Representation in Hollywood has improved over several years, but Native American actress Irene Bedard—who’s appeared in Westworld, The Mist, and Pocahontas—pointed out one area where it’s still lacking.
Speaking to Bold Life, Bedard, who is reprising her role as Pocahontas for Wreck-It Ralph 2, highlighted the progression of how Disney princesses have been portrayed over the years. Given how the Disney princesses appear in Wreck-It Ralph 2, they’re all able to embrace new sides of themselves because, at one point, the characters are no longer putting on a show for an audience. They’re able to just talk to Vanellope about being strong and having your own voice.
But when asked about the state of Native representation in media, Bedard didn’t mince words. The first all-Native cast appeared during the silent film era, but since then, Native actors have largely been played by non-Native actors (up until around Dances With Wolves) or their roles are stereotypes.
And it hasn’t improved much in recent years; she highlighted how Native representation in media is so low that in one report, Native actors were categorized as “Other.”
According to UCLA’s latest diversity report, Native actors only had 0.5 percent of film roles, had 0.3 percent of roles on cable shows, 0.2 of roles on digital shows, and did not appear on broadcast shows.
Bedard would love to see more stories beyond the ones that have already been told about Native characters.
“One thing I think that hasn’t been shown very much is how funny we are,” Bedard told Bold Life. “In order to survive, we had to be funny. Actually, humor is one of the Inupiat values, which is my tribe.”
And she’s far from the only person who would.
Reminds me of the reaction to @CrazyRichMovie, where many viewers were so happy to see a movie with Asian actors and characters in a universal story, like a rom com. Would love to see a rom com with an all Native American cast! Why not!— Catie Perry (@catiepurry) October 23, 2018
In the new age of peak tv how have we not seen an all or mostly Native American casted TV series on major stations?— teeter (@semi_employed) October 23, 2018
We need more representation of Native Americans in media and film. It would be amazing to have more shows and movies with Native American representation.— Ed Maher (@EdMaher8) October 23, 2018
Although Bedard cited a couple of friends who have had comedic roles in recent years, she would like to see the kinds of characters that Native American actors could play pushed even further.
“I think that we just need a little more of a chance to see our lives and see our lives in a comic or romantic comedy,” she added. “Those things have to be developed more, I think.”