Killing the Indian Maiden: Images of Native American Women in Film


Killing the Indian Maiden: Images of Native American Women in Film



Killing the Indian Maiden examines the fascinating and often disturbing portrayal of Native American women in film. Through discussion of thirty-four Hollywood films from the silent period to the present, M. Elise Marubbio examines the sacrificial role of what she terms the "Celluloid Maiden"--A young Native woman who allies herself with a white male hero and dies as a result of that choice. Marubbio intertwines theories of colonization, gender, race, and film studies to ground her study in sociohistorical context in an attempt to define what it means to be an American." "Killing the Indian Maiden reveals a cultural iconography about Native Americans and the role in the frontier that is embedded in the American psyche. The Native American woman is a racialized and sexualized other - a conquerable body representing both the seductions and the dangers of the frontier. These films depict her as being colonized and suffering at the hands of Manifest Destiny and American expansionism, but Marubbio argues that the Native American woman also represents a threat to the idea of a white America. The complexity and longevity of the Celluloid Maiden icon - persisting into the twenty-first century - symbolize an identity crisis about the composition of the American national body that has played over and over throughout different eras and political climates. Ultimately, Marubbio establishes that the ongoing representation of the Celluloid Maiden signals the continuing development and justification of American colonialism.



Publication Date



University Press of Kentucky


Lexington, KY


American Film Studies | Film and Media Studies