I’ve lived in Oklahoma since 2002. I didn’t grow up here but I grew up in northwest Georgia, which used to be the Cherokee Nation capital before the Trail of Tears forced many indigenous Native Americans to Oklahoma. I do have Cherokee ancestry, though.
You don’t have to be an indigenous person or live in Oklahoma to understand why the central characters of Reservation Dogs act the way they do. Some might argue the FX series created by Oklahoma filmmaker Sterlin Harjo and New Zealand filmmaker (and Oscar winner) Taika Waititi presents a stereotype. But I think the backdrop of indigenous people living in Oklahoma in what they call “The Village” is no different than the the Midwest in John Hughes movies or Mississippi in William Faulkner books.
Every section of America or the world really brings out its own eccentric and colorful people. Look at the local people in the Pacific Northwest town of Twin Peaks or the Alaskan town in Northern Exposure. Stephen King writes about rural Maine and doesn’t hold back in his descriptions. You can’t sugarcoat a setting for political correctness.
The series focuses on four teenagers, Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora Danan (Devery Jacobs), Willy Jack (Paulina Alexis) and Cheese (Lane Factor) who are petty criminals stealing whatever they can and either selling it or keeping it for themselves. Their goal is to raise enough funds so they can move to California.
Sound familiar? How many teenagers in dead-end towns had dreams of going to California, Chicago, New York City, England, Paris, etc., because they’re so frustrated with the mundane monotony of their surroundings.
But at the heart of the movie is the nagging feeling they’re doing something wrong. A friend of theirs, Daniel, has died. Elora Denan feels it was living in the area that killed him, but unless I missed it, his cause of death so far hasn’t been revealed. After stealing a food truck, they overhear a conversation with the driver who doesn’t know they stole it, and buy it back so they can return it.
One thing I learned growing up is bad people exist regardless of their social standing. I knew people who would snatch cigarettes from grocery stores back before they were all moved behind the counter. In college, you had to make sure your dorm room was locked at all times or else, people would go in to grab whatever they could. It didn’t happen to me, but it was quite common for many of the young women to have their clothes stolen from the dorm laundry rooms.
And people I went to school with drove nicer cars than I did, wore more expensive clothes and never had to work part-time jobs. They just did it because they could. So, since the young people in this series might feel they’re doing wrong gives hope the series is heading toward more than the exploits of petty thefts.
They face competition from some new members to the community who are quick to shoot paintballs at them and jump Bear. As the second episode revolves mostly around a medical center, you get the sense of the community. I also liked it that Cheese is mistaken by an elderly woman as her grandson and he wheels her outside for a bit.
This is no different than how Robert Rodriguez changed the way Latinx were portrayed in movies and TV shows.
I’m interested in seeing where the series is heading. And hopefully, more audiences will tune in to so there’s more seasons.