Friday, October 21, 2011

Koyaanisqatsi and the "Crying Indian"

The so-called "crying Indian" ad is the most famous (or infamous) example of a patronizingly essentialist view of American Indians as environmental augurs:

I think Koyaanisqatsi is another. The only words you hear in the film are Hopi. Koyaanisqatsi means "life out of balance," and the chorus that is part of Philip Glass's score intones three tribal sayings that can be interpreted as being warnings about the impact of human actions on the world.

It's certainly not mean-spirited but can nonetheless be as limiting and de-humanizing as any cowboy-movie stereotype.