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Author Topic: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation  (Read 4629 times)

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Offline TairisTopic starter

JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« on: March 09, 2016, 06:21:57 PM »
http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/09/entertainment/rowling-native-american-controversy-feat/index.html

Apparently some various people are mad that JK Rowling is using native american myths and legends in her stories. You can read the article for the direct quotes.

Happen to run across this today and found myself more than a little boggled. Am I missing something here? Dozens of writers from movies, to novels, to comic books have used numerous native american cultures and histories Why is JK Rowling doing the same now offensive?

Is there some rule in general I've never been aware of? Because I've seen re-interpretations and the like of virtually every religion and culture in the world at this point in fiction.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2016, 06:42:05 PM »
I'm wondering if their anger is prompted by the appearance of Rowling's writings as history and not stressed as fiction and, also, by the fact that Native Americans are an actual group of communities and not made up characters like her wizards and witches.  There is the facet of her popularity to deal with as well.  Many people in her fan base will read and believe what she writes so any errors her work contains will be perpetuated as fact.  Those complaining seem to feel, at the very least, that her research is flawed.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2016, 06:54:56 PM »
Ive seen many way worse interpretations of Native Americans *cough* Adam Sandler* Cough*. So I wonder if this has more to do with Rowling's popularity.

I cant speak for any Native Americans, but as long as you remain respectful I feel you should be able to stretch the truth if only slightly. But if there is that much of a problem then perhaps someone can meet with miss Rowling and work things out. Communication and Compromise can get a lot more done.

But then again compromise is such a dirty word when money is involved.

Still I say again one person or the other should try and contact one another and work things. It might end up for the better if some of the changes to her book more accurately reflected reality *shrug* I don't know.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2016, 06:57:03 PM by Lustful Bride »

Offline Blythe

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2016, 07:00:22 PM »
I live in an area where there's a lot of Native Americans--specifically, though, not Navajo, but rather Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, etc.

This is a hard topic--it's....not just that it's J.K. Rowling. The use of stereotypes based on false or altered information is pretty prevalent in literature and cinema against Native Americans as a whole, particularly the issue about lumping them in together as a large group or cherrypicking their history. The frustrating thing about this is that Native American culture isn't an overarching homogeneous culture; practices and history differ from tribe to tribe. To see a writer as popular as Rowling do it is really bothersome because her works are targeted at a young audience, audiences known for being somewhat impressionable.

With a culture or religion with less of an oppressed history, factual information has been more easily disseminated. That's not the case here; these are cultures that still struggle to be heard more often than not, so the use of various tribes and traditions in this sort of fiction rubs a particularly raw emotional nerve for some.

Not all, but some. There are several Choctaws who probably wouldn't care about this where I live, but then again, the most prevalent tales about Skinwalkers, for example, come from Navajo tradition, so someone of Navajo descent would probably be angrier about this.

Had Rowling done more research and been more inclusive, it probably would have been a non-issue using fictionalized versions of, for example, Navajo traditions and history, because yes, that sort of thing is prevalent in fiction for many cultures, religions, and histories.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2016, 07:01:27 PM by Blythe »

Offline Gadifriald

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2016, 07:32:50 PM »
I'm part Sioux and grew up in towns on or near the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho. I have a pretty extensive knowledge of American Indian/Native American culture and customs and spiritual beliefs and reading up on this topic, I am personally offended by Rowling's warping and misuse of very real spiritual beliefs and traditions, etc. She is of course free to write what she wants, however, the entire tone of her work is offensive while trying to be pathetically politically correct. Of course, you can't really expect a British author to get things correct when it comes to indigenous cultures of the Americas...

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2016, 07:42:55 PM »
. Of course, you can't really expect a British author to get things correct when it comes to indigenous cultures of the Americas...

That might be taking it a step too far. I know your angry but lets takea breath. Like they say "Don't attribute anything to malice that can more easily be attributed to Ignorance" or..something like that.

Offline Gadifriald

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2016, 07:52:59 PM »
Oh, I attribute Rowling's offensive misinterpretation to pure ignorance! It is much the same as when American authors try to write things set in past cultures and times in Britain and Ireland and get things terribly wrong.

