Unheeded history: screening savage native Americans in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds

This article examines how historiographic metafiction challenges traditional narratives of history. The author argues that subverting conventions of narrating the past through irony and a plurality of truths, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) can be regarded as historiographic metafiction. Its narratives of the past challenge the traditional History, provide alternate ways of telling history and invite a more meaningful cognitive engagement with history. To explore how the Americanization of the Holocaust sheds light on American racism, the author focuses on the figure of the savage Native American in the film and examines how Native Americans are brought into play through a plot that mixes up the histories of American settlers, African-Americans, Jews, Frenchmen, Germans and Italians and how the film screens Native Americans in the sight of psychoanalytic theorist Kaja Silverman’s terms of the look, the screen, and the gaze. I argue that the screening of savage Native Americans is in a constant process of renewal and the image of Native Americans is ironic rather than simply stereotypical, which contests dominant Hollywood representations of Native Americans either as ignoble savage or noble savage and reveals unheeded history.