With a biting rework of “What Makes The Red Man Red” from Disney’s 1953 Peter Pan film, Sicangu Lakota rapper and activist Frank Waln connects the dots between America’s ugly past and its homely present.
The beloved animated feature, along with the white-washing of history, is part of mainstream America’s continued silencing, erasure, misrepresentation and commoditization of indigenous peoples.
“You inherited everything we die for and all we get is a gotdamn mascot,” raps Waln, who was featured on MTV’s Rebel Music: Native America last year. Listen below.
“Disney made us look like animals in Peter Pan so I took one of their songs and tore it to shreds,” Waln later tweeted. And that he did.
Despite the backlash, the film still went on to become Netflix’s most watched in its first 30 days, which speaks not only to Sandler’s international appeal, but also to the general acceptance of a living people being used as archaic props and their cultures being up for grabs.
Over half a century since Peter Pan and Native actors still have best chance at getting work in the same demeaning roles or they can be easily replaced with white actors willing to redface it up.
Even when experts from Native communities are brought on to help white studios get it right, ahistorical retellings of Thanksgiving are aired as edutainment.
So what makes the red man red? Well just to start, “You made me red when you killed my people / Made me red when you bled my tribe.”