Offline Blythe

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2016, 08:04:25 PM »
I'm of the opinion that if someone wants to write published works or create media that draws on other cultures, if one isn't part of that culture, it's good to do the legwork and research to really nail the details. I like it when authors are brave enough to write about perspectives and cultures not their own (and its totally possible to get it right), but I don't like it when they aren't putting in the required effort to actually show that culture. To make it something more than just a stereotype or something painted with a broad generalized brush. It makes me feel like "here's the required minority caricature here" when a writer doesn't do their research; it feels...for lack of a better word...lazy. :/

And I love Rowling. I loved her HP books. But this particular thing does rub me the wrong way.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2016, 08:07:01 PM by Blythe »

Offline TairisTopic starter

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2016, 10:22:55 PM »
But why? Why is this somehow worse than Braveheart or the literally thousands of books and movies that use Christian mythology for their fantasy universes? I'm not a fan of the Catholic Church but you have to admit they get used as a plot device more than basically any historical organization in the universe.


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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2016, 10:36:37 PM »
But why? Why is this somehow worse than Braveheart or the literally thousands of books and movies that use Christian mythology for their fantasy universes? I'm not a fan of the Catholic Church but you have to admit they get used as a plot device more than basically any historical organization in the universe.

I don't think it's necessarily worse, but the popularity of her work has probably magnified the response.  There's also the fact that this kind of misuse of culture and history comes about in a time when everyone is more aware of it.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2016, 10:40:25 PM »
As I said above I think it is because she is presenting it as history - i.e., nonfiction - rather than historical fiction.   She appears to have made no effort to say things have been taken out of context.

There are book of several genres that us the various Native American cultures as background for their stories.  Frequently, fantasy and science fiction stories use the mysticism of those cultures as the moving force of the plots.  However, the books are presented as novels an not text books.

"Braveheart" came up in discussion with a friend the other night as well as the many inaccuracies in the movie.  I wasn't aware of them until they were pointed out to me and I'm sure that only those who are students of history or have taken an interest in the period for some reason.  Had more people noticed, or any or group or organization, some comments may have been made.

I don't think it's necessarily worse, but the popularity of her work has probably magnified the response.  There's also the fact that this kind of misuse of culture and history comes about in a time when everyone is more aware of it.
An this.

Offline Aethereal

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2016, 11:34:09 PM »
Quote
Why is this somehow worse than Braveheart
      I know at least one Scotsman who absolutely loathes the movie by that name for its depiction of the events...

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2016, 12:15:53 AM »
      I know at least one Scotsman who absolutely loathes the movie by that name for its depiction of the events...

And one English person.

Offline Gadifriald

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2016, 01:21:38 AM »
If anyone is wondering why so many Native Americans/American Indians find Rowling's butchering of their legends and mythology and messing up their cultural realities in a high profile way upsetting and offensive, there is a long and ongoing and highly insulting use of indigenous American peoples and cultures by the entertainment industry. Johnny Depp plays a Native American character in modern times and not only is he white, but his depiction of Tanto is massively insulting. Think of the outrage if he'd played a black person? Then played them as a buffoon? Heads would have rolled, but it is a minor footnote because not many people really care about Native Americans. Now think of decades of white people playing Native Americans in film. Now think of the racist depictions of them in television and film. In the written word Native Americans also have a long history of being depicted in insulting ways. The enemy, the other, the noble savage, the violent savage, the rapey Indian brave in romance novels. Your lands were stolen from you by colonial invaders, your cultures destroyed in many cases and nearly destroyed in others. Languages suppressed, religions suppressed and supplanted. There is a professional sports team called The Washington Redskins! Redskin is as bad an insult as the n-word or any other racial slur, but where is the massive public outcry against it? Not much of one is there? Now the most popular author in the world uses your religions and mythologies and cultures in flagrantly inaccurate and insulting ways...yeah, you're gonna be upset!
« Last Edit: March 10, 2016, 02:38:54 AM by Gadifriald »

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2016, 04:30:45 AM »
If anyone is wondering why so many Native Americans/American Indians find Rowling's butchering of their legends and mythology and messing up their cultural realities in a high profile way upsetting and offensive, there is a long and ongoing and highly insulting use of indigenous American peoples and cultures by the entertainment industry. Johnny Depp plays a Native American character in modern times and not only is he white, but his depiction of Tanto is massively insulting. Think of the outrage if he'd played a black person? Then played them as a buffoon? Heads would have rolled, but it is a minor footnote because not many people really care about Native Americans. Now think of decades of white people playing Native Americans in film. Now think of the racist depictions of them in television and film. In the written word Native Americans also have a long history of being depicted in insulting ways. The enemy, the other, the noble savage, the violent savage, the rapey Indian brave in romance novels. Your lands were stolen from you by colonial invaders, your cultures destroyed in many cases and nearly destroyed in others. Languages suppressed, religions suppressed and supplanted. There is a professional sports team called The Washington Redskins! Redskin is as bad an insult as the n-word or any other racial slur, but where is the massive public outcry against it? Not much of one is there? Now the most popular author in the world uses your religions and mythologies and cultures in flagrantly inaccurate and insulting ways...yeah, you're gonna be upset!


