The Simpsons stereotypes Alaska Native cultures, again.

In Alaska Native, Inuit, Olympics, The Simpsons, Vancouver Games by Adrienne K.5 Comments

 
On the most recent episode of the Simpsons,  Homer and Marge gain a spot on the US Olympic curling team and head to Vancouver for the games. When they arrive in the city, Homer is greeted by an Alaska Native/Inuit woman (in Vancouver?) and they engage in about 10 seconds of guttural noises back and forth as the background goes all swimmy and mystical, then he drives away. 
After the jump, a couple more screen shots and linking it back to the Simpsons Movie (where this character was first introduced).

Admittedly, I was tipped off, so I sped through most of the episode until I got to this scene, and stopped watching after it, so I’m not sure if this was given more context later, but I’m almost positive it was just intended as a quick nod to the Simpsons Movie.
 

This is during their back and forth, notice how the background is all Dali-like and the inclusion of the psychedelic clouds and birds. 

This is a close-up of the character (who goes un-named in the movie as well). She has no teeth, a deep, masculine voice, and speaks in broken english.

I’m going to refer back to an email my friend Holly (who is Inupiaq from Anchorage) sent out after the Simpsons Movie came out, talking about the scene in which this character is introduced:

I’m not sure if you have seen it yet, but there is a scene with an Alaska Native woman who looks like a man, and who is highly sexualized by her breasts, yet remains hideous and ogre-like. The scene ultimately makes a mockery out of Alaska Natives, as audience members laugh at her. All the beauty of a culture is gone. Millions of people, who do not know about Alaska Natives are going to see this movie and laugh. There are enough problems with race and misunderstandings of other cultures in America without movies that create stereotypes about cultures that they do not know anything about.

The scene with the Inuit woman starts at 58 min. In which she gives Homer “fire water.” An insulting stereotype emphasized onscreen by the makers of The Simpsons. In the next scene at 1 hr 2 minutes, the Native woman appears in the Northern Lights and her oversized breasts bounce and point in the direction Homer needs to go in order to save Springfield. Considering how many Native women are victims of sexual assault and rape it is an outrage that a movie would further sexualize a group which is additionally humiliated.

 Holly sums it up beautifully, and brings to light the many issues at play behind the images in the movie and the episode, and I think this will serve as a good bridge for a discussion this week about the role of Indigenous peoples in Olympic advertising, marketing, and ceremonies of the Vancouver games.

The whole episode is on hulu, if you really want to watch it.

Full episode on hulu: http://www.hulu.com/watch/125173/the-simpsons-boy-meets-curl 

Background article on violence against Alaska Native Women in the Anchorage Daily News:
http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/crime/story/8825231p-8726532c.html


More information on violence against Alaska Native women from Amnesty International:
http://www.amnestyusa.org/Womens_Human_Rights/Summary/page.do?id=1021170&n1=3&n2=39

(Thanks to Anna for the tip, and Holly for the analysis!)
  • A Meadows

    have you seen the episode where they go to the indian casino and homer goes on a vision quest?

  • Anonymous

    This has little bearing on the appropriateness of a buxom, fire-water touting Eskimo, but I’m pretty sure this woman was put in the movie as a reference to Steven Seagal’s “On Deadly Ground” and then recycled. A lot of the Simpsons’ jokes lately seem to start out as allusions, but then become running jokes in their own right, funny or otherwise.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08561108162215536146 E. A

    Thanks for calling out the racism and sexism inherent in the portrayal of the Native American woman in The Simpsons Movie. You are the only person that I’ve seen in my travels online who has called attention to this problematic portrayal.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13283286231374719614 Matte

    I know that the scene could be offensive, and all, and yes the scene in the show is just a gimmick from the movie, but I wouldn’t call it an attack or a mockery of Alaskan Natives. The show makes fun of anything and everything. Even Native Americans. I have a Native friend we call him Sildenafil and he was not offended at all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12623215565673008494 B

    Wow, Matte, no one’s EVER defended racism before by saying “I have an a friend who’s that race, and they’re not offended!” Or suggested that because something makes fun of almost everything, that everything is fair game. ::headdesk:: < / sarcam >

    Anyhoo, if this is a derail, feel free to delete it, but I’m pretty certain the birds in the backgroud are meant to be based on M.C. Escher, though the melty-ness of the rest of the background definitely seems Dali-esque to me. < / art historian >