Student Voices: Misrepresentation in Hollywood movies | Work of Arts
Student Voices: Misrepresentation in Hollywood movies | Work of Arts

Student Voices: Misrepresentation in Hollywood movies

by | December 5, 2013
Photography by Richard Siemens
Shayne Golosky-Johnston discusses the misrepresentation of Aboriginals in film and the impact of community on and off campus in being resilient.

Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and point of views of current arts students around campus. Get to know our creative and passionate students through their “voices” and get a snapshot of life as an arts undergrad. The views and opinions expressed within these student voices posts are solely those of the author.

I’m sure most of you are aware of the newest blockbuster hit, The Hunger Games, which was adapted from the book by Suzanne Collins. In the book, Suzanne Collins describes the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, as having olive skin and straight black hair; logically the casting should reflect this, correct? Wrong. In fact, the casting call only asked for Caucasian actors to audition for the part of Katniss. I have no issues with Jennifer Lawrence’s adaptation of the female heroine, but I would like to draw attention to this problematic trend in Hollywood. Ever since the beginning of the film industry, native people have been misrepresented in film — either forced to remain as background characters or impersonated by other fair-skinned people.

Why is this still happening?

After years of looking at us through the Hollywood lens, the public inevitably started associating those poorly researched and highly misrepresented characters with real-life native people. Ever since then, we have had to live with the consequences. It became painfully obvious to me while watching films like Dances with Wolves and even One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest that movies consider the skewed history of native people in North America, and cater to those stereotypes.

I hope to see our stories being told in the media, from our perspective. Not just the unfortunate truths, like the ones the television show Blackstone illustrates. We all know about the struggles that face Aboriginal communities, we see it all the time on television, but those depictions never show our resilience and ability to heal from the bad experiences. I remember telling stories around the table last year at the University while beading moccasin vamps for “Walking with our Sisters,” an art installation to commemorate missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Although it was an event that was very serious in its content, I cannot recall the amount of times I’ve laughed so hard I could hardly breathe at a story someone told. I personally think Hollywood needs more movies like that — to show what happens after the trauma and how we overcome it as a community.

Further information: is an international grassroots organization of media consumers that advocates for underrepresented groups in entertainment media. Since its formation in 2009, they have been dedicated to furthering equal opportunities in Hollywood and beyond.

Related link:

Walking with our Sisters

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About Shayne Golosky-Johnston

Shayne Golosky-Johnston

Shayne is a 3rd year English and History student in the Faculty of Arts. Originally from Fort McMurray, he is an executive member of the Arts Aboriginal Council and identifies as Two-Spirited.