The American Indian Movement of Santa Barbara (AIM S.B.) has criticized an episode of MTV’s show The Dudesons in America for a negative portrayal of Native American culture. According to a press release, AIM S.B. has written to MTV asking that it remove the episode from the Internet and the broadcast lineup. The organization has called for a boycott of MTV and the show’s sponsors, including Burger King and Pepsi, and has created a Web petition that has collected more than 1,000 signatures. In an interview, AIM head Michael Fairbanks said the group is contemplating legal action if the show is not removed.
AIM is an advocacy group for Native Americans. According to Fairbanks, the Santa Barbara group got started during controversy over the Carpinteria High School Warriors mascot. Since then, AIM S.B. has fought for better representation of Native Americans, especially in the media. When asked about the group’s current status, Fairbanks replied, “We have been very active in the Native American community, and we want be notified and support anything that people feel AIM can handle. That’s why we’re activated and why we’re currently in action against MTV.”
The Dudesons in America features a group of four young Finnish men who perform dangerous stunts in hope of assimilating into American culture. In the second episode of the season, “Cowboys and Findians,” Native American actor Saginaw Grant acts as the “King of All Indians” for whom the Finns perform dangerous stunts to win “the golden feather” and become honorary members of his tribe. These stunts include one Finn jumping onto a metal horse from a tall building in a fur loincloth, and another Finn allowing a line of totem poles to domino onto his penis. According to the show, the latter stunt is relevant to Native American culture because “all Indians have balls of steel.”
Fairbanks said that AIM activists “harbor no ill will” towards Saginaw, who called AIM immediately in response to the first complaint. Fairbanks said that AIM instead directs its anger toward “the producers of the show who would think this was funny at the expense of our culture.”
According to Fairbanks, MTV has come under fire for negative racial portrayals from other advocacy groups, such as the NAACP. According to an AIM press release, MTV representative Jeannie Kedas responded to AIM S.B., stating in an email, “I am sorry that members of the American Indian Movement were offended by that one particular episode,” but “in no way did [the show] or MTV intend to offend Native Americans.”