December 5, 2014

We know what made NBC drop "What Made the Red Man Red?" from its "Peter Pan Live!" but what happened to "Ugg-A-Wugg"?

Both songs have obvious political correctness problems, but "What Made the Red Man Red?" was not part of the original Broadway show. The Disney folk came up with that tune for its movie. Watch the sequence here and consider writing a parody, perhaps with the title "What Made the Mouse Man Racist?"

But "Ugg-a-Wugg" was in the original:
Sondra Lee, who originated the role of Tiger Lily in 1954, told the New York Post she won't be watching Thursday's broadcast, and said that she is disappointed that "Ugg-a-Wugg" has been revamped. "If you have a classic, don’t mess with it," says Lee. "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!" Ain't broke? Really? The contingent of Native Americans who've consistently objected to depictions of their languages as meaningless savage grunting would disagree with her assessment.
Indian Country has an interview with Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, who worked on the replacement song for the "Peter Pan Live!" that aired on NBC last night:
You can find Sondra Lee's "Ugg-a-Wugg" from a 1956 broadcast on YouTube, as well as the audio from the Original Cast Recording, complete with the phrases "smoke-um peace pipe" and "brave noble redskin"... Did you actually re-write the piece?

... There were three major things that I addressed in that particular number: first, the opening rhythm where the strings play a col legno [striking the strings with the stick of the bow].  We talked about how to make that sound more like an Iroquois Smoke Dance rhythm, which was appropriate for that region. [The creator of Peter Pan, Scottish author J. M. Barrie, is believed to have been inspired by the Indians of the Northeastern U.S.]

It’s not the stereotypical repetitive beat of ONE-two-three-four?

It’s still the same count, but it emphasizes the second beat, just like the smoke dance does.  It’s a really small adjustment, but it was one worth addressing.

The second thing we talked about was what I call the “Indian breakdown” where they have that “tomahawk chop”-sounding melody.....

The third thing was the lyrics....  first the name of the piece, “Ugg-A-Wugg” which was changed that to “True Blood Brothers.” Since “Ugg-A-Wugg” was the word that Tiger Lily and Peter agree on as their call for help, we decided to go back and look at the Wyandot language for an actual word that still fit that rhythm in the music, but was an actual American Indian word that had the same meaning.  I went through the Wyandotte Nation in Oklahoma and talked to Dr. Craig Kopris [a foremost authority on the language] and we came up with the word “OWA,HE”, the Wyandotte word for “come here.” It fit beautifully, it’s a 3 syllable word, and it still has the same rhythmic integrity for the music

Also, there was the issue where they have stereotypical Indian gibberish throughout the song, so David’s solution was to replace that gibberish with existing nursery rhymes....

When you took this job were you worried people would think you were an apologist for NBC putting on this production?

There’s nothing to really apologize for. I think it’s important to remember that musical theater, as a genre, is based in stereotypes. I can’t think of one musical that isn’t based on stereotypes, we're talking Grease, Les Misérables, Mrs. Saigon, Oklahoma, South Pacific; all musical theater thrives on stereotypes, that’s just the style of it. There are a lot of musicals that have kind of funky numbers like that.  I’m not looking to cover anything up; I was just trying to bring more integrity and authenticity to that particular song....

48 comments:

Michael K said...

Authenticity to Peter Pan. Terrific !

What idiots.

m stone said...

Really? The contingent of Native Americans who've consistently objected to depictions of their languages as meaningless savage grunting would disagree with her (Lee's) assessment.

I don't see where these sentences came from. Not from Sondra Lee in the Post article.

Tate doesn't seem bothered by the song he helped create and he seems to know Native Americans, music, and performance.

traditionalguy said...

The ground breaking Musical hit South Pacific was a subtle race mixing acceptance message for its time. It is played as overtly anti-racist in todays remakes.

South Pacific was taken from true Tales of the 1940s life at war written by a man who was there.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

The contingent of Native Americans who've consistently objected to depictions of their languages as meaningless savage grunting would disagree with her assessment.

