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Michelle Williams Sports Controversial Indian Look on Cover of 'AnOther Magazine'

ICTMN Staff
3/12/13

Actress Michelle Williams, who appears in the film Oz: The Great and Powerful, is featured on the cover of the Spring/Summer issue of AnOther Magazine dressed as an Indian -- a styling choice that is not going over well in Indian country.

In the photo, Williams wears long braids, beads, feathers, and what Ruth Hopkins described at Jezebel.com as "a decidedly stoic expression." But Wiliams' outfit eschews regalia, consisting instead of flannel jeans, and a robe. "Are they endeavoring to capture the spirit of the American Indian Movement (AIM) circa 1973?" Hopkins, an ICTMN contributor, wondered. "Is this an ad for the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) or the American Indian College Fund (AICF)? Nope. It's a 33 year old white actress hyping her latest Hollywood project by wearing a cheap costume designed to make her look like she's the member of another race."

Connecting some dots, Hopkins and others see an issue that goes beyond a single ill-advised photograph.

For starters, Williams' current screen role is as Glinda, a witch in the fantasy world created by L. Frank Baum of Wonderful Wizard of Oz fame. (Note the tagline on the magazie cover: "There's No Place Like Home") It is a lesser-known fact -- though better known among Indians than non-Indians -- that Baum wrote two virulently anti-Indian editorials while he was editor of the Aberdeen, SD-based Saturday Pioneer. It is safe to say that Baum isn't Indian country's favorite children's author. It's a pity Williams didn't know that, or keep it in mind, when she sat for an interview with the L.A. Times last week. “Quadlings, Tinkers and Munchkins didn’t mean much to me; it wasn’t my language,” Williams said, referring to various races depicted in Baum's world. “But when I thought of them as Native Americans trying to inhabit their land or about women getting the right to vote, it made a lot more sense.”

That remark was the basis for the headline of Aura Bogado's piece at TheNation.com: "Native Americans Are Not Munchkins: An Open Letter to Michelle Williams." "I hope you’ll read through this letter and think twice before once again choosing to participate in actions that preserve deeply racist convictions in popular culture," Bogado writes. "By wearing a braided wig and donning feathers, and calling that 'Native American' in a photo shoot, you’re perpetuating the lazy idea that Natives are all one and the same. Because you were born and spent your childhood in Montana, I expected more from you."

The cover in question is one of a few that AnOther Magazine is featuring on its Spring/Summer issue. All were shot by Willy Vanderperre and can be seen at FashnBerry.

 

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Lori P.'s picture
Lori P.
Submitted by Lori P. on
It's amazing how the non Native always want to try and be Native. Commercial representation is always a far fetched idea of who we really are and the young actresses in these ads should realize we are real people who do not like to be depicted by there theory of who we are. America needs to get it together and realize there's more to life that trying to be someone else.

LuzMaria Lifeis's picture
LuzMaria Lifeis
Submitted by LuzMaria Lifeis on
Despite, the issue of Dress, She knows her Roots, where she came from what she is doing, its nice to know she is fully dress, Even more so, than most i've seen!.. My aunties used to wear clothes like these years ago, i feel no derogatory displacement here, Traditions still shows us. The Women should be Respected.

A Random Navajo 's picture
A Random Navajo
Submitted by A Random Navajo on
When will Hollywood use actual Native actors more often than Whites in Native roles? Since it is obvious that choosing white actors for native roles is a sign of their ignorance to really recognize younger Native actors who would better fit into many roles.

Glen Douglas's picture
Glen Douglas
Submitted by Glen Douglas on
If Baum was german and wrote "The wizard of Oz" after calling for the extermination of jews,gypsies etc. his book would be buried some where. Why is it ok for some reason for this to continue as well as the Washington "Redskins" ,the Cleveland Indians logo which looks very similar to the caricatures that nazis used to depict jews ? Why are Native people the only ones treated this way in popular media and sports? Racism, I guess so.

Wade's picture
Wade
Submitted by Wade on
Oh please! Much ado about nothing in this case. Whatever happened to "imitation is the highest form of flattery?"

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Seriously? This is what we're wasting our time worrying about? We got bigger fish to fry, Indian country!!! Get a life and make a difference for the people! Stop worrying about someone wearing her hair in braids with a feather, omg!

Give It A Break's picture
Give It A Break
Submitted by Give It A Break on
I see nothing wrong with this look or choice she has made. Its a feather and necklace, come on. One trip next month to the big social gathering in Albuquerque and you'll have more and even the reverse. Indians imitating blacks, etc. Go to the trading capital of New Mexico and see even worse. We have lots of battles to be fought and fighting, but this is not one. Let it go.

Lee Ann TallBear's picture
Lee Ann TallBear
Submitted by Lee Ann TallBear on
Now this is what I call being over-sensitive! She is not carrying a pipe; wearing a headdress; or a skin tight piece of leather draped over one shoulder. If we are going to be the "stereotype police" that is about all we will ever get done and there is much to do in Indian Country to make it better.

Dina GW's picture
Dina GW
Submitted by Dina GW on
It may seem to many people here that this portrayal is not worth fighting about. No, it's not an Indian wearing regalia or carry a pipe. But it is still an appropriation (as in taking something that doesn't belong to you) of an image for misleading reasons, in this case to sell a movie that does have troubling implications regarding munchkins/Indians, etc. You can think of it as a battle to fight or not.....either way, it's up to us as native people to bring it up publicly because no one else is going to do it. By ignoring it we give it our tacit consent. But more to the point: the photo is just plain ugly. Williams looks like a degenerate junkie hanging out in a dark alley looking for her next fix....is that an imitation of Indians, and that's supposed to be flattering? Not in my book. To me, from an academic standpoint, this is a classic example of how white people appropriate the identities of "others" to deny their own privilege. The message is "if i present myself like you I relate to your experience of the world....I am you...." Thus, members of the dominant society sidestep any responsibility for the ongoing domination of the "other."

Dodie Erlendson's picture
Dodie Erlendson
Submitted by Dodie Erlendson on
The photo is haunting from the waste up they should have stopped there.

Ralph Thomas's picture
Ralph Thomas
Submitted by Ralph Thomas on
What's the problem? Hell, Indians are selling sweats, ceremony's, and just about everything and anything related to being Indian. So how's about some stories about the "instant medicine men/women" or the one's who "dress like a white man" or any host of other things that Indians get mad about?

sabrina's picture
sabrina
Submitted by sabrina on
I think all Native Americans are all tired of white people by now. If she was in black-face makeup, it wouldn't be right either. Maybe we should leave the native-look to the natives.
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