Reservation Dogs: Uncle Brownie
August 21, 2021 7:32 PM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

With a new rivalry crew threatening the Rez Dogs, Elora seeks out her Uncle to help them learn how to fight.
posted by Emmy Rae (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have loved every episode of this show so far. It’s probably my favorite show of 2021 and it’s driving me crazy trying to get everybody I know to watch it.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 7:58 PM on August 21, 2021 [11 favorites]

In finding the IMDB description of this episode, I found this: "When the group walks up to her uncle's cabin, we see an owl with its eyes blurred out. The characters have a very strong and negative reaction upon seeing this. In many Native cultures an owl is a sign of coming evil. This was a natural reaction by the actors, who were given no notice or preparation before filing this scene, upon seeing the owl."

Is this why the owls eyes are blurred - so that we the audience do not see the owl fully? I assumed there was supposed to be something gruesome about it.

I agree with Parasite Unseen - I love this show!!
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:06 PM on August 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

yeah i'm really enjoying this show. get better each episode. at first, i was hesitant - really didn't want to see Native Americans portrayed as criminals. but the characters have become fuller, more complex, and - well, i grew up next to a reservation, and much of this show reflects that experience.
posted by lapolla at 8:20 PM on August 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

And me too Parasite Unseen. This show is so good.

Uncle Brownie and his storyline is great; turns out he's an even greater brawler than he claims to be. Turned into a "you can choose your friends but not your family" - but if you can choose your family, so much the better.

It all could have soured; the history of alcohol abuse and the stereotype/ harsh history among First nations. I thought it was handled reasonably respectfully while without pulling any humour/ pathos punches.

I really liked the interaction between the generations.

Exploring crappy old (and actually old) style weed and modern stuff was fun. Oklahoma is still medical use only, recreation hasn't been legalized yet.

The show seems to have its heart in the right place without glossing over (yet without overly glorifying) the banality of surviving from day to day in an imperfect world.
posted by porpoise at 8:24 PM on August 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

So, I'm native and from the area of Oklahoma where this is set and filmed (still live there, too). This show is not only very well made and my new favorite show, but very reflective of life here and as a native.

Is this why the owls eyes are blurred - so that we the audience do not see the owl fully? I assumed there was supposed to be something gruesome about it.

When I was growing up my grandma and aunt hated owls for the reason outlined above. They are messengers of evil/death. When my daughter was born owl prints and stuffed owls were all the rage for infant clothes, etc. Most people close to us knew not to get them as gifts for our newborn and any that did show up we quietly got rid of.

I think the owls eyes being blurred is a great example of something that Sterlin (Harjo, the creator and chief writer of the show) is nailing on this, namely that some of the humor is only going to hit properly if you're native. My mom and I laughed hard at that particular scene.

Same with the opening scene of the white folks in the car arguing about the 'landback' graffiti. There isn't a native person alive that hasn't heard or had that conversation with a non-native.

I would say the only cliche conversation that hasn't happened yet is some variation of "But you don't look Indian!"; but I feel that's being handled with Bear's visions of the dead warrior.

It's a truly great show. The kids are really good actors, there are some fantastic supporting cast (Dallas Goldtooth and Zahn McClarnon in particular) and the sets/locations are so real. The second episode that takes place in the IHS clinic straddles the line between satire and documentary. I get the sense this is something Sterlin has been wanting to make for a while. Just stories told from a native POV with native humor.

Fun or not so fun aside regarding owls:

Many years ago my older cousin (we grew up like siblings, kinda like Brownie and Cookie) was getting married. We went to have his bachelor party the night before the ceremony. Keep in mind this is rural NE Oklahoma in the late 90's so that pretty much consisted of drinking Cokes while watching horror movies. The only person who was actually drinking alcohol was . . . the guy who was supposed to drive. So it's late at night and we have to take what we used to call 'the indian road' back to the little town he lives in from about 20 miles away. The road is a really curvy, all over the place in elevation, in horrible condition one lane affair. So the buzzed driver is hauling balls, my cousin and I in the front seat in the dead of night. In the headlights out of the night this massive owl flies right over the damn car. I turn and look at my cousin and he's white as a sheet. I assume I am too. We ended up holding hands all the way back to town. I was maybe 17? At that point in my life it was as scared as I've ever been.
posted by kaiseki at 9:16 PM on August 21, 2021 [26 favorites]

kaiseki - as a Canadian I use First Nations (with Inuit being distinct) out of habit; is native the preferred nomenclature in your part of the USA? I'm realizing that I should code switch when talking about specific Indigenous populations.
posted by porpoise at 11:44 AM on August 22, 2021

porpoise - It kinda depends on who is doing the talking. Most native people I know just use 'Indian' or 'Indigenous' to refer to themselves. Sometimes you'll refer to yourself by your tribal affiliation (e.g.: "Yeah, I'm Cherokee.") but again that's usually amongst other natives that may not be of your affiliation.

"Native American" is usually used by non-indigenous people. I've noticed that most non-indigenous people are uncomfortable using 'Indian' or even 'American Indian' at all. You'll hear us use 'Native' more in those situations.

In short, I don't really have an answer for you. You're safe sticking with 'native' or 'indigenous' if you're unsure of their tribal affiliation or feelings on nomenclature, though.
posted by kaiseki at 12:13 PM on August 22, 2021 [10 favorites]

This is my favorite new show.

For those who may have missed it in the previous thread, the Marc Maron interview of Sterlin Harjo is really good (Maron is a little extra annoying in this interview, but it's still worth it)
posted by gwint at 8:31 AM on August 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Kaiseki, I super appreciate your insights, and...that's an amazing story!
posted by ssmith at 10:30 PM on August 23, 2021


Just one more insight on the owls:
In the first episode when Bear is going into his house at night he hears an owl hoot and turns around. He sees what he thinks is his dead friend standing under the streetlight. He closes his eyes and the owl hoots again. When he opens them the figure is gone.

There's a ton of detail in this show.
posted by kaiseki at 5:18 AM on August 24, 2021 [11 favorites]

I recall an interview I saw a while back where Taika Waititi said that he wanted to make it possible for Indigenous people to make films about Indigenous people. He was speaking about a successful project he was a part of in New Zealand but it was clear he wanted to expand his platform/microphone to Native communities all over.
posted by Emmy Rae at 9:06 PM on August 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

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