What Does "Highpockets" Mean in Dark Winds?

Image credit: Legion-Media

The first episode of Dark Winds (S1, E1: "Monster Slayer") introduces audiences to the characters and conflicts that define season one. Consequently, when Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police goes to meet with Agent Leland Whitover of the FBI, the tension is thick.

Lieutenant Leaphorn remains disgruntled that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has failed to make any promising leads in the mysterious death of his son, Joe Jr. Furthermore, Lieutenant Leaphorn has a new homicide to solve while Agent Whitover accuses the reservation of being behind the armored truck heist in Gallup, New Mexico.

The confrontation presents many of the issues and misunderstandings between Native Americans and Caucasians. Lieutenant Leaphorn is convinced that the FBI – along with the rest of the federal government – cares little about indigenous people or resolving their crimes. It's a lack of sympathy that Agent Whitover demonstrates frequently throughout the course of season one. It leads to Lieutenant Leaphorn referring to the FBI Agent as "High Pockets", but what exactly does that mean?

In the 1960s, "highpockets" was a derogatory slang term that referred to the early World War II generation. The notion behind the term was that people in a position of power had a tendency to dawn extremely high-waisted pants. In fact, the waistband was often pulled up above the navel leading to the slang term.

As is the case in Dark Winds, "highpockets" is not a term of endearment. Rather, the slang references an individual that is presented with a position of high standing yet is completely undeserving of the authority. For this reason, the person is either ignorant or incompetent, leading to poor leadership.

Urban Dictionary, which is always a decent source for a laugh, adds about the meaning behind "highpockets":

"An individual at your place of employment who is given a position of high standing, but is completely undeserving… for a variety of reasons. A highpocket is someone who has the aforementioned traits, and wears his/her pants up high in a display of smug self-satisfaction… A highpocket is generally despised by those who perform actual work since highpockets tend to do tedious, unimportant work and thoroughly laud themselves for what they believe to be an outstanding contribution."

Today, a "highpocket" could technically be a man or woman, as well as a member of any race. However, in the 60s, highpockets were generally white men which allowed Lieutenant Leaphorn to utilize the slang term in a derogatory fashion in Dark Winds. It's clear that Agent Whitover isn't a fan of the term when he responds bitterly in the first episode, "What did I tell you about calling me that?"

Nevertheless, the decision for the writing team of Dark Winds to incorporate the slang term into the language of the show is a smart move. "Highpockets" represents both a person, system, and ideology that Lieutenant Leaphorn opposes. Moreover, it references the extreme conflict and divide that has contributed to Native Americans being mistreated for centuries by the U.S. government.

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