The Problem with Firewater

firewaterBy Judy Fisher

In Sausage Party, Firewater is a bottle of liquor taking on the stereotypical characteristics of a Native person. I will be analyzing this character through the framework of theories of representation or re-presentation, as discussed by Ann Braithwaite and Catherine M. Orr in Everyday Women’s and Gender Studies: Introductory Concepts. This concept emphasizes and analyzes the gap between “re” and “presentation,” and focuses on the negotiation and production of meanings (303). Native people are often stereotyped in the media as either drunks, uncivilized savages, or submissive “Indian princesses.” Firewater exemplifies the stereotype of the drunken, peyote smoking Chief. Since re-presentation in the media is about meaning making as a process of negotiation among many possible meanings, the inclusiveness of Firewater falls short in terms of accurate representation (308).

The re-presentation of Native people in Sausage Party failed to take into account the harmful consequences that these images have for Native people. For example, the disproportionate amount of alcoholism and poverty among Natives are real issues that many portrayals of Natives in the mainstream media fail to account for and in turn perpetuate or make fun of. The portrayal of Natives in stereotypical ways like the portrayal of Firewater in Sausage Party refuses to take into account the real life experiences and traumas that Native people face.

NOTE: This essay was written by a First-Year Experience (FYE) student in FG110 Introduction to Feminist & Gender Studies taught by Professor Heidi R. Lewis. FG110 teaches students how to examine power, inequality, and privilege along the lines of gender, sexuality, race, socioeconomic status, age, physicality, and other social, cultural, and political markers using multi-, inter-, and transdisciplinary approaches. Near the end of the block, the students visited a local theater to screen Sausage Party, and this essay was written in response.