Thursday, February 16, 2012

Indian Identity

I found the main theme in the film The Business of Fancydancing was discovering and confronting what it means to be an American Indian as well as an individual. I also found an article online that perfectly described each character’s struggle with their identity. Rob Blackwelder writes about the juxtapositions in Seymour, Aristotle, and Agnes’s character.
Seymour Polatkin is one of the most complicated characters I have ever read about. As Blackwelder puts it, Seymour is “a minority within a minority” because he is a gay American Indian. Seymour tries to escape his heritage by leaving the reservation immediately after high school, getting a college education, and becoming famous through poetry. The only problem is, his poetry causes frustration among his childhood friends on the res. “The film identifies with the mixed feelings of those people Seymour abandoned in his resolute determination to shake off the shackles of his ancestry while capitalizing on it at the same time.” Seymour exploits what he tries to deny, his heritage.
Seymour also struggles with identifying himself as a gay man, not because of the concept of two men dating, but because of the men he dates. “I’ve slept with one Indian woman, 112 white boys, two black men, and zero Indian men.” Seymour’s current boyfriend is the opposite of everything his reservation friends would approve of. For this reason, Seymour believes he doesn’t belong at the funeral on the res, but his friends reject his presence at the funeral for a different reason.
Aristotle and the others are angry with Seymour because of the stories he stole from them. Seymour publishes events that he didn’t experience and writes about a place he won’t even visit but originates from. Aristotle calls Seymour a “little public relations warrior” who “puts on little beads and feathers for all these white people.” Agnes is the only friend that defends Seymour. “He’s out there telling everybody we’re still here.” She also chastises him for being cocky about his fame. “These Indians you write about are giving you help every damn day!” Aristotle and Agnes also fight with their identity. Aristotle has fallen prey to the Indian stereotypes of alcoholism and bitterness while Agnes battles with her Native American blood and her Jewish upbringing. They both feel the irony in their lives and are perfect examples to prove to Seymour that he is not the only suffering Indian. “[Seymour] masks his social unease with a conspicuous sense of superiority when it comes time to face the old friends whose lives he’s often usurped for his poetry.” Throughout all of the struggles Seymour, Aristotle, and Agnes confront, they realize one thing – they can’t change who they are.
The Business of Faqncydancing is a beautiful film that Blackwelder describes exceptionally well as “a highly personal meditation on the choices we make that define our identity…” The scenery was magnificent and the actors were superb in portraying the conflicts of the identity-confused characters. “None of these performances shies away from character flaws and all of them are heartfelt, honest, unaffected, and uniquely human.” I couldn’t agree more with Rob Blackwelder.
The article by Rob Blackwelder – “Gay American Indian poet’s identity, integrity at issue in extraordinary ‘The Business of Fancydancing.’”

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