually tied to European religious practice (the only indigenous example we could find is the Aztec goddess Tlazolteotl), and the very concept of Sin itself is Christian. In the more practical realm, Nightwolf’s “Rhino Charge” move makes no sense at all, as rhinos haven’t lived in North America since the Pliocene epoch. Nightwolf’s “Animality,” in which he turns into a wolf and chews his opponent to death is a reference to Native American shaman’s practice of shape-shifting into a spirit animal. Shape shifting is used to honor the sacred, primal relationship between the shaman and the animal spirit, celebrating the strength and sustenance they provide each other. The bastardized MK version is more for gratuitous shock value.


Above: Nightwolf’s “Animality”


Above: Nightwolf in the film Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, as portrayed by Litefoot

Arguably, fighting games are about fighting, not plot. Every character has a nonsensical tacked-on backstory and is defined mainly through attire, weaponry and special attacks. For more examples of Native American “warriors,” see Chief Thunder in Killer Instinct, and T-Hawk in Super Street Fighter II.


Above: Chief Thunder’s ultimate combo in Killer Instinct

 

Colton White - GUN

GUN invited players to “Experience the Brutality, Greed, and Lust that was the West.” While many were keen to try out this “GTA in the Old West,” the Association for American Indian Development demanded Activision recall GUN for its “harmful and inaccurate depictions of American Indians.” Aside from the wanton slaughter of Apaches as a mission objective, the AAID also objected to the game’s erroneous depiction of Indian scalping practices and misinformation about the slaughter of sacred white animals. Activision countered with a typical “we didn’t mean to offend anyone, it’s nothing you haven’t already seen in movies, etc. etc.” Sadly, the URL the AAID used in its boycott campaign is now inhabited by ads for rape porn.
 

Above: A scene from GUN’s infamous Apache-slaughtering mission 

For more examples of ultraviolent Old West games with rootin’ tootin’ Injun stereotypes, see Red Dead Revolver and Call of Juarez.

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Top 7

27 comments

  • zeldagirl64 - January 4, 2009 8:26 p.m.

    Sweet! SCREW THOSE GAME MAKERS! YAAAAAAAAAAY! I, being solidly against stereotypes and being Native American, love that you made fun of them ^^
  • TrIp13G - November 24, 2008 11:29 p.m.

    @Wildboy: Why would that be exciting? Personally, I love playing as Tommy in Prey. He's an average dude...Who happens to have latent shamanistic powers, but you get the idea.
  • screath - November 25, 2008 12:50 a.m.

    My mistake. I meant Custer's female victim.
  • cuchillo0 - November 25, 2008 2:40 a.m.

    "The American Government should give more game characters the native american race, it's only fair, we did take all the native american game characters away. lol." i didn't notice that one of the american government's job is to decree the ethninticity of video game characters
  • Dinkymod - November 25, 2008 2:58 a.m.

    I'm glad to see Prey was praised. I loved that game. And also: OMG I had no idea Darkwatch had such a hilarious scene. I've never played the game.
  • iluvmyDS - November 25, 2008 3:26 a.m.

    Mostly, wtf @ Darkwatch? And is this a way of getting natives back on your side after the boys on Tdar offended them? You'll have to make this list again with the English, and the Japanese.
  • misfit119 - November 25, 2008 5:49 a.m.

    Oh and I meant to mention Tala too. While the story was incredibly cheesy and Darkwatch wasn't that great a game I would definitely say that it was a nice turnabout. Instead of being the sex object as she initially appears her sultry demeanor becomes a plot point. Well played if you ask me.
  • Moschetto - November 25, 2008 7:04 a.m.

    "The result is often as offensive to Native Americans as Piss Christ is to Christians." Yeah, I'm sure.
  • KHfan - November 25, 2008 10:46 a.m.

    lol @ the turok picture
  • JudgeDeath - November 25, 2008 3:20 p.m.

    Hah! I remember Gun! That was a gret game. And I also remember Dakrwatch, which was... a... game...
  • wharcraff - November 25, 2008 11:23 p.m.

    that should be Blackthorne.heh sorry
  • Defguru7777 - November 26, 2008 3:14 a.m.

    I have not played any of these games.
  • ReaperOfDarkness - November 27, 2008 12:31 a.m.

    Why is sex object a native american stereotype? Last time i checked women of all ethnicities, orientations, height or anything else you can imagine can easily be used as sex objects. You dont need to be a "native" american to be a sex object. As a matter of fact how many white people do you see on games that arent stereotypes?
  • wildboy57 - November 24, 2008 10:32 p.m.

    being native American i love seeing them in games its just a shame all are hardcore stereotypes you get no regular people who happen to be native American finally first for one of these
  • kingpin202 - November 24, 2008 11:01 p.m.

    Native American's use to appear in so many games and I just don't see it anymore! =( The American Government should give more game characters the native american race, it's only fair, we did take all the native american game characters away. lol.
  • screath - November 25, 2008 12:47 a.m.

    There are a few characters that should have made the list. Let's not forget Mumbo Jumbo from Banjo-Kazooie, Humba Wumba from Banjo-Tooie, and Custer from Custer's Revenge.
  • misfit119 - November 25, 2008 5:42 a.m.

    Woot for Fear Factory references. And I have a hard time feeling bad specifically for the Native Americans. Yes they suffered horribly but then again so did the African Americans. Look how far they've gotten in the time they've been actually considered people or rather have barely. They're still either comic relief or the tough talking token black guy in games. Walking sterotypes anyone?. Movies and video games for that matter. At least Prey does show that there's some progress being made in this regard. I can't honestly think of a non-thug or non-stereotype black character or even black main character.
  • GamesRadarTylerWilde - November 25, 2008 8:16 a.m.

    Why would you doubt that? Also, for those who aren't aware, this is Piss Christ: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ I wrote a very long essay about it in an art theory class. You probably don't want to read it. Even I don't.
  • MacGyver1138 - November 25, 2008 9:17 p.m.

    This is a pretty good article, and it makes a point. However, I personally think that Native Americans probably have the least offensive stereotypes in games of all stereotyped characters. I'm not saying that the stereotypes are correct, but at least the stereotypes depicted are somewhat positive. Native Americans are shown as warriors, connected to nature, mystical, etc. It is very narrow-minded, but it could be worse--they could always be depicted as evil (Germans, Russians, anyone from the Middle East), "Gangsta" (Black people), or sex objects (women). Prey is a good example of good narration in a game. It had a protagonist who was human, and that I identified with. I actually found myself wanting to save Jen and kill the aliens for a reason.
  • thereaper52 - November 25, 2008 10:39 p.m.

    What the hell man. what about vulcan raven!!

Showing 1-20 of 27 comments

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