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Reservation Dogs

FX Productions, 2021-

30 minutes


Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi

Reading Time:

3 minutes

📷 : Pixabay

Reservation DogsGroove Station (WBNFSZVDNWGFGUQI)
00:00 / 03:48

Reservation Dogs


Image of show's tea brew

Movies and TV shows that make you laugh or involve physical activities like dance and exercise

Ginkgo Biloba

Image of show's tea brew

Youthful, lighthearted, and fun movies and TV shows

Chris Chaisson


Even as the portrayals of people of color in fictional media have increased in recent years, a frequent criticism still lingers: the stories almost entirely revolve around oppression. Whether it is the civil rights era, gang violence or eminent domain, stories centered around Black, Hispanic and Indigenous groups tend to zero in on pain and suffering. It is certainly important to highlight but not great to fixate on, as it cuts out the full range of existence. Some of the most original content stems from characters of various backgrounds having individual joys and pains. Reservation Dogs is the latest production shooting for this type of storyline.

Though just a few episodes in, Taika Waititi’s (Thor: Ragnarok) latest creation features a group of four Native Americans teens living on a reservation in Oklahoma. Their goal is to raise enough money to relocate to California together, but to do that, they rob cargo vehicles and sell the supplies. Their long‑term plan comes to a screeching halt due to a group of rival teens trying to intimidate them at every turn. Bear (D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) and his three friends refuse to turn tail and run, so they now must stay and defend their territory. Amid their transgressions, they do their best to evade the town police officer, Big (Zahn McClarnon, Westworld).

Reservation Dogs leans on some of the same comedy stylings of Waititi’s previous project, What We Do in the Shadows. The show uses elements of surrealism, such as during Bear’s daydreams where he receives advice from an ancestor on a horse. It also doesn’t shy away from satire, such as when Bear and his friends are shot with paintball guns by their new rivals and Bear’s mannerisms mimic action scenes from Platoon. Waititi and co-creator Sterlin Harjo shrewdly casted a couple of stand-up comedians in Kirk Fox and Bobby Lee. Both provide deadpan expression and dry delivery as they address the children, with Lee’s recurring gag as the doctor for every medical specialty on the reservation.

This gag is indicative of a consistent achievement of the show, which is poking fun at life on the reservation while providing nuggets of truth. Though a slight exaggeration, Bobby Lee’s portrayal of every kind of doctor hints at a reality about the environment, that there may only be one person in town capable of any given task. Reservation Dogs delves even further into the truths in how they portray Bear’s father. Despite not living with Bear and his mother, his father is still on the reservation and able to be reached. Bear goes to him for advice about handling bullies, but he is reluctant to share. The estranged father that is still around can be a sobering plot device, but the show chooses not to dwell on it. As with other elements of the show, this fact is presented as an unfortunate circumstance but not one that defines Bear or any of the other main characters.

This half-hour comedy can still go in many directions but presents its audience with a rarely told, easily embraced concept: Indigenous youth simply living their lives. Shows such as Reservation Dogs illustrate that you do not have to be of good means or part of a dominant group in society in order to enjoy life. Waititi manages to weave in cultural elements that may hint at historical oppression without pulling the series out of its genre, giving youngsters a way to see themselves represented onscreen in a blissful, positive light.

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