The All American Rejects are performing at NMU on Thursday, Oct. 11, but one of their promotional fliers around campus has caused controversy.
The image on the flier shows the four band members each in some form of costume, including a crown, mustachioed mask, headdress and a naval cap. The Native American headdress, a very specific item from a very specific culture, is the point of contention.
“Dr. Martin Reinhardt was the first to notice the poster, and he showed it to us NASA (Native American Student Association) members,” said Amanda Weinert, senior art and design major and the NASA president. “I called the Center for Student Enrichment, and the Northern Arts and Entertainment adviser Dave Bonsall contacted me a few days later saying Northern Arts Entertainment (NAE) had a meeting, deciding that they would put up stickers to cover up the headdress.
“When I called Center for Student Enrichment and NAE, I specifically said, ‘I do not pay to have stereotypes posted all over campus,’ because the event is funded by the Student Activity Fee.”
Artwork for large events is not created by NAE, according to Bonsall, director of the Center for Student Enrichment and adviser of NAE.
“I feel that if someone is offended by [the poster], then we must remedy it,” Bonsall said. “It’s a good learning experience for NAE members to be sensitive to issues.”
According to Marcela Godoy, junior double major in entertainment and sports promotion and French and president of NAE, the posters for large acts, such as All American Rejects, comes from their promoters who sent NAE a media kit.
The only contribution NAE had was to add local information, such as the venue and location.
“We have never had a problem with posters in the past, at least in my three years in the group,” Godoy said. “It’s definitely something we need to consider now and pay attention to.
“It brings up another issue in general about how people need to be cautious of what they say or do to not offend others.”
According to April Lindala, director for the Center for Native American Studies, the image of a headdress on an ordinary person reinforces the idea that Native Americans are a single culture rather than a wide, varied one.
“It’s been seen quite a bit recently, what’s being dubbed as a ‘hipster headdress,’” Lindala said. “It is appropriating what Hollywood and the media believe to be a Native American headdress. The image itself unfortunately perpetuates a stereotype of Native American people.”
Weinert said the band is not just at fault for using stereotypical and racist iconography, but so are their production company, record label and those charge of their promotional materials.
“When I was in middle school, I really liked them (All American Rejects), so when I first heard they were coming I thought about attending for the nostalgic value,” Weinert said. “I will not be going now. Playing Indian or any other race isn’t fun and games –– it’s racism.”
Headdresses are not worn in everyday life but reserved for certain ceremonies, Weinert said.
“The headdress (worn by the band member) is a combination of a stereotype as well as being reserved for veterans or spiritual leaders,” Lindala said. “The course NAS 320 (American Indians: Identity and Media Images) would deal specifically with topics such as this. Something like this is a core topic, where we discuss the concept of misappropriation by popular culture.”
The All American Rejects were not available for comment.