How is the movie Dances With Wolves Offensive?

I have heard this at least twice now, on other boards or on YouTube about movies that didn’t deserve their Oscar wins.

Dances With Wolves usually appears on these lists, for a few reasons. “Long, slow movie”, “Kevin Costner sucks”, the inevitable worshipful drivel about Goodfellas being cheated, etc.

But lately, there’s noise about Dances With Wolves being offensively racist.

Now, wait. When the movie came out, there was all sorts of celebratory kudos rained on the picture about its portrayal of native peoples, and the Lakota people were especially pleased to give it all sorts of honors. Sure, they fell out with Costner later about casino rights, but that had nothing to do with the movie.

Anyway, how is the movie racist? The natives are the good guys. Not only that, it doesn’t even have that condescending lone good white man fixes everything taint that some noble savage movies have because the Lakota save Dunbar’s ass from the soldiers instead of the other way around.

So how is the movie offensive? Is portraying Native Americans in movies set in the Old West at all immediately offensive now? Or just so touchy and potentially controversial that no movie producer in his or her right mind would want to try it?

By the way, I liked Goodfellas too. But complaining about Dances With Wolves being too long while not saying the same thing about Goodfellas just shows your Scorsese Bias.

I vaguely remember complaints that Stands With A Fist, the love interest, turns out to be a white woman raised by the Lakota. Some people complained that having the white hero end up with the only female Caucasian character rather than a Native American woman was reinforcing an anti-miscegenation mentality. This was back when the movie was still in theatres, so before the “Goodfellas was robbed” hatred got started.

In a world of immediate opinion-sharing by a billion people you will have no problem finding someone to make an idiotic point and a load of opportunistic idiots to back it up. Pay it no mind. For some people any film dealing with minority ethnic group will always be problematic because it is simplistic/stereotypical/inaccurate/exploitative etc.
DWW was a thoughtful and respectful film and I say that as someone who thinks Goodfellas should’ve taken the Oscar.

Costner was fine in this movie. People think he sucks in everything because he sucked in a few things and was involved with some scandalous activity (apparently). DWW was a good movie, full stop. Outstanding cinematography, direction, acting and editing. I’ve watched it several times and enjoyed it each time, unlike, say Tin Cup or Robin Hood (which was only saved by the villainy of Alan Rickman).

And if he had ended up with a Native American woman, it would have been even MORE racist. :mad:

Seriously, some people will be outraged by anything.

It was a good movie. Maybe a bit overly long, but still good.

Well, there is that one scene where you can see telephone poles in the background.

Telegraph poles?

That is the problem. It was a good movie. Goodfellas, however, is a masterpiece.

ETA: And Goodfellas was based on a true story.

To illustrate the point that to each their own, I think the reverse: Dances with Wolves was a masterpiece, and Goodfellas did nothing for me.

It’s this. I’ve never seen the movie, so I don’t know how valid a critique it is, but it’s usually held out as one of the prime examples of the ‘white savior’ trope.

Either those critics never actually saw the movie or the trope wasn’t as successfully subverted as you think.

It’s been years since I saw either, but I thought Goodfellas was OK and Dances With Wolves was excellent. I’ve always found Scorsese movies to be really brilliantly made but emotionally unsatisfying. With a few exceptions, Scorsese mostly seems to make beautifully produced movies about assholes being assholes and in various ways suffering the consequences of being assholes. (Again, it’s been years since I’ve seen one of his films. The Aviator is probably an exception as it shows Hughes as less an asshole than a man unraveling due to mental illness.)

I thought DWW was beautiful to look at but also satisfying and poignant. I don’t recall Dunbar being the White Savior. IIRC, he provides some help to the Native Americans by showing them how to use guns, but he knows they can’t delay the inevitable very long. He embraces their culture because he, reasonably, sees American culture as hateful and grubby. He earns the respect of the tribe, even Wind In His Hair, but he has to leave at the end doesn’t he? He has, at best, managed to find a short-lived bit of humanity amidst the ugliness of post-Civil War America. I find it very moving when he leaves the tribe, and Wind In His Hair calls to him, “Do you see that you will always be my friend?”

I’m not a Native American, so I accept that I’m missing a fair bit of context and history. But as I recall it, the movie showed Dunbar learning that, while everything he’d been told about the Native Americans was wrong, he couldn’t be a part of their world.

Totem poles.

One problematic aspect of Dances With Wolves is that different tribes are divided into Good and Bad Indians based on their relationship with colonizers. This is a common trope in frontier movies.

Those critics never saw the movie. The trope wasn’t subverted, it was taken out back, put in a barrel, the lid nailed in place, more nails put all over the barrel, then the barrel got rolled out to the river, dumped there and shot from the shore.

It’s far from either my favorite movie or my favorite western, but the idea that it involves any instances of “smart white man saves poor little injuns who can’t figure out the most self-evident of things” is utter bullshit.

That’s sooo hilarious. :rolleyes: Of course the culture of Northwest peoples is relevant to a movie featuring Plains peoples because…? :dubious:

Personally, I’d put Edward Scissorhands and Jacob’s Ladder ahead of either movie. At least yours was nominated.

I don’t disagree that Goodfellas is a great movie, but that has Zero to do with it being based on a true story.

I don’t find “Dances With Wolves” particularly offensive, personally, but to play devil’s advocate I’ve heard people say things along the lines of: “It’s not the job of brown people to make white people feel better about themselves.”

For instance, I’m not sure how I’d feel about a movie where a troubled white cop gains a grudging friendship with a group of black people and he becomes one of them, healing his soul with the power of black culture.

Thats a great observation. I haven’t seen the movie since it came out and wasn’t a fan, so don’t recall: do the American Indians have any role other than to show Kevin Costner’s decency and enlightenment? Are they real characters, or talking props?

Me tired. You totem poles.

Isn’t that more or less the plot of Lethal Weapon?