What's history for if Hollywood and our other entertainment industries can't take it and warp it to fit a current, partisan political agenda? In yet another example of Hollyweird’s foolishness, we have a new Robert Downey, Jr. vehicle that casts the American Cowboy as an "imperialist". Of course, they will dress it up and try to hide this absurd message by having an alien invasion occur during a skirmish between Cowboys and Indians in the late 1800's, forcing the two human enemies to unite to fight the aliens. This is supposed to be an "allegory." Yes, with this "pulpy mix of the sci-fi and Western genres," we have "allegory" in the fact that the space aliens are trying to invade and conquer the Earth just like the cowboys were doing to the poor, benighted natives. Just once I’d like to see a movie present Indians as real, three dimensional people instead of infantilized, victims.
After Downey's great success with "Iron Man," it is now reported that he is in talks to join "Cowboys and Aliens," from Imagine Entertainment, a film based on a so-called graphic novel of the same name.
The story centers on an Old West battle between the Apache and Western settlers, including a former Union Army gunslinger named Zeke Jackson (Downey), that is interrupted by a spaceship crashing into the prairie near Silver City, Ariz.
Sounds "B" movie-like, but here is where we get the preachy "allegory."
The story draws a parallel between the American imperialist drive to conquer the "savage" Indians with its advanced technology and the aliens' assault on Earthlings, who must join together to survive the invaders' attack.
Great, another example of a movie trying to be "relevant."
I remember when the movie "Tombstone" came out there was an interview with the director that had me shaking my head, amazed at the blatant foolishness of Hollywood as they do their best to mangle real history so that they can "say something" about a problem we are having today.
In a radio interview in 1993, director George P. Cosmatos claimed that he was making another one of those pointless, Hollywood "allegories" by a costuming decision made for the enemies of Wyatt Earp and his brothers -- those who stood as the law in Tombstone, Arizona. Director Cosmatos had all the cowboys wearing a red sash around their waist because, he claimed, this sash was an "allegory" to today's "gang colors" and he was trying to draw a parallel between today's violent drug gangs and the cowboys that faced the Earps in 1881.
It was all foolishness, of course. The so-called Cowboy "gang" that really faced the Earps in 1881 was hardly anything like a gang, even as gangs existed then, much less any sort of allegory to the sort of violent street gangs that infests our society today. Cosmatos even had several historical western figures involved in the Tombstone fight that had no role at all in the real event. Figures such as Curly Bill Brocius and Johnny Ringo made unnecessary appearances in Cosmatos’ film. The movie also completely ignored the fact that Wyatt Earp was a crook, card sharp and bunko artist or that Doc Holliday was likely responsible for a state coach robbery that was blamed on the Clantons, an event that contributed to the two camps being angry at each other.
But, let's not let reality and facts get in the way of a movie based on "history." Just as this new movie mistakenly uses the "allegory" of "imperialism" as a way to illustrate what cowboys were doing during the great American westward expansion between 1850 and 1900.
It isn’t just the movie taking this silly so-called allegory track, either. The original comic book also had this simple-minded point to make.
Sporting some of the most primitive and child-like art I’ve seen in a comic for a long time, this book grandly labeled a “graphic novel” infantilizes the American Indian at the same time as it tries to elevate him to the heights of nobility, a fate all too often bestowed by condescending liberals on the many and varied cultures that constituted the native peoples of this continent.
Here are the first few lines of this comic:
Every conqueror believes himself moved by a higher power. Imperialist's actions are always justified, by necessity, compassion, or divine providence.
For those who believed in it, Manifest Destiny was a noble endeavor -- a God-given duty to spread the principles of the United States throughout the world in general and North America in particular.
For those who stood in the path of the expansion of the territory of the still young United States of America, it was something else altogether.
The European settlers had superior technology, but even more dangerous than that they believed they had the right -- the duty, even, to bring these 'merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions"*, to heel.
The American frontier was pushed ever westward with no thought of the impact this would have on the native population. Disease, displacement, slavery and warfare killed millions.
Entire tribes were wiped out and the survivors forced to bow to the colonists' will.
Of course, nowhere is it mentioned that the “native population” did the very same thing -- perhaps on a smaller scale, of course -- to members of other tribes, who also constituted the “native population.” Wiping them out, chasing them from their homes and enslaving them as well as stealing from them. And they were doing this for thousands of years before America was founded by those eeevil white men from Europe.
Worse, this sort of Pabulum always treats all Indians as if they were mere Indians, as if there was no difference between the peoples. This uninformed take on the history of Indians also seems to forget that some tribes worked with Americans and worked with Americans against their own enemies in other tribes, at that! Yes, many Indian tribes worked with “whites” to wipe out other Indians.
On top of all of that, this sort of anti-intellectual, simplistic look at history gives short shrift to the real advances that is the United States of America and distills all the amazing things this country has done for the world to one, anti-American, and uninformed meme of hypocrisy and avarice.
In light of that, it’s no wonder that Hollyweird loves this badly drawn little comic book. It makes America a place of thieves, liars and murders. Just the sort of thing that Hollyweird loves.
(Photo credit: www.guyville.com)