After harsh criticism, Ravensburger Publishing has pulled the book “Young President Winito” from the movie of the same name. Criticism: Winito’s story exposes racial stereotypes. In general, the question arises as to why the stories of Karl May continue to provide material for new films, festivals and theaters. We show you the background.
“We have followed many negative responses to our book ‘The Young Chief Winnetou’ and today we have decided to stop delivery of titles and remove them from the program,” says Ravensburger’s edited Instagram post, which is actually intended to promote a new book.
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Ravensburger received criticism for his new book “The Young Chief Winnetou”
But instead of enthusiasm, there was sharp criticism. One user writes: “Do a better job than Ravensburger,” and another: “Please reconsider whether this book should really be on the market and whether children should really be influenced by it.” Key criticisms: The book and film reproduce racial stereotypes and cultural appropriation.
The Ravensburger responded to the comments: “Thank you for your criticism. Your feedback has clearly shown us that we have hurt others’ feelings with our Winnetou nicknames. It was never our intention nor is it consistent with our Ravensburger values. We sincerely apologize for this.”
The problem: Carl May’s photos reproduce racial stereotypes
But what’s up now? The film and book revolve around Winito, the 12-year-old son of Chief Incho-Chona. An adventurous journey is told in the style of old Winnetou movies from the 60’s. The problem lies, on the one hand, with the depiction of indigenous peoples from America, and on the other hand, with the use of the word “Indian” and, moreover, the fact that money is made from other cultures through the commercialization of these stories – without trying to make them clear.
The actual colonial period in which these adventures occur is underestimated by the word Indian and the images in the film. At the time, whites did not consider the natives to be fully human. This gave them the right to take their land and claim the resources.
Whites not only stole the land, but committed genocide to further their claim to power. And this idea of insulting an entire population is precisely enshrined in the word Indian, which is why it has already been avoided by many today. Mostly Native or Native American terms are used.
Wearing “Native American” clothes is racist and disrespectful
But not only the word should be viewed critically, but also the representation of Native Americans with “typical” clothing and a headdress made of feathers. On the one hand, the images do not correspond to reality, and on the other hand, it is tempting to dress up in a vulgar “Native American costume” and thus masquerade as an oppressed population that was considered inferior only because of the whites’ constant claim to power and murder.
Because the truth is: In Karl May’s representations, the word Indians incorporates a very diverse demographic of Native Americans and only racial stereotypes remain, creating a false picture of reality. Faces painted red, dances invented, all this is racist and disrespectful.
The film is also critical of the FBW jury
While some kindergartens and schools now ensure that no child wears an Indian costume, Karl May’s adventures continue to appear in outdoor theaters and in cinemas – and a lot of money is being made from them. This does not add. Even the German Film and Media Rating (FBW) jury was divided over “Young Leader Winito”. Some members of the jury felt that today was not the time to produce a film for children and young adults in the spirit of the charged and vulgar mythical image of Karl May “folklore,” according to “Augsburger Allgemeine.”
But this point needs to be looked at closely. Because: Carl May wrote his adventure novels in the 1890s – Winneto’s first book came to market in 1893. He invented his adventures at his desk without ever going to America or the East, where other books have been placed for him. So May’s books are more likely to be read as fairy tales or fiction than a fictional “Indian country,” as he himself called it.
Karl May: Between Reality and Fiction
However, the problem is that without making it clear that it is fiction, photography becomes a reality for many people, especially children. Because Mai’s stories aren’t about clearly adorable dragons and witches, but rather about circumstances based on reality. For many, the romantic depiction of Aboriginal people is thus a reality – there is less talk of murders and land grabs.
For the first time there is now a program change in Bischofswerda. Karl May has published a small text on the topic of fact and fiction, and problematic words should disappear from textbooks, as should pseudo-Aboriginal dances, according to Die Zeit.
The majority of the FBW jury finally came to the conclusion that Karl May is known to have written his stories from his imagination. In general, the majority of the jury considers the film to be a success. On the other hand, Ravensburger promises: “We will not make a decision to publish such headlines today. We made a mistake at the time and we can assure you: we will learn from it!”
Sources used: mdr.de, instagram.com, augsburger-allgemeine.de, kino.de, zeit.de, lesering.de
This article originally appeared on brigitte.de.