All of this

All of it

ALLL OF IT

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2016, 09:45:23 AM »
If anyone is wondering why so many Native Americans/American Indians find Rowling's butchering of their legends and mythology and messing up their cultural realities in a high profile way upsetting and offensive, there is a long and ongoing and highly insulting use of indigenous American peoples and cultures by the entertainment industry. Johnny Depp plays a Native American character in modern times and not only is he white, but his depiction of Tanto is massively insulting. Think of the outrage if he'd played a black person? Then played them as a buffoon? Heads would have rolled, but it is a minor footnote because not many people really care about Native Americans. Now think of decades of white people playing Native Americans in film. Now think of the racist depictions of them in television and film. In the written word Native Americans also have a long history of being depicted in insulting ways. The enemy, the other, the noble savage, the violent savage, the rapey Indian brave in romance novels. Your lands were stolen from you by colonial invaders, your cultures destroyed in many cases and nearly destroyed in others. Languages suppressed, religions suppressed and supplanted. There is a professional sports team called The Washington Redskins! Redskin is as bad an insult as the n-word or any other racial slur, but where is the massive public outcry against it? Not much of one is there? Now the most popular author in the world uses your religions and mythologies and cultures in flagrantly inaccurate and insulting ways...yeah, you're gonna be upset!

That's completely fair in all honesty. They should be mad.

(Ive actually argued that about the Washington Team name being offensive many times but I always get told "Well they didn't have a problem with it before now." or "You just hate football". and the classic "You just don't understand a man's sport" ugh I hate that one.)

But we forget that the main motivator behind all of this is money. So long as someone somewhere is profiting off of it, they will endeavor to make sure nothing changes. And so long as the bottom line is unaffected those up top will not care in the least.

Though I think this is more of a case of Rowling was lazy and didn't want to put forth the effort to give NA the proper justice/interpretation. I don't think she should be vilified but she is doing something wrong. 

They have every right to be mad though. (I feel like ive just been talking in circles and provided nothing constructive.)

Has the book actually bene published? If so then I'm afraid whats done is done, unless she makes edits to future books. If not then she can just make some rewrites and get a better way of handling it. 
« Last Edit: March 10, 2016, 09:48:04 AM by Lustful Bride »

Online Valerian

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2016, 10:07:54 AM »
      I know at least one Scotsman who absolutely loathes the movie by that name for its depiction of the events...
And one English person.
And one American person who has Scottish ancestors.  *shudder*

But back on topic, Johnny Depp has started turning every part he plays into a caricature, and couldn't believe it when I heard he had been cast as Tonto -- I was sure it had to be one of those horrible, baseless rumors that happen now and then.  The studio's excuse was that since they had cast a relative unknown in the part of the Lone Ranger, they had to get a big name for Tonto.  (Apparently it didn't occur to them that they could just cast Depp as the Lone Ranger if they really wanted him in the movie that much and then cast an actual Native American as Tonto.)  The best that Depp could come up with in interviews was that he 'thought he might be part Native American but he wasn't sure'.  :P

But yeah, in that case it was a pure money grab by the studios, and I have to admit I'm glad it didn't pay off for them very well.

Offline Aiden

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #17 on: March 10, 2016, 10:24:11 AM »
Rabble rabble rabble.

Don't care, won't care when she fucks up any Mexican Culture if she places a school in Mexico.

Fuck the PC bullshit.


Offline Cycle

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2016, 10:25:16 AM »
Ah, dammit.  I misread the title as "JK Rowling and Cthulhu Appropriation." 

*grumps*

*stomps out of thread*

Offline TairisTopic starter

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2016, 10:19:38 PM »
As I said above I think it is because she is presenting it as history - i.e., nonfiction - rather than historical fiction.   She appears to have made no effort to say things have been taken out of context.

I'm really not understanding this. Its a series of books and stories about fucking wizards. How is someone taking this as 'nonfiction'.

