THE NEWS OF THE WORLD: Abducted and Erased by Hollywood's White Saviors
April 27, 2021
Universal Pictures' Golden Globe and Oscar nominated film "News of the World" seizes Native American history and identity to tell yet another Euro-American fantasy of America's fabled Wild West, this time stripped almost completely of American Indian presence. I admit I like the Tom Hanks starring Paul Greengrass (writer/director) movie as a piece of popcorn entertainment, but I also recognize the genocidal damage the production and its creators perpetuate. News of the World repackages Native American child abduction, ethnic cleansing, forced assimilation, and war trauma to conjure a fictional frontier tale of whitewashed western expansionism stripped of Indigenous people. This ongoing trend within the corporate entertainment industry is not hard to see. In fact, in this case, the producers simply built on the source material, a novel of the same name written by Paulette Jiles.
With News of the World, Greengrass, Hanks, and Universal Pictures replace the hidden cultural genocide of our nation's American Indian boarding schools with a passing mention of "agency schools." In the film, the dreaded "agency schools" are never clearly defined but represent an existential threat from which Hanks' benevolent character "Captain Kidd" must save 11-year-old "Johanna," a Caucasian girl raised by Kiowa Indian "raiders." The real history of the theft of Native American children away from their parents, overseen by the U.S. military, is rejected in favor of Johanna's mysterious orphaning from her adopted Kiowa family. News of the World embezzles actual events to promote a favorable fictional narrative of westward expansion free from Indigenous complications. Johanna's chosen exotic Kiowa language is embraced and later hybridized by Hanks' Kidd in a benevolent act of cultural sharing. This, of course, differs from America's historic (and present-day) practice of stigmatizing people who speak languages other than English. Hanks' warmhearted Captain Kidd conceals true history from living Native and non-Native American audiences - horrifying accounts of American Indian children beaten mercilessly and killed for not successfully assimilating to the forced reeducation campaigns of their Euro-American handlers.