Meaningless savage grunting is part of classical education. As in the Greek word 'barbarian', applied to those who didn't speak Greek. Admittedly, "ugg-a-wugg" is two syllables more advanced than the ancient "ba-ba-ba" which those non-Greeker-speakers were heard to say. But there are three thousand years of human development between 'barbarian' and the 'ugg-a-wugg' of the 1950s.

The dominant culture is making great strides, and there will always be soreheads to criticize.

Shanna said...

Authenticity to Peter Pan.

Hee. I know right?

I mean, it sounds like he did a lot of work on it, so kudos to him I guess. If I only it hadn't been so boring maybe I would have made it to that part.

I vote for Oklahoma or the Music Man next year!

CWJ said...

Yep authentic iroquois and algonquin to go with authentic flying children, pirates, and wind-up clocks that never run down when swallowed by crocodiles.

Not that upset with updating the song for 21st century hypersensitivities. Just that the authenticity talk reeked of sherry hour.

CWJ said...

Shanna,

Per my theory that the unifying theme to this project is Christmas time airing and a cast with lots of children, it will have to be The Music Man.

Gahrie said...

So when are they going to do a live version of Song of the South?

CWJ said...

The King and I would fit the theme as well.

David said...

Next year--Porgy and Bess? It should be fun seeing them bring that up to date.

Laura said...

But did they also remove references to tobacco use? The "truth" must be told to unsuspecting kiddos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTj4I9WUggw.

Disclaimer: Looking forward to reading John Staddon...

David said...

"Not that upset with updating the song for 21st century hypersensitivities. Just that the authenticity talk reeked of sherry hour."

Bullshit is everywhere, that's for sure.

Laslo Spatula said...

Take all the songs omitted for political correctness from all the various old musicals and put them all together in one wonderfully insensitive new musical: I'd watch that on live TV. In fact, I'd watch it in black-face while smoking a peace pipe and drinking some firewater.

I am Laslo.

tim in vermont said...

I can't believe they took that out. I guess I can, but my question is, is Tiger Lily as hot as the one in the Kathy Rigby version? I guess I will wait to watch it to find out.

Shanna said...

David said...
"Not that upset with updating the song for 21st century hypersensitivities. Just that the authenticity talk reeked of sherry hour."


Really if you think about it, it makes far more sense to have a song with nonsense words that is as far from authenticity as possible. Because it is a story about children who never grow up (and fly), not scholars in native american literature.

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't see where these sentences came from. Not from Sondra Lee in the Post article."

From the Indian Country piece. I moved the link to correct that. The Post link is now within the first block of text.

Ann Althouse said...

"Tate doesn't seem bothered by the song he helped create and he seems to know Native Americans, music, and performance."

Tate is Chickasaw.

Ann Althouse said...

The story "Peter Pan" is a story about the dreams children have about the stories they've heard. The first thing that happens in the play is that the children listen to a story and then go to bed and fall asleep. Peter Pan and Tinkerbell arrive and they become able to fly -- the clearest evidence that one is dreaming. (That's how I figure out if I'm in a dream: I try to fly.) They fly off to "a place where dreams are born" that you find "with your heart." So Neverland is all the jumble of things kids have in their head, and the pirates, crocodiles, Indians, mermaids, fairies, and orphans are all mixed together, doing good and evil in the way that kids do good and evil: cake and poison, bows and arrows and sword fights, tying women up (but never raping them or even understanding what sex is).

By the way, did you notice that the line about the crocodile: "He swallowed a clock" came out last night as "He swallowed a cock"?

There was plenty of sexual innuendo for the adults, but it's a kid story with kid logic and kid stereotypes.

By the way, speaking of racial stereotypes, the pirates are Arabs, right?

And from a feminist perspective, this idea of leaving the window unlocked so that men can get in while you're sleeping and that generations of Wendys will produce girl children and leave the windows unlocked so Peter can get in... that's quite something. Obviously, "Peter" is one of the many slang terms for male genitalia.

