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Unformatted text preview: Winnebagos, Cherokees, Apaches, and Dakotas: The Persistence of Stereotyping of American Indians in American Advertising Brands Debra Merskin School of Journalism & Communication, Eugene, Oregon, USA, University of Oregon Jeep Cherokee, Sue Bee Honey, and Crazy Horse Malt Liquor are all established brand names and trademarks that use representations of Native Americans to help sell their products. How stereotypes are created, and how pictorial metaphors used in advertising perpetuate these beliefs, is the focus of this study. McCracken’s Meaning Transfer Model and Barthes’s semiotic analysis serve as the framework of this study. The findings, which are important to scholars and practitioners, posit that these images build upon longstanding assumptions about Native Americans by Whites and reinforce an ideology that has resulted in a consumer ‘‘blind spot’’ when it comes to recognizing this form of racism. This study contributes to the scarce literature on representations of American Indians in modern media, providing a framework for understanding why these images persist and why they are problematic. KEYWORDS Native Americans, American Indians, stereotypes, ideology, racism, advertising, branding F rom early childhood on, we have all learned about ``Indianness’’from textbooks, mo- vies, television programs, cartoons, songs, commercials, fanciful paintings, and pro- duct logos. 1 Since the turn of the century, American Indian images, music, and names have been incorporated into many American advertising campaigns and product images.Whereas patent medicines of the past featured ``coppery, feather-topped visage of the Indian’’ (Larson,1937, p.338), butter boxes of the present show the doe-eyed, buckskin- clad Indian ``princess.’’ These stereotypes are pervasive, but not necessarily consistentö varying over time and place from the``artificially idealistic’’ (noble savage) to present-day images of ``mystical environmentalists or uneducated, alcoholic bingo-players confined to reservations’’ (Mihesuah, 1996, p. 9). Yet today a trip down the grocery store aisle still Address correspondence to Debra Merskin, School of Journalism & Commu- nication, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA. E-mail: [email protected] darkwing.uoregon.edu The HowardJournal of Communications ,12:159 7 169, 2001 Copyright # 2001 Taylor & Francis 1064-6175/01 $12.00 + .00 159 reveals ice cream bars, beef jerky, corn meal, baking powder, malt liquor, butter, honey, sour cream, and chewing tobacco packages emblazoned with images of American In- dians. Companies that use these images of Indians do so to build an association with an idealized and romanticized notion of the past through the process of branding (Aaker & Biel, 1993). Because these representations are so commonplace (Land O’ Lakes maiden, Jeep Cherokee,Washington Redskins logo), we often fail to notice them, yet they reinforce long-held stereotypical beliefs about Native Americans....
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- Spring '11
- Native Americans in the United States, Malt liquor, Debra Merskin