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Master Thesis Year : 2021

Native Women’s Agency in Selected Western Films (1950-2015)


The Native American woman as a character in westerns films has undergone different types of characterisations since the beginnings of the genre. Due to a lack of consideration, indigenous characters operate as passive agents in the narrative strategy of a film and their role often alters and – at the same time – depends on the white male character’s evolution for the sake of the storyline but also for the viewer’s enjoyment. The role of a character is essential as it allows for identification and projection for the viewer. Unsurprisingly, in westerns films, male characters are the protagonists in the narrative, and they tend to fill up the whole scenic space. This genre was at first created by men and was mostly targeting men. Male filmmakers have constructed and perpetuated the myth of the indigenous woman presented as a figure of Otherness due to the process of characterisation from a white-oriented perspective. Hence, there is still a space left for women and Native women characters in western films, however the most recurrent ones are the victimized white woman, the saloon prostitute, the “Indian Princess” and the “squaw”. The characterisation and the agency of Native women vary and depend on the film’s period and on the filmmakers’ world-view on their place and role in a film and to a further extent in society. Previous research has shown the influence of the colonial heritage, of racism and of sexism in the characterization of the Native Woman in westerns. Based on the choice of five films, from the classic period to the twenty-first century: The Searchers (1956), Broken Arrow (1950), Little Big Man (1970), Jeremiah Johnson (1972) and The Revenant (2015), this study will examine the agency of the Native woman as a character and the different levels of Otherness in the characterisation of the woman as an Object, a Subject and an Agent in western film narratives.
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dumas-03337517 , version 1 (08-09-2021)


  • HAL Id : dumas-03337517 , version 1


Mathilde Masset. Native Women’s Agency in Selected Western Films (1950-2015). Humanities and Social Sciences. 2021. ⟨dumas-03337517⟩
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