Native Superheroes and Avoiding Stereotypical Roles
Sorry to bother you guys, this is a bit of a weird one, but if I’m writing something and part of it features a group of Native American (specifically Navajo) superheroes, are there powers I should avoid for cliché/stereotyping reasons, or that would feel disrespectful? For example, I can’t help but feel geokinesis would be too much of a literal manifestation of the “closer to earth” stereotype. I unfortunately don’t know any Navajo, but I did find an online community I plan to ask as well
Animal. Powers. If I see one more Native shapeshifter and/or animal speaker, I feel like I’m going to scream. Trackers, too. Plant manipulators. Spiritual mediums. Archers with superhuman aim.
Basically, look up Magical Native American and if it shows up on that list, avoid unless you manage to justify it in-universe with something other than “Natives have x”.
Geokenisis sounds fun! The thing I like about it is it sounds modern. A lot of the icky part about Natives with powers is people assuming that the powers are “ancient” and therefore detached from modern society. They rely more than they would like to admit on Noble Savage, so if you break that with either modern sounding powers and/or non-nature based things, you’re good.
The main thing about Native powers I’ve found is they rely on sixth sense/otherworldly connection, instead of having anything that’s a pseudoscientific explanation. So if you had “felt the earth’s natural heat rising and falling”, that would be one thing, but if you had “telepathic abilities focusing on dense objects such as stone or metal”, that’s another. The former is flirting with Magical Native, the latter sounds like a superhero power.
Give it the same BS explanation that non-Native superheroes get. If you’re just going for “oh, they’re more ~*in tune*~” then I would have problems, but if you’re going with something that is at least trying to sound scientific, you’re much safer. Even something just like “genetic mutation allows for x” is cool.
The problems with tropes like Magical Native American or even Magical Nergo is the principle tends to stop at “because they are this ethnicity, they have these powers.” Meanwhile, if the reasoning is built into the character— ie- Black Panther has powers because he is king of Wakanda, and therefore has access to a plant that enhances ability to the point of a supersoldier— then you’re avoiding the heart of the trope which is that some skin colours just inherently have magic.
So, make it pseudoscientific, and try to avoid “spiritual” based stuff. Then, you’re good.
~ Mod Lesya