Documentary Production & Documentary Problems
By Shara K. Lange

Documentary Lesson Plan
By Shara K. Lange

"Ball Licky-Lickly!" Pedagogical Strategies for Interrogating Pop Culture Images
By Özlem Sensoy

Teaching Afghan Women: A History of Struggle
By Shoba Rajgopal

Creating Spaces for Community Engagement through Documentary Film: My Social Action Project
By Anna Zailik

Community Engagement Lesson Plan
By Anna Zailik



  issue 4.1 |  

Journal Issue 4.1
Spring-Summer 2012
Edited by Agatha Beins, Jillian Hernandez, and Deanna Utroske
Editorial Assistant: A.J. Barks
Editorial Intern: Vera Hinsey


"Ball Licky-Lickly!" Pedagogical Strategies for Interrogating Pop Culture Images

By Özlem Sensoy

In this scene we see Jack's authority over the cannibals as he speaks to them in their language, "Say-say lam shoop-shoop sha smalay-lama shoo-koo. Savvy? Ball licky-licky." To which the cannibals begin chanting, "Ball licky-licky!"2
   Despite seemingly obvious elements of discursive racism organizing the representation of indigenous people (from the costumes and demeanors of the fictional Pelegosto cannibals, to the jibberish-talk of Jack Sparrow, to the worshipping of a white god by the tribe of ignorant indigenous peoples), many of my students reacted with doubt and even disinterest. What to me were horrific depictions of indigenous people (and a virtual reversal of the direction of violence in colonial/indigenous relations) was not a big deal to most of my students. It was not uncommon for me to hear, "yeah but no one takes the film seriously…" In essence the message was, lighten up.
   While I wanted to scream, "you've got to be kidding me?!" the incident forced me to deal with the problem of how racism in this text was invisible to my students, and what to do about it. While it was true that many of my students did not know much about the history of colonialism or genocide of indigenous peoples throughout the Caribbean and Americas, it wasn't the only challenge. My students also viewed this representation as isolated from its discursive ancestors. In other words, there was no connection in their minds between this representation, and all previous ones upon which this text drew.
   I reorganized the materials and created what became a much more effective strategy of presenting a genealogy of the image. I began by challenging what I knew for sure: many of my students believe that racist, sexist, and other oppressive discourses existed in the past, that things are better today, and that those representations back then are way worse than anything on TV or in the movies today.
   I hunted for the oldest image I could find that was widely loved in its day and that captured some of the most problematic representational discourses about indigenous peoples. I settled on Disney's Peter Pan (1953), and in particular the song "What Makes the Red Man Red."3 After screening the clip from the film together, we generate a list of all the problematic representations. Our list often includes elements such as: white characters finding the red men "interesting," a stoic chief, an Indian princess capturing the eye of the white man, "woo woo" style chanting, dancing around fires, feathers, war paint, interchangeable "red men," drumming, nondescript dance moves, the ease with which the white folks learn and participate in native customs, and so on. We then compare the themes from our readings by indigenous authors (including Debbie Reese, Sherman Alexie, and Cornel Pewewardy) about caricatures of the Indian princess, noble savage, or warrior "fit" with the Peter Pan text.




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