I think the downside to our new cultural norm of ‘blaming everyone for everything’ runs the risk of pinning screenwriters into some vary treacherous corners. For example, over the weekend I read a fairly long and fairly destructive Twitter thread blasting “Chapter 02: The Tribes Of Tatooine” from Walt Disney’s streaming entity The Book Of Boba Fett with the charge of cultural appropriation. The scuttlebutt – as best as this ol’ brain could understand it – was that writers Jon Favreau and Noah Kloor as well as the entirety of the Mouse House – should be drawn and quartered for stealing Native American Indian behaviors and assigning them to those dreaded Tusken Raiders in a galaxy far, far away. I’m thinking this was specifically meant to attack things like vision quests and ceremonial dancing as those were the only two associations I could see after viewing the episode (which, frankly, I loved).
From what little research I’ve done on the subject, it does appear that spiritual quests of a particular type can largely be traced back to Native American Indian tribes of North America, but the practice mostly involved a young male’s ascension into manhood … and that’s definitely not what was portrayed with Boba Fett. In fact, one could argue it’s almost the antithesis as this ceremony happened after the popular bounty hunter have proven his worth to the tribe. My interpretation is that the Raiders were rewarding him, acknowledging that they saw him ‘as an equal,’ and that’s why he was kinda/sorta inducted. Granted, I say this based entirely on limited reading as much as it is my own two cents, so please don’t attack me for – ahem – ‘whitesplaining.’ I’m merely trying to engage in a discussion of ideas as presented, not trying to soften what others might see as controversial.
And as for the fire dance in the episode’s final moments?
Well, again, there are many, many cultures – many of them indigenous – who have practiced rituals around campfires. It would be pure folly to try and ascribe these scenes to any single race or tribe, and – being perfectly frank – I’m not certain what the very simple movements were meant to symbolize. I’d suggest that it was a warrior’s two-step – gaffe sticks were flashing in precise movements – one meant to idolize the movements of close combat, but I think we’d need more information on that front if we wanted to fully convict anyone of appropriating a ritual within the proper context.
Taking the debate a step further, aren’t we forgetting that the Tusken Raiders have essentially been portrayed as Tatooine’s major indigenous species anyway? Is it so hard to believe that – much in the way that Earth’s various tribes bear similarities in their own practices and ceremonies to one another – perhaps a species on a distant world might evolve the same? Couldn’t this cinematic depiction, in fact, be a real conversation starter for those of us who might lack the knowledge of indigenous people; and maybe that’s all these smaller moments were meant to accomplish? Oughtn’t we use these opportunities to expand everyone’s horizons instead of berating storytellers for daring to tell a story?
Again, I’m no expert on anything other than my personal opinion, and – in that regard – I found all of “The Tribes Of Tatooine” to be a fascinating look into a world that may not be very different from our own after all as the Sandpeople were given more cultural screentime than they’ve ever enjoyed in all of the Star Wars universe. Audiences were taken behind the veil into their nomadic society, and we were shown a bit of history that made them less monsters and more relatable. As one who crafts his own fiction and one who loves learning, I thought these were some dynamic choices, ones I’d rather reward folks for taking as opposed to crucifying them for trying.
Fett’s world continues to unroll as a new enemy takes shape in the guise of familiar faces. While I’ll admit I’m surprised that these first two chapters have given the exceptional Ming-na Wen so little to do (she’s essentially been reduced to a sidekick), there’s still more mileage to cover before the season’s over. Hopefully, she’ll get some moments to call her own in the weeks ahead.
As always, thanks for reading ... and live long and prosper!