BBefore having fun with Rita Ora at this year’s Met Gala in New York City, before taking us on a psychedelic tour of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Taika Waititi was known as a compassionate chronicler of childhood adventures. His first feature films, Boy (2010) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), set in New Zealand, painted touching and very funny portraits of young people on the verge of innocence and knowledge. Much of that same magic was transported to Indian Territory, Oklahoma for this comedy series on Disney +. Now, however, Waititi has taken the place of co-creator and showrunner Sterlin Harjo, who is a longtime Oklahoman and a member of the Muscogee and Seminole nations.
D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Devery Jacobs, Lane Factor and Paulina Alexis play Bear, Elora Danan (yes, like the baby from the 80s movie Willow), Cheese and Willie Jack – four Native American teenagers who embarked on a a wave of crimes to finance the California escape they dream of. It is this rural community, with its cycles of poverty and dependency, that they blame for the death of their friend Daniel.
Each of these young performers is an exciting find, with Alexis in particular possessing more than enough outlaw recklessness to stroll alongside Mr. Brown, Mr. Pink and others in the Tarantino classic. Reservation Dogs also makes room for more established talents, such as Zahn McClarnon (Westworld, Fargo) as the Big Officer, the Rez Dogs’ rather awesome nemesis on the Tribal Police. He tries to make an arrest in the case of the hijacked snack truck but, he does not try this hard. Gary Farmer, whose roles in Jim Jarmusch’s quirky western Dead Man and iconic Native American film Smoke Signals (1998) rank him among the best-known Indigenous actors, has a nice cameo as the eldest of the reclusive stoners, Uncle Brownie. He claims to “live off the land, primarily,” but revealing fast food packaging suggests otherwise. However, it’s Dallas Goldtooth, of Harjo’s all-Native comedy troupe, 1491, who gets the laughs the most. He plays a shirtless ancestral guide spirit who appears to Bear whenever he’s knocked out (which is often), and claims to have been at the Battle of Little Bighorn: “Well, actually, I didn’t. not beaten, but I crossed the really rugged hill… you to do for your people? “
Reservation Dogs is able to gracefully destroy centuries of myths and misrepresentation with one simple and crucial innovation: Almost everyone involved in the production is Native American, providing a perspective that never bowed to the often fetishistic gaze of outsiders. . Instead, this show tells about the push-pull of the house: this simultaneous desire to belong and to be free. It’s a familiar coming-of-age experience, and likely only intensifies when your native lands have been stolen and sold by colonizers more times than historical records. Reservation Dogs doesn’t go into too much of this – in the same way that teens themselves tend to skate on the surface of generational trauma, aware but seemingly uninterested.
They’ve got enough to deal with between “jobless Indian rapper” dads, land disputes, and acid reflux over a diet of Fried Catfish and Flamin ‘Hot Cheetos. So, they come to their own terms with the old ways, on the fly: Bad owls are respectfully pixelated. Traditional pearl lockets are coveted, but can only be obtained through a cranky aunt with an unhappy flair for phallic designs.
Yet, recognized or not, the painful past is still present. Sometimes it’s comically brutal, like in the enlarged image of a $ 20 bill from seventh US President Andrew Jackson that Uncle Brownie uses as a practice target. At other times, the implication is more indirect: Agent Big, the sole law enforcement official, winks at a jurisdictional tangle that is contributing to the ongoing epidemic in North America. of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).
The fact that Native Americans have for so long been portrayed onscreen as stereotypical sexy squaws, warring “injuns” or gnomic spirit guides makes this a long overdue step. Harjo’s real achievement, however, is to carry the heavy burden of representation so lightly. In each scene, Reservation Dogs combines its Native American heritage and American independent film heritage in a potent and easily smokable blend. So turn it on. As Uncle Brownie says, “This is the Creator’s medicine! “