New Moon pack from left to right: Alex Meraz (Paul), Chaske Spencer (Sam Uley), Bronson Pelletier (Jared) and Kiowa Gordon (Embry Call).
Pictures of the New Moon pack of werewolves have fans buzzing about the origin of these largely unknown actors. Shirtless with matching tribal tattoos on their right shoulders, the werewolf quartet shows off their bodacious bods against a backdrop of skeletal trees. In order to be cast, these actors had to pass a fitness test and provide official documentation of their Native American ancestry to director Chris Weitz. Fans might enjoy the lengths to which the New Moon production is going to stay true to the text, but the racial profiling involved in casting raises some alarm as to the representation of minorities as shape-shifting beasts.
The bestialization of minorities seems to go hand in hand with the creepy Mormon undertones of Meyer’s Twilight universe (the good vampires are all white-bread, upstanding citizens while the bad vampires are women and people of color, and shoeless to boot). But the use of werewolves as a metaphor for minority groups has been hinted at before. The werewolves are an underclass of slaves in the Underworld trilogy, and their uprising in Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans is reminiscent of the Easter Rising in 1916 that would fuel Irish-British conflict during the early 1900s. In the campy horror flick, Mexican Werewolf in Texas (2005) the werewolf is a threat that comes from across the border and has nothing to do with illegal immigrants or swine flu. The werewolves are a creepy colony of sexual deviants in The Howling and in the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton, the werewolf king Richard is described as having a “year-round tan.”
Granted, some of this representation is built into the werewolf and vampire metaphors. Ever since Polidori’s conception of the vampire in 1819, vampires have been part of the aristocratic elite sucking on the middle class. Werewolves on the other hand, are slavering beasts that represent mankind’s base urges making them a prime symbol for fringe groups. But New Moon takes the underlying metaphor a step further by showing the werewolves as a shirtless fraternity of buff Native Americans. One particular fan— who is Native American — was confused by the racial orientation of the pack: “The guys all look hot. But I have to be honest: They just … don’t look very Native American anymore. They look vaguely Spanish.”
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