If anyone is wondering why so many Native Americans/American Indians find Rowling's butchering of their legends and mythology and messing up their cultural realities in a high profile way upsetting and offensive, there is a long and ongoing and highly insulting use of indigenous American peoples and cultures by the entertainment industry. Johnny Depp plays a Native American character in modern times and not only is he white, but his depiction of Tanto is massively insulting. Heads would have rolled, but it is a minor footnote because not many people really care about Native Americans. Now think of decades of white people playing Native Americans in film. Now think of the racist depictions of them in television and film. In the written word Native Americans also have a long history of being depicted in insulting ways. The enemy, the other, the noble savage, the violent savage, the rapey Indian brave in romance novels. Your lands were stolen from you by colonial invaders, your cultures destroyed in many cases and nearly destroyed in others. Languages suppressed, religions suppressed and supplanted. There is a professional sports team called The Washington Redskins! Redskin is as bad an insult as the n-word or any other racial slur, but where is the massive public outcry against it? Not much of one is there? Now the most popular author in the world uses your religions and mythologies and cultures in flagrantly inaccurate and insulting ways...yeah, you're gonna be upset!

Great. But why are they deciding that this one author who is, again,  writing a story about freaking wizards that fight using magic wands is somehow the new great evil befalling their people? You've got entire series of movies and books and the like that basically call the catholic church the greatest evil on the planet. You've got Neal Gaiman that has borrowed basically every pantheon of gods and more than a few cultures myths. You've got the Dresden Files that have also used Skinwalkers. What about Twilight, an arguably far worse depiction of well... anything, much less the culture of native americans?

Which is why I find the whole thing ridiculous. It's a freaking young adult novel that seems to have caught criticism only because it would raise the profiles of those that chastise it in their own circles.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #20 on: March 10, 2016, 10:38:52 PM »
I'm really not understanding this. Its a series of books and stories about fucking wizards. How is someone taking this as 'nonfiction'.

This might put it into some context.  It's not a novel, but a series of postings on the Pottermore website, titled 'The History of Magic in North America.'

Considering how many articles from The Onion make it into panicked Facebook postings, I'm not terribly surprised that someone is taking this as 'nonfiction'.

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Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #21 on: March 10, 2016, 11:11:59 PM »
From the day the first European landed on the shores in what we now call the Americas the eradication of the Native peoples of this continent began.  Parallel this with the same process involving the Maori peoples or the attempted annihilation of the Jews. 

Wrong is wrong whether anyone speaks up or not.  Silence doesn't make it right.  What would have happened if no one spoke up at all when injustices occur.  We should be ashamed that it takes so long for the wake up call to be answered.


Offline Aethereal

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #22 on: March 11, 2016, 12:17:21 AM »
       ((Speaking of which, are there any good online resources on different NA cultures' legends that can be brought out? I only have a couple of books that address the topic, and it's a fascinating subject.))

Offline Gadifriald

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #23 on: March 11, 2016, 01:34:33 AM »
Great. But why are they deciding that this one author who is, again,  writing a story about freaking wizards that fight using magic wands is somehow the new great evil befalling their people? You've got entire series of movies and books and the like that basically call the catholic church the greatest evil on the planet. You've got Neal Gaiman that has borrowed basically every pantheon of gods and more than a few cultures myths. You've got the Dresden Files that have also used Skinwalkers. What about Twilight, an arguably far worse depiction of well... anything, much less the culture of native americans?

Which is why I find the whole thing ridiculous. It's a freaking young adult novel that seems to have caught criticism only because it would raise the profiles of those that chastise it in their own circles.
"The Dresden Files" are pretty obscure in the grand scheme of the world, so I have no idea if anyone is upset over the use of Skinwalkers in those books. However, there was quite a lot of upset amongst Native Americans/American Indians/First Nations people over their fetishistic depictions and bizarre misrepresentations in "Twilight". It just didn't get a lot of press. J.K. Rowling is the most famous author in the world and the Harry Potter universe is the highest profile bit of literature around, therefore the criticism that is aimed at it is garnering more attention. It isn't that this is new criticism or upset by members of the Native American communities, it is that for once the criticism and upset is getting some attention! Though I'm sure the legitimate criticism of Rowling's misuse of Native American culture and religion will soon be dismissed as it usually is.

Offline Gadifriald

Re: JK Rowling and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #24 on: March 11, 2016, 01:36:21 AM »
       ((Speaking of which, are there any good online resources on different NA cultures' legends that can be brought out? I only have a couple of books that address the topic, and it's a fascinating subject.))
If you Google the names of tribes combined with "legends" I'm sure you'll find a lot of good resources. Try looking up "Nez Perce legends" :-)