Charlie said...

The trouble here is that Peter Pan is a children's fantasy. Ugg-A-Wugg is supposed to be a child's imitation of what they imagine Native American speech sounds like. Tiger Lily is a figment of their imagination, so it makes no sense that she sings in an authentic indigenous dialect. I can almost hear a modern PC mother catching her kids at play doing the same thing and chiding them, "Real Native Americans don't speak that way. Let's all go to the University to find a linguist who can teach us Algonquin."

YoungHegelian said...

So when are they going to do a live version of Song of the South?

Don't even get me started on how Cartoon Network has refused to show Speedy Gonzales or any other of the classic Warner Brothers cartoons that feature ethnic stereotypes.

Shanna said...

Don't even get me started on how Cartoon Network has refused to show Speedy Gonzales

It's funny, then, that all the mexican restaurants have the 'speedy gonzales' as an entree.

YoungHegelian said...

@Shanna,

Cartoon Network's Latin American operations shows "Speedy Gozales" cartoons all the time. He's very popular in Latin America, which makes sense because he's always outwitting the very gringo el pussy-gato loco.

They just can't show us gringos those awful, awful stereotypes, you understand.

EMD said...

Walt Disney built a self-sustaining fucking world —that is cleaner and better run than any current urban utopia—out of Florida swamp land.

But he had people sing a song about Injuns back in the 50s, and therefore is a worthless human being.

I use "is" because he lays in state of cyrogenic suspension, waiting for the day when technology will bring him back to the living world to exact his fierce and everlasting wrath.



tim maguire said...

Activists gotta activit.

We need the crazies, the gadflys, the people willing to focus extraordinary energy on issues outside the personal interests and concerns of the average person. Their voices need to be heard, need to be accounted for when we make our decisions. Otherwise too much will be simply ignored, too many injustices will be unaddressed, too many tragedies unavoided.

But it's insane to let those people make the decisions, especially on the issues they feel so passionate about. Experts play advisory roles, not decision-making roles. They cannot be reasonable, they cannot be balanced, the role itself requires them to be unreasonable and unbalanced.

The onus is on the decision makers to recognize not just the importance, but also the limitations of the contributions made by these people.

They are doing their jobs, we are not doing ours.

Babaluigi said...

At this house, we were intrigued by the idea of Christopher Walken as Captain Hook, but forgot about the show until we ran across the tail end of it it in a channel search. Frankly, for all of the money obviously put into that thing, it was horrible. We could only take a small dose, hoping it would get better. It seemed like a filmed dress rehearsal.

The girl playing Peter Pan was horrible. She did not seem to have any grace or body awareness and was unsuccessful in her attempts to portray flying, or floating and flitting around. She was simply hung in the air by strings. No Mary Martin or Sandy Duncan, she. Maybe it made a difference early on, but Christopher Walken added nothing to Hook, and just seemed dazed when we saw him. The whole thing seemed staged like children's theater, which is exxagerated in its presentation, but that does not lend well to filming it the way it was.

It was advertised as the "New Holiday Classic" and will be available on DVD....wonder what the sales are going to be?

Henry said...

Seems like a sensible and sophisticated change to me. I'm not sure what makes this such a problem.

Like a lot of things people get mad about, I suppose the problem is that it feeds a larger narrative. Political correctness run amok!

Except, in this case, the amok hardly gets started. What the article describes is a straightforward approach to updating a song in a kids musical that would otherwise be cringeworthy.

m stone said...

Tate is Chickasaw.

My point.

Xmas said...

You should see what they are doing in the Hugh Jackman "Pan" movie. Tiger Lily and her tribe aren't even Native American anymore, they're magical pixie people.

(I guess that's an easy fix for portraying stereotyped Native Americans in film, put them a body makeup of an unnatural color like blue or safety orange and make them aliens or pixies.)

Will Cate said...

