IT and Cultural Appropriation
I kinda hate to admit it, but whenever I see a headline like this one, complaining about some pop culture phenomenon somehow being disrespectful or inconsiderate to some minority group, my knee-jerk response is an eye roll. It’s because of just how far the political correctness movement, which started out as something good, calling for basic decency and respect, has skewed towards the ridiculous. Still, I always try to check myself and course-correct. Like with this complainant; I read what he had to say. He does have a point, a few of them. While I can’t say that I agree with his position overall, I do see where he’s coming from.
Is IT: CHAPTER TWO racist, then, as this guy claims? No. I don’t think so. But I want to give the PC devil his due. The guy is dead right about the way Native culture was repressed, and this repression, which went on for far too long, did result in a sort of homogenization of Indian beliefs. Whereas in reality each tribe held and practiced its own unique theology, today the common view is that of a uniform spirituality. It’s the spiritual equivalent of the way all the Indians in the movies used to be depicted as looking like and living like the Plains Indians (feathered headdresses, tepees, and all that). Now I’m only a small bit Cherokee, so I won’t claim to be speaking for anyone but myself, here, but there is a positive side to it too, I think. While mainstream American culture (i.e. movies and television) does tend to view Indian culture as a fondue of uniformity, at least the shift in that view has largely gone from negative to positive. Most non-Indians might see all Indian spiritualism as being lumped into one generic whole, sans nuance, but at least that depiction, while inaccurate in itself, is regarded as positive today. In other words, Indian belief systems, while not necessarily depicted accurately (usually not), are shown to be morally “correct.” Like in IT: CHAPTER TWO. Mike learned the secret of how to defeat Pennywise from a fictional band of Indians. The tribe depicted and the beliefs ascribed to them are fictitious, but the ceremony wherein Mike ingests a sacred drug to learn their secrets does resemble some authentic Native practices. But the Indians in the story are *right*. They *do* know how to defeat Pennywise. They have secrets, and answers, that modern American culture does not know, or has forgotten. This latter tends to be the norm in entertainment. The trope of the “outsider” learning something useful from Native people is common. Listen to the Indians, this trope says to us. They know what they’re talking about. And that, at least, is a good thing.
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS, specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced, and directed (and occasionally acted in) over two dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and True Crime genres. He obtained a doctorate in Occult Studies from Miskatonic University and is an active paranormal investigator. Is frequently told he resembles Anton Lavey. And Ming the Merciless.
Denn die totden reiten schnell!