Casting of Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in Peter Pan Remake Causes Ire of Native People

Disney's 1953 "Peter Pan"

Disney’s 1953 “Peter Pan”

PORTLAND, OREGON — Tiger Lily may be a fictional-character American Indian character in the original “Peter Pan” film released in 1953, but the news this past Thursday that Warner Brothers Pictures has named non-Native actress Rooney Mara to be cast as Tiger Lily in a remake of the film to be released in the summer of 2015 has caused the ire of American Indians across Indian country.

Rooney Mara played in "The Dragon Tattoo" - 2012

Rooney Mara played in “The Dragon Tattoo” – 2012

Mara, 28, is of Irish, German, French-Canadian and Italian descent.

She has  had roles in about a dozen movies. Mara may be best known for her portrayal as Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” which won her Golden Globe and Academy Award Best Actress nominations.

Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, a group of Native parents and their allies from across the country are asking Warner Brothers Pictures and director Joe Wright to reconsider the casting of the actress Rooney Mara for the role of Tiger Lily.

The group has mounted a Twitter campaign which has already trended the hashtag #NotYourTigerLily nationally to make their concerns about this historically problematic role of an American Indian princess heard.

“How will director Joe Wright achieve a Peter Pan remake that is ‘international and multiracial’ as he described in a recent interview by hiring a white actress to portray a character well-known to have been Native American in the original?” asks Jacqueline Keeler (Navajo/Yankton Sioux), an Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry founding member.

“Will he will be whitewashing the character and reducing the ‘international and multiracial’ quality of the film or be painting the actress in Redface? I am not sure which is worse–our erasure from stories or to have others ‘Play Indian’ today, in the 21st century 50 years after the March on Washington and the Civil Rights Movement,” continues Keeler.

Tiger Lily was part of the Pickaninnies, an American Indian tribe that ends up in Neverland in “Peter Pan.”

“What Disney tried to teach Native girls through Tiger Lily was that as native women, they were to accept violence and remain silent. They were shown that even as children they would be sexually objectified and that they needed to play into that role. They were taught that Natives were big “Spoofums” that could not be trusted and that they lacked the intelligence to protect them, that their only chance of rescue would come from the white man,” comments Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry member Johnnie Jae  (Jiwere-Nutachi/Chahta), executive managing editor of Native Max and a freelance photographer.

Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry’s goal is to eliminate the practice of Native Mascotry—the racist and stereotypical antics seen by fans at games dressed in Redface, and to improve the modern understanding of Native people and American Indian sovereignty to all Americans.

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