How about a real, epic Native hero film?

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Andi Murphy

Andi Murphy

I was so excited about “The Lone Ranger.” Weren’t you? There was cousin Johnny. There were Comanches, horses and train explosions. The hype was almost too much to take as the due date drew near.

It wasn’t only me. I think the whole Native American community was excited about this because Johnny, with his new found heritage, would play Tonto as a real Indian and do justice to the Native Hollywood character. It was high time we had a huge Native star play a huge Native role. Johnny was it. This was it. Johnny was going to save our image with this huge summer blockbuster.

It was supposed to be Tonto’s movie. That’s what I thought, and I think that’s what a lot of us thought. Tribal leaders, including the Navajo Nation president, attended showings and red-carpet events. They “endorsed” the film. People all over my reservation were excited when they saw the film crews go through town.

The first scene, an Indian in a cage on a circus display, ruined everything. I knew I was wrong about the film. I was disappointed and I think we were all disappointed. Certainly, all my Native friends were disappointed.

Why the hell did they have to put him in a cage?

It was stereotypical, the way Hollywood Indians always are. The main character wasn’t Indian. They never are. The Comanches were only victims to show how rotten the villain was. They didn’t add anything to the story or to the resolution of the plot. They just got massacred, as they always do. There was no justice – just a few scenes that made you feel sorry for them. And Tonto’s dialogue was stereotypical in that broken English way.

I mean, there was no empowerment or kudos to the tribe. The hype revolved around Johnny Depp and his character, but his character was disappointing and the film was really about the Lone Ranger.

I know it’s not Johnny’s fault. I still love him – and I thought the movie was good. He abides by writers and a script, none of which were really interested in seriously focusing on Native Americans or doing any justice to the Hollywood Indian.

We’re still wishing and waiting for a big, powerful movie. “Avatar” got really close, but it took place on a different planet and they were blue – and the hero, of course, was a white American male.

Some ideas

I’m thinking about epic hero films. How about Po’pay and the Pueblo Revolt? That story has it all:

  • It has epic battle scenes. The Pueblos banded together and drove the Spanish south.
  • It has politics. The Pueblo leaders fought with each other, doubted each other and then saw eye-to-eye and banded together to create a great plan with Po’pay as their fearless leader.
  • It can have supernatural elements with wicked computer graphics too! The kachinas come to life, sort of like the mummies from “The Mummy,” but they’re good kachinas with fighting skills similar to karate but much cooler. They use their powers to help the Pueblos in this epic battle because they realize they can’t sit and watch their people fight a losing battle anymore.
  • It also has plot twists. Po’pay was betrayed by scouts.

All we need is a cheesy love story to complete this summer blockbuster. I’d watch this and buy the DVD.

I’d also die to see a movie about Chief Manuelito and the resistance against the Long Walk. It would have the same feel and plot as the Po’pay movie, but everyone is Navajo and they’re up against the U.S. Army. There should be lots of horses, big battle scenes and maybe the Monster Slayer Twins come to life and help save some children from godless soldiers, like Legolas from “Lord of the Rings.”

And then Manuelito and Po’pay could get together with Geronimo, Sitting Bull and Spotted Elk like the Avengers! Oh my gosh!

There could be a sci-fi movie sort of like “Clash of the Titans” where you have humans and then higher beings and monsters from Navajo mythology like Spider Woman, the Twins, Coyote and Yei. I’ve read most of these Navajo mythology stories and they played out like an action movie in my head. I imagine it would be 3D and kind of trippy like “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

And if westerns and historical enactments don’t grab your attention, there’s Elouise Cobell’s story. She went up against the U.S. government by herself. This would be a dramatic courts-and-lawyers film with Ben Affleck playing the defending lawyer who inevitably loses and sets in motion the largest settlement (to the tune of $3.4 billion) in U.S. history.

Maybe we’ll put a hit out for Cobell to make things more dramatic and heart pounding. I love her story. It will bring tears during the scene where she dies before she gets to see her victory… Wow. I can’t imagine sitting at a table by myself with 10 of the biggest lawyers in the country sitting on the other side telling me that I have no case and I should just quit. Wow. I would see that on opening night and buy the DVD.

That will be the day. I should take the initiative and write these movies myself, huh?

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