Stacks & Kelly (2006) state that mainstream media and the education system are key institutions that perpetuate social inequalities (pg. 5). Children are being exposed to the media for long durations of time and are influenced by what they watch and hear. As a result, children start forming their identity of how they imagine themselves to be and how they want to be portrayed within society. Students may be exposed to media that incorrectly represents their culture, and by not discussing these issues, misrepresentation continues. Educators must engage students in analyzing and critiquing media to build dialogue around power imbalances, inequalities and misrepresentation.
In the film, Reel Injun, several examples were mentioned of Hollywood’s inaccurate portrayal of the Native American image. Time after time, white actors continued to be casted to play the role of Native Americans. The actors would wear outfits and head pieces that looked like those of the Native. However, the true meaning and embodiment of what it means to be Native American is not understood by the actors nor is it accurately being portrayed. Slowly, head pieces and outfits start becoming a fashion trend, and cultural appropriation is now an issue. The resistance begins when they start casting actual Native Americans. When a group is frequently being portrayed as powerless, their cultural identity needs to be reclaimed and restored (Appleman, 2009). In the movies mentioned in Reel Injun, most movie plots involved the Native Americans in a shoot off, and result in them loosing (as it portrays them as the weaker of the two groups). Power and control should be explored to better understand the misrepresentation of Native Americans in Hollywood’s movies. Pocahontas would be another example of how media and popular culture influences children’s understanding. If children are watching Pocahontas at a young age, they will grow up thinking Pocahontas embodies everything of the Native Americans.
Stacks & Kelly (2006) also explored resistance as communication. When there is misrepresentation of an identity, individuals who feel misrepresented need to reclaim their culture and for there to be justice and change. The literature that we provide for students should reflect and explore cultural heritages. As educators, it is of importance that we engage in conversations regarding power imbalances and inequalities we see within society. “The media are the primary vehicle through which we come to know ourselves and others.” (pg. 20). Allowing students to talk amongst one another and share about their own culture and identity not only minimizes misrepresentation of what others think based on media but also allows for self awareness.