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Common Ground

             When you hear the word Indian, what first comes to your mind? Many people's thoughts will be similar in response: tomahawks, headdresses and tee pees. When a comparison is made between Indians and the white man, the common thought is that both groups would have nothing in common. Many of these responses are based only on what has been viewed from movies and television. In the entertainment industry of today, one movie goes against the norm and breaks the stereotypical chains that have repressed the true Indian way of life. This movie is Smoke Signals, directed by Chris Eyre and based on Sherman Alexie's book, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fight in Heaven. The story is about two Indian friends, Victor and Thomas, who go on a road trip to collect the ashes of Victor's father. The two friends uncover their own personal feelings about each other, about their families and about their heritage. Family life, symbolic elements and breaking stereotypical barriers, enables Smoke Signals to demonstrate that Indians and the white man have more in common than past stereotypes have shown. .
             Throughout the past half-century, Indians that were represented on television and in the movies were nothing more than illiterate sidekicks who could not function like other people. Their culture and lifestyle were disenfranchised by the stereotypical media of the day. One such example is the long-standing show, The Lone Ranger. The show is about a masked cowboy who fights crime with his Indian sidekick named Tonto. Tonto was seen as an ignorant, poor person labeled "the Indian." A reference about the television show is made in Smoke Signals when Thomas and Victor save a woman's life, and her friend was thanking them. While thanking the two men she says, "You two are like the Lone Ranger and Tonto". Thomas then replies, "No, it is more like Tonto and Tonto". This dialogue exemplifies the breaking of stereotypes because two Indians were the heroes instead of the usual white man with an Indian sidekick.

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