Yesterday I posted about an awesome Pepper Ann cartoon that dealt with Peppy “discovering” her Navajo ancestry. Then, some readers pointed out some even cooler things I didn’t notice upon first watch, and some pointed out how I had made some really poor language choices in my write-up, so I’ll get to that too.
1) Pepper Ann’s best friend Milo (the one who identifies as Native Hawaiian) is actually named Milo Kamalani–and in the first 30 seconds of the cartoon, he says “My family can be traced back hundreds of years to the Kanaka Maoli people of the Hawaiian Archipelago.” The writers on this show clearly knew how to do their research! It’s fantastic that there was a contemporary Native Hawaiian character on the show, considering there are officially like zero representations of Native Hawaiians in the media today. I don’t know how much (if at all) his heritage was worked into the show, but I do think it showed some awareness and foresight to give him a Hawaiian name from the get-go.
…and here’s the part where I kinda messed up. I got an email in my inbox this morning (edited for punctuation, it was from an ipad):
“Why is it better indian people change their names to “Northern European White names.” And dress in “white clothes.” We know Indian people don’t walk around in headresses all day and beat drums, but we shouldn’t sell out and conform to the white norm. You seem proud they have “normal ” names. That’s kind of insulting. So traditional native names are not normal? I see this totally different–why not be proud of who you are? I am.”
So she’s referring to my paragraph where I excitedly said: “Look, they’re in normal clothes! And they’re named Dave, Carol, and Bob. The grandpa (not pictured) is named Andy (no sterotypical names!).”
I’ll admit “normal” was probably the exact wrong descriptor. I completely agree with the email too, and I’m clearly not advocating that every Native person shun their traditional name or burn their regalia. I was more excited that it was a contemporary representation of Native people that broke stereotypes and didn’t have the flute music in the background, or a “mystical” element, or a character with a stereotypical name. The whole point of the episode was to point out how ridiculous Pepper Ann looked in her quest to discover her heritage, and the contrast made it that much clearer.
I also liked that the family clearly still had a lot of pride for their culture and a lot of cultural ties (as you can see in all the scenes from their house–pictures of the southwest on the walls, Navajo baskets, a portrait of a Navajo woman in traditional clothing, etc.–Even though they lived in suburbia.
I like when people point out my missteps, I write most of these posts really quickly, so sometimes things come out in the exact opposite way of what I mean. Keep the emails coming! (Unless you’re really mean. Cause that doesn’t help anything. It just hurts my fragile self-esteem.)
But the bottom line is this cartoon is still a great teaching tool, and you should watch it.
Youtube: Pepper Ann “Dances with Ignorance”