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I don’t like lazy storytellers, and there are none more lazy than this kind

August 6, 2011

There are certain tropes that have been frequently used in all kinds of storytelling that I have come to find almost universally terrible. One of these is “the Indian Legend.” You know how it goes, in order to set up some kind of mystical cause or prophecy in a story that doesn’t require much explanation a writer will decide that one thing or another is because of some nondescript, weird Native American magic.

Aside from being (I would assume) insulting to American Indians when used simply as a cliche like this, as a writer I personally think that it’s also just plain lazy. I’m not generally a fan of unimaginative prophecy or unexplained magic in stories anyway; but American Indian mythology has always seemed to me to be a particularly boring way to move forward a narrative.

This is not to say that actual Native American lore is boring. In fact, I find much of it very, very interesting. It’s a rich mythology with many wonderful stories. But when movies and books just take a small piece, rob it of it’s contextual and cultural significance, and use it as an element of horror or mystery for no purpose other than that it was easy to do, I can’t help but find myself very let down.

I imagine a thought process somewhat like this:

Hmmm… I need a reason for these kids to be scared in the woods. Serial killer? Nah, too real. Aliens? Nope, I’d need to explain what they look like and that’s a lot of work. Oh, I know. They’ve stumbled onto an Indian burial ground and so they get haunted, no need to explain that at all. I win the prize for storytelling laziness!

I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong and this isn’t really that big a deal. But when I see movies or read stories that invoke “the Indian Legend” I generally just move on. I’d much rather learn more about those serial killers and aliens that other writers are actually willing to put some work in to create.

PS – By the way, if anyone knows of examples of well done Indian Legend stories, I’d love to hear about them.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Kim permalink
    August 9, 2011 8:46 am

    Knew someone who worked on an Indian Burial Ground in a suburban mall. Freaky shit happened there. But who the hell wants to watch freaky shit in an Ames?

    Like

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