Monday, May 17, 2010

Thanks Gabriel

Below is a brief excerpt from Dr. Gabriel Estrada upcoming article:

Two-Spirit comedian Charlie Ballard (Sac and Fox and Anishinaabe) presents a series of jokes in 2009 that both critique whiteness and playing Indian in his “Gay Native American” sketch posted on his webpage, a critique Rose does not make in Can’t Stop the Music. When Charlie opens with self-identification as an “American Indian”, he follows with “I know most of you can’t tell since I’m not wearing my casino shirt.” He is jokingly reconfiguring Indian identity as lucrative and contemporary, but refuses to wear the shirt that would mark him iconically as such. To present a non-iconic image is a choice Rose never makes in the film as he wears a headdress at almost all times. “Most guys like to date me just because I’m American Indian,” Ballard continues, “So what the hell does that make me, a fetish? What the hell am I supposed to say to that? ‘Hey do you want a lap dance?’” Ballard puts two fingers up behind his head like feathers and makes a whooping sound with his other hand on his mouth while unenthusiastically wiggling his bottom. “Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo!” he screams in Indian falsetto featured in Classic Westerns. Ballard makes fun of the very kind of gay kitchy fetishism that Rose displays as a gay Indian go-go dancer and bartender in one of the scenes in Can’t Stop the Music. As a go-go dancer and as a Village People performer, Rose plays Indian to capitalize on gay white fetishization of Indian male sexuality. Ballard says about gay dating “I worry about dating white men, not because of getting HIV but because of getting small pox. White boys are cute but don’t cough on me.” Ballard revisits the past injustice of genocide, but brings it to a comedic level by poking fun at non-Natives who might believe that his immune system has not changed since first contact with whites. “I’m the fashion consultant in my Indian tribe,” he concludes, “You might hear me say something like ‘Oh, girl, I know you didn’t bring that outfit on the Trail of Tears.’” Again, he pokes fun at the idea that Native Americans of today should have to dress as they did during the 1830s, a racist belief that many non-Native Americans in the audience might believe or have been taught. Ballard is clearly identifying as gay and Native American in order to broadly criticize white stereotypes and fetishization of gay Native Americans. The critique of whiteness is what Ballard and other Native comedians like Charlie Hill bring to an audience that eludes Rose as he plays The Indian.

Gabriel Estrada

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