The Problematic Portrayal of Native Americans in ‘Twilight’

The Twilight series was iconic in its own right, but there are some issues within the werewolf department– specifically, the portrayal of Native Americans.

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Jacob's wolf pack

Stephenie Meyer introduced us to the world of vampires and werewolves successfully. However, the series did a lot of harm towards the Quileute Nation. It’s great to see Native Americans in high-ranking roles in movies, don’t get me wrong!

Although the common problematic Native tropes of feather-wearing, dancing around fires, and being drunk all the time are omitted, there are some serious issues regarding the sexualization and whitewashing of Natives in the Twilight Saga. 

Taylor Lautner Casting

When I think of Jacob Black, I automatically think of our man Taylor Lautner. He did a great job conveying the ever-so-passionate werewolf, but the main issue here is that it has never been fully clear if Lautner is actually from a Native Nation.

Unlike his werewolf cast members, Lautner did not have to show legal documentation that he was from a Native Nation. It wasn’t until he was well-established in the role that Lautner revealed on MTV that he’s distantly related to Odawa and Potawatomi groups. No legal documentation was provided, though, nor did there seem to be a priority to have a Native actor play Jacob. 

Taylor lautner as Jacob Black in the rain-- native Americans

At one point, Lautner was supposed to be replaced by Michael Copon (another non-Native), but not for the right reasons. Instead, it was from his lack of muscles.

If there was a point where they actually showed proof that Lautner was from a Native Nation, then it wouldn’t be griped over so much. But it seems like they white-washed Jacob simply because it wasn’t a priority to hire a Native actor. Instead, they just needed someone who looked like one (and had abs).

Quileute Nation Failed Compensation

As far as everyone is aware, Meyer did not give the Quileute Nation a lick of her profits. It’s as if this whole Native group was fictitious (which is not the case). Meyer should have asked the Quileute Nation if she could “borrow” their culture, considering their importance to the entire series. To overwrite and compromise an entire group is not only unethical but just straight-up strange.

Legally, Meyer and Summit Entertainment didn’t have to provide any compensation, but it’s a sign of respect to ask for permission. When Twilight was first taking the world by storm, the Quileute Nation was getting some publicity from tourists visiting La Push beach. But, like everything else in the world, it came to an end. 

Hair cuts

In Twilight, Meyer chose to have the werewolves cut their hair as a sign of transformation. Hair in Native American culture is a part of their spirits, souls, and strength, so it completely overwrites and disregards the significance of their dark black locks.

Another reason Meyer decided to cut their hair was to make them “appear hotter” to the white American audience. Their short hair symbolizes what Americans view as beautiful. When Jacob and the other wolves cut their hair, you find them half naked, associating short hair with attractive bodies. Talk about ew.

If Meyer truly wanted to capitalize on their hair without disrupting Native tradition, she could have done something different, like in the style below:

Booboo Stewart with chin length hair

It signifies change but also keeps to their culture in some way.

Undeveloped Characters

Emily, Sam, and Leah from the Twilight Saga

Unlike the Cullens, the werewolves’ personal background is brushed over. We know Leah Clearwater, Sam Uley, and Emily Young are part of a love triangle because Jacob Black tells us (a few times), but we never see the actual conflict. Nor do we sympathize with the werewolves when they go head to head with the Cullens in Breaking Dawn: Part 1. Meanwhile, we get more detailed backgrounds of Carlile, Edward, Rosalie, Jasper, and a glimmer of insight into Esme and Alice’s pasts. 

To categorize the werewolves as just rage-filled men who turn into wolves is underwhelming storytelling (and some might argue, lazy). If we, as the viewer, got more insight into the Leah-Sam-Emily dynamic, we’d care when Jacob mentions them. It’s back to formulaic storytelling: show vs. tell.


Jacob and Reneesme during Christmas

Jacob imprints on Bella’s newborn baby, and to say it’s weird is a complete understatement. The way they describe it, as a brother, protector, and maybe lover in the future sounds like a stalker to me. In the books, Jacob puts a lot of claim on Renesmee, and Edward even calls Jacob “his brother… his son.” Not to mention, Jacob gave Renesmee a promise bracelet. This is grooming behavior.

Meyer could have strictly made it platonic and not insinuated that a romance may occur in the future, but no. Instead, Jacob has to end up with Bella’s child? Gross! It paints a negative image of Native Americans once again.

The Twilight Saga has a lot of problematic issues when it comes to displaying “true love.” The misrepresentation of Native Americans is only one aspect. If Twilight were ever to be remade, they would definitely have to revamp some ideas.

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