By this I mean to say that American society has undergone a vast amount of change since times immemorial and comparing one time period to another, especially through films set in that time, can help to give us a proper picture of the social status that different kinds of people had, and also help us understand their roles in society with respect to politics; the acceptance of their historical background, as well as their personal gender and identity and how they perceive the same. In this paper, we will be focusing on the Native American Indians and their diminishing face in contemporary American society.
The objective of this paper is to understand the changes that American society has undergone over the last couple of decades by taking a look at epic western films and answering questions that are crucial to the existence of society such as the topics of politics, race, gender and sexuality, as well as the historical identity of Native Americans. The idea of race is a very harping issue, especially in the western society in the western world – the western genre of films, movies like Brokeback Mountain and Dances with Wolves for example, do not talk about the inclusion people belonging to different races.
These films only address the “fantasies of the master race: the white hero's Indianness evokes the figure and fantasy not of the human and humane Indian but of the American Adam” (Pratts, Armando Jose) this statement merely encompasses the fact that most western American films only focus on the light skinned Americans, forgetting that there could be westerners belonging to a different racial background. This leads to a sort of lack of diversity among the community and also gives a very unclear picture to the rest of the world regarding the kind of people that live in west native Indian community. The idea of class on the other hand is portrayed wonderfully. In the film Dances With Wolves too, the hero is portrayed as a white Indian and thus gives the audience an image of the ‘perfect American’ hero rather than what the actual situation in the western Indian community is like. (Horner, Joy) Renowned Native American author Sherman Alexie makes an attempt to answer questions regarding Native Americans and race as is not easily portrayed in contemporary film and music today. He talks about the Buffalo Soldiers, or the all African-American regiment that fought during the American Civil war – also hailing from a western American Indian society. Such communities are given little or no representation at all today in art despite being a part of the community and that is the fundamental issue in the portrayal of western society and how it is incorrect for the rest of the world that looks at a cowboy as a young white man, with a southern accent. In Dances With Wolves, the idea of race is portrayed excellently as Colonel Dunbar manages to adapt himself to the life of a Buffalo Soldier, and even fall in love with one of their kin – thus the name ‘Dances With Wolves’ as he manages to adopt the lifestyle of a black western man. Next, we touch upon the aspect of gender and sexuality as seen in the two films and understood in terms of western society. Sexuality is a very daunting issue world over today; it is very difficult for people to understand the social construct of gender as opposed to sexuality because of the fact that they have been created by society. The director talks about “a story that had never been told before, of two aging men who bear up under their drab, empty, unbearably lonely lives as long as they can just escape a time or two a year to Brokeback Mountain, where, as teenaged boys herding sheep, they