TLC’s Extreme Poodles includes some Extreme Stereotyping

June 14, 2010 — 2 Comments

TLC is not exactly known for its normal, run of the mill programming. While I’m sure we can all admit to paying rapt attention to “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” at one point or another, the network’s stunts for ratings have gotten weirder and weirder lately. I think the topper might be their recent special “Extreme Poodles,” a show that chronicled participants in an “Extreme” poodle grooming contest.

As I might have mentioned before, I (sadly) don’t have cable. I know, I’m crazy. So I haven’t actually seen the episode, and am just going off of the links and descriptions around the internets. But apparently, this is how it went down.

Contestants were allowed to “pre-dye” their poodles (with non-toxic veggie dye), but all cutting, trimming, and styling was done on a stage, in front of an audience and judges. Each poodle had a theme, and when the groomers presented the final product, they dressed up and had music relating to their dog’s “theme”. Other themes? Lion king, Roller Derby, Garden of Eden….and then the family you see above, with their entry titled “Cherokee Heritage”.


If you can’t tell from the image, that’s a poodle, shaved to look like a buffalo, with an Indian head carved on his side, complete with a headdress. The family are dressed as “Indians” with wigs, turkey feathers, and fake buckskin.

here’s another image of the dog:

According to this blog, written from the point of view of a poodle (?) here’s how the Cherokee Heritage team presented themselves:

Her companion Josh is groomed as a buffalo at the head, and with the face and headdress at one of the rear legs. Apparently, Angela is part Cherokee, so she is celebrating her own heritage which Poodle Bitch supposes makes the whole idea less offensive…

In addition to the actual groom of the dog, there is a presentation period, in which the groomers display the dog in a tableau meant to illustrate the theme of the groom. For Angela’s part, she has conscripted her father and nephew into wearing Cherokee headdresses and bird costumes to stand and prance around the dog, while Angela herself beats a drum (Poodle Bitch is unsure if the proper term for such a drum is “tomtom”).

 Wow. I can only imagine how that looked. If you can see from the first image, her son is wearing a bird costume with wings, so I’m sure he was busy flapping around the table. And beating a “tomtom” (you can see it on the edge of the second picture)? That’s not totally stereotypical or anything.

There are many cringe-inducing and anger-inducing parts of this, but the one that is bothering me more than anything is that she says she’s “honoring her Cherokee heritage” through this display.

We can debate the finer points of tradition and whether or not Cherokees hunted buffalo (there were definitely some bison/buffalo running through the Eastern Woodlands way back in the day, but Cherokee aren’t considered a buffalo culture like the Lakota/Dakota), but my point is that the stereotypes this woman drew on were Plains Indian stereotypes–the Hollywood Indian. Not anything close to Cherokee culture.

The write-ups I’m reading seem to be giving her a free pass because of her claims of “honoring,” but me, not so much. If you really want to honor your supposed heritage, do some research. Talk to your elders. Learn. I bet about 5 minutes into your education you’ll realize how terribly messed up it is to “honor” your heritage by shaving a poodle, dressing up in turkey feathers, and beating a stereotypical drum.

Why all the crazies gotta be Cherokee? That, my friends, is a whole post in itself.

Here’s the only video I can find, a “teaser” from TLC, but it does show the groomer in action “I’m trying to color in this Indian face in right here” (at about the 1:05 mark):

Oh, and I forgot to mention, “Cherokee Heritage” won third place.

(Thanks Bree and Rachel!)

Adrienne K.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01478763837213733775 Rob

    Massive stupidity!

    Reminds me of the Oklahoma shop selling t-shirts with Indian skulls in Plains headdresses. I think the owner used the whole “I’m Cherokee/honoring my ancestors” bit. Thereby proving our point: that stereotypical thinking begets more stereotypical thinking.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16138968066861006638 Melinda

    I’ve been reading your site for a while and would like to thank you for the work you do. I’d also be interested in knowing how it is that every other white person ended up with Cherokee heritage.

    I know it definitely makes it hard for those of us who really are mixed blood (but pass for white) to get taken seriously. I’m Mississippi Choctaw from both sides of the family, but ended up with Choctaw facial features and Irish coloring. I get no end of snark from people when I acknowledge the non-white side of my heritage. But I can’t imagine dishonoring my grandparents by pretending they aren’t a part of me.