Why The Prey Sci-Fi Movie Moves The Needle For Native American Visibility

Film representation of Indigenous North American actors remains extremely low – with commentators identifying that the influence of film media on audiences, combined with such low visibility, can harm the perception of an entire culture.

write in Variety in 2021, Pawnee columnist Crystal Echo Hawk described the film as playing “a major role in how people understand and empathize with important social issues and diverse communities… impacting how our non-Indigenous children see, think and feel Native Americans. The column cited a report that analyzed media content from 2018 and 2019 and found that on-screen Indigenous representation in movies was between 0.3% and 0.5%. The 2021 Hollywood Diversity Report found the figure to be 0.6%. “Representation matters,” wrote Echo Hawk, “but the quality of representation matters more.”

This statement is perhaps particularly resonant in a medium historically littered with misleading and harmful portrayals of Indigenous societies that, in more ways than one, have found themselves erased from popular culture.

An inglorious story

From the first European settlements in the 1600s, through occasional brutality, war, disease, forced eviction from ancestral lands, and unsustainable lifestyle changes, the Indigenous peoples of North America have suffered a lasting cultural annihilation at the hands of white settlers.

By the time cinema began to interpret history for the masses in the late 19e century, he was immediately guilty of prejudice. Some, like They died with their boots on (1941) saw big stars – in this case Errol Flynn – romanticize violent characters such as George Custer. Events such as Wounded Knee in the 1890s, which saw the slaughter of hundreds of Lakota and Sioux – including women and children – and their mass burial, were for many years referred to as a “battle”. Government approved films such as “Buffalo” Bill Cody’s Indian Wars Remade were described as propaganda intended to “show the progress made by the Indians under the leadership of the whites”.

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