I can’t help but sympathize with the creators of Syfy’s Peter Pan prequel, “Neverland.” Here’s this forward-looking bunch with an ethos of fairly and sympathetically portraying — not only HUMANS of all ancestries — but aliens and robots and ghosts and super-intelligent shades of blue as well. And they’re forced to be simultaneously backward-compatible with an Edwardian British fantasy of “Red Indians.” That has to be worse than designing websites aimed at lawyers who haven’t updated their browsers since 1985!
I couldn’t wait to see how they got out of THAT one. I only hoped it would be more graceful than Disney’s purported “Michael-Jacksonizing” of the animated (now-white) Indians in the DVD version of their “Peter Pan.”
What the Syfy producers did was give the Neverland Indians clothing, regalia, tools, weapons, and architecture from nations all over the US and Canada, which were generally rendered rather classily; no neon-colored feathers or plastic pony beads. When we first meet them, they are singing what sounds very much like a Gyuto Monks’ Tibetan Buddhist chant!
So, kind of a mishmash. Perhaps that’s who they are: the Mishmash Nation!
It’s bound to give scholars the red – uh, skin – any time costumes, props, or sets seem to be from a mix times or places. But if I may play the wendigo’s advocate for a moment:
- Ancient peoples always seem to have “gotten around” a lot more than anyone thought; consider, for example, the Viking’s Buddha excavated at Lake Malaren, Sweden.
- Archaeological evidence confirms that First Nations had a continent-spanning trade network long before the importation of the horse.
- So in real life, Native folks had stuff from nations other than their own: traded goods, war trophies, things brought in by adopted members back before the BIA said “quit adopting people and start paying attention to blood quanta or kiss federal recognition goodbye”. . .
All right , a group still probably wouldn’t ALL have Lakota feather bonnets and ALL have Makah canoes and ALL have Tlingit hats the ways the Mishmash did. And even if the land-bridge theory held true, did the Mishmash walk all the way from Tibet? And if so, would the song remain the same?
But it was very pretty. And the Indians seemed as “people-y” as any of the other characters. And the giant-mutant-octodile hunt was WAY cool. So, on balance . . . ‘sall’ight.