And I am already exhausted. Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, star of Reservation Dogs, took to the platform formerly known as Twitter on Monday to share her reaction to Killers of the Flower Moon. It was not positive.
Particularly, she highlights how “underwritten” the Indigenous characters are compared to the white men and elaborates that even though the graphic violence of the film is undoubtedly meant to shock primarily white audiences about these atrocities, it still reduces the Osage characters to their suffering, while also normalizing violence against Native women.
Jacobs hits on my #1 issue with the film, too. As a portrait of white supremacy, Flower Moon is astounding. As a portrait of the Osage who died, it falls short. Jacobs is right—the Osage characters are underwritten, they are not centered in the narrative. You can defend it as Martin Scorsese telling the story of the conspiracy, not the victims, and that is fine and, arguably, exactly what he is doing, but the other side of that is that there is no Indigenous filmmaker receiving $200 million to make a prestigious film focusing on the Osage perspective on these events, because no Indigenous filmmaker has ever been afforded the same opportunities as Martin Scorsese at any point in his career. That’s not his fault! But it is yet more evidence that the system is incredibly broken and producing uneven outcomes as a result.
Reactions to Jacobs’ tweets are predictable. They go thusly: 1) Osage consulted and worked on the film, so it’s fine; 2) it’s important that this story be told; 3) Jacobs is starring in an upcoming Marvel series, Echo, so she’s just a bitter betty Marvel stan mad at Marty for calling Marvel movies theme park trash.
1) Jacobs acknowledges how “cathartic” it must be for the Osage community to see this story finally told. But involving consultants and casting real Osage to play Osage characters doesn’t change the fact that the characters ARE underwritten and NOT the center of the narrative.
2) It IS important that the story be told! More people should tell it! From the Osage perspective, especially!
3) This is the dumbest thing. Not every f-cking thing is about Marvel. She doesn’t even come across as mad at Scorsese, just disappointed that for all that Flower Moon is being hailed as a triumph, to her, an Indigenous woman and actor/filmmaker, it falls short of the mark. That’s fair!
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and we SHOULD be able to acknowledge when a film succeeds and when it fails. Flower Moon is really successful at some things, and not as successful at other things. Unsurprisingly, Martin Scorsese, who was originally drawn to the story as a cat-and-mouse crime drama, struggles with humanizing the Osage characters in the film. Unsurprisingly, he centers the film on the people most accessible to him—the white guys.
That is why it is so important to have as many voices as possible speaking at once. Scorsese made a great film in many respects, but what he did not do was capture the Osage voice or perspective on the Osage Murders and William Hale’s “Reign of Terror”. THAT story is still waiting to be told, THAT story can only be told by an Osage filmmaker. So, once again, we circle back to the problem that there is no “Native Scorsese”, and ask ourselves what needs to change in the industry to open enough doors that there can be a Native Scorsese who can tell this story with the Osage at the center of the narrative. Let Killers of the Flower Moon be the first word, not the last.
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