As I always suspected: the 4/4 time signature is racist.

traditionalguy said...

When will the Indian Tribal honor grievance industry start in on Florida State?

Indians always lose to Texas Christians.

tim in vermont said...

Cathy Rigby was an Olympic athlete, and carried off the role of Peter with the kind of grace and athleticism that it requires. I only glimpsed the new Peter, but she was no Cathy Rigby.

tim in vermont said...

My first thought, when I saw her last night was "Why is Rachael Maddow" playing Peter Pan?"

EMD said...

When will the Indian Tribal honor grievance industry start in on Florida State?

They were 'dumb' enough to cut a deal with FSU.

EMD said...

You should see what they are doing in the Hugh Jackman "Pan" movie. Tiger Lily and her tribe aren't even Native American anymore, they're magical pixie people.

Or you could do what I am doing in a Pan-themed script, and make them Cook Islands Maori, which would be a bit more 'authentic.'

Hagar said...

And the pirates are Berbers, not Arabs.

Shanna said...

As I always suspected: the 4/4 time signature is racist.

LOL. I would have guess 3/4 is the most 'white' time sig...

Goju said...

Wouldn't 3/5 be the most racist time signature?
Ann, what about Peter Pan traditionally being played by a female? Wendy leaves her window unlocked so a cross dressing female can enter. Is Wendy confronting her own possible latent lesbian orientation or maybe a deeper more sinister castration fantasy? Peter without a peter does present a possible way to achieve sexual activity without penetration.
Or maybe the author dropped a couple of hits of Owlsey.

Babaluigi said...

I forgot about Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan- her gymnastic style was pixie-ish, so I imagine she was very good physically.

...It has occurred to me that there is a certain symmetry in having Christopher Walken as a person being stalked by a living creature with a timepiece inside of it...

madAsHell said...

Drudge has posted the scathing reviews. It sucked. It was probably killed by political correctness.

Birches said...

The King and I would be great too.

Too bad Disney owns Mary Poppins.

Birches said...

NBC has already greenlit The Music Man for 2015. Hire Hugh Jackman---just drop off a truck load of money-- and it will be a raging success.

Quaestor said...

Both songs have obvious political correctness problems...

All the more reason to sing them long and loud and strong!

Wilbur said...

Why is no mention ever made of the University of Illinois band using "Pow Wow the Indian Boy" as one of their crowd-inciting tunes?

After all, the crazy faculty-student libs finally got rid of beloved symbol Chief Illiniwek.

Of course, from that day forward, the University has received not a single thin dime from me.

Shanna said...

NBC has already greenlit The Music Man for 2015. Hire Hugh Jackman---just drop off a truck load of money-- and it will be a raging success.

Fantastic!

I would love to read some scathing reviews, because man, I thought Peter Pan was so bad. I don't think this Ashley person has enough charisma, although she was certainly trying very hard.

EMD said...

...It has occurred to me that there is a certain symmetry in having Christopher Walken as a person being stalked by a living creature with a timepiece inside of it...

"He’d be damned if any slopes were gonna put their greasy yellow hands on his boy’s birthright."

In a thread about the 'racism' of Peter Pan, no less.

Outcry is selective to some of us.

Babaluigi said...

"...Outcry is selective to some of us..."

That is a joke, right?...because if that one line was your takeaway from that scene in "Pulp Fiction", then you must be some sort of humorless scold...

Bob R said...

They should have had Jonathan Joss in his role as Wamapoke tribal chief in Parks and Rec write the new lyrics.

William said...

I saw it when I was a kid. On a black and white tv where you couldn't see the wires, Mary Martin really looked spectacular......I didn't see the show ,but I saw some snippets. Allison Williams looked not boyish, but kind of mannish. It gave off a disturbing vibe. Christopher Walken, at least in the snippet I saw, looked sedated and hesitant.......I suppose a lot of people watched the live performance hoping that Williams would get tangled up in the wires and perhaps decapitate herself, but that kind of thing only happens in movies with CGI effects.