Halloween Horror Show: The Sexualized Indian Maiden, Same as She Ever Was
The fashion industry is having a bout of fake-Indian-fever, and young people loosely identified as "hipsters" are appropriating Indian garb left and right; you'd think we were seeing a sudden cultural siege on Indian-ness.
The dirty little secret—or what may be a "secret" to a 25-year-old kid who wears buckskin to a Halloween party—is that today's appropriation of Indian traditional dress is in itself a tradition. In Hollywood, sacred Indian regalia and symbols were misused from the start, and sexed-up costumes were slapped onto popular non-Indian actresses. The sexy Indian maiden was a popular look for burlesque performers and strippers, and the most famous pinup artists used the fabricated stereotype in calendars and magazine work.
Many of the United States' minority populations might say that depictions of them in popular culture have improved since the early and mid-20th century. Little Black Sambo dolls and Charlie Chan movies are things of the past. Can Indians say the same thing? Judge for yourself—are today's "Pocahottie" costumes any better or worse than the distorted Indian imagery your grandparents or great-grandparents witnessed?