Cute Aboriginality

The set of shakers I talked about in my last post stands out from most of the other pairs I have that represent stereotypes of indigenous people in one key way: it depicts adults.  Most of the others are more like this set: Image

They seem to be representing children–cute chubby-and-rosy-cheeked children, even in spite of the official-looking war bonnet the male of the pair sports.  There is, in other words, an even further diminishment of the people supposedly being depicted.  Not only are they shiny, early Technicolor miniatures–they are harmlessly young.  And they are so endearingly and cutely small that they actually fit into the pair of moccasins they sit in, the moccasins also miniatures but ever so much larger in scale than the diminutive and adorable children within them.  These are too cute to be offensive, surely–unless we start think about how offensive it is to make them so cute, so harmless, so barely human.

The boy, incidentally, is carrying something, but since most of it appears to have broken off, I had no idea about what it was.  I did, though, find another set being sold on Etsy that seems to another copy of the same pair, and the image of that set reveals that what the boy is waving around is a tomahawk.  Does that make him more dangerous than I was assuming above?  Or does it in fact make him even cuter and more stereotypical, and thus diminish the danger even further?  (We might also wonder why he’s waving it at his partner in the other shoe; but that’s a whole other story.)

Published by pernodel

Children’s literature critic and author of books for children

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