Wednesday, May 09, 2007

HBO Whitewashes "Wounded Knee"

The trailers for HBO's upcoming film "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," based on the nonfiction book by Dee Brown that became a bestseller in the 1970s, make it look quite promising. But according to an article in the NY Times, there will be inaccuracies aplenty in this made-for-TV interpretation.

The book, which I haven't read, is apparently an anecdotal retelling of the persecution of the Sioux in the late 19th century, focusing entirely on the American Indians' perspective. The movie, on the other hand, greatly enlarges the role of a half-Sioux, half-white character, sticking him in places where he never went, and giving him a fictional, white love interest. The film's creators are doing this because they believe today's white audiences won't watch a Wounded Knee adaptation unless there are some palefaces for them to latch onto.

Quoth the Times:

“Everyone felt very strongly that we needed a white character or a part-white, part-Indian character to carry a contemporary white audience through this project,” Daniel Giat, the writer who adapted the book for HBO Films, told a group of television writers earlier this year.

This doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Considering that this book was a blockbuster hit to audiences THIRTY YEARS AGO, what makes the HBO folks think that viewers can't handle an all-American Indian cast today?

I'm fine with some tweaking of history if it's for discernible aesthetic or entertainment value. HBO did just this with Deadwood and Rome to great effect. But the idea that the story needs to be whitewashed to get good ratings just doesn't sit well with me.

Another perspective, from the article again:

Nicolas Proctor, Mr. Brown’s grandson and one of three people who oversees his estate, as well as an associate professor of history at Simpson College in Iowa, said that as a historian he was “always kind of shocked that history is not moving enough, is not evocative enough and rich enough to keep people from having to get in there and start monkeying around with it.”

What do you think, commenters? Was this a necessary move on HBO's part?


Jeanette said...

Totally unnecessary move. Native American women are hot. NICE CALL, DICK WOLF!

Alanna said...

Seriously, I've often wished I was at least 25% Native American. High cheekbones y'all.

Stef said...

I don't pay attention to anyone who does not look and act exactly like me. Does this adaptation have lesbians in it? If no, I'm out.

J.J. said...

Alanna said...

Haha I've seen that, it's the greatest. Another great one is the video where they put the laugh track from Lucky Louie on dramatic scenes from Deadwood.