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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

The movie was one of 10 best for many reasons.

All of you conspiracy theorists and ultra-sensitive racists are consumed by your hate.

When a movie moves a person, to ponder his life and uplifts his beliefs. It has gone beyond entertainment it has gone into enlightenment. Just as Braveheart put us into one man's struggle for truth, justice, love, patriotisim, and spirituality. This movie connects you and you become the character. Why would you be offended by evil characterizatiion of some of Mayans? Why aren't you proud of the brave loving and caring Mayans? To believe that the Mayans, American Indians, English, French Spanish Vikings or anyother nationality were only flower children is insane. Even today murder and mayhem occur no matter what the nationality. To believe my ancestors were innocent is crazy and the same goes for you. Evil exists, we can only fight it when we have courage. This movie gives another hero to look to, even if fictional. The problem with Ultra Sensative People (USP ) is your heart is set on being a victim. It's as though you would like to have it ripped and given to the God of Victimization. Wake up, get off the pyramid.

Jerry Sutton

Ione, Canada

May 8 2007 - 6:54pm

Web Letter

I am a graduate of New York University, with a major in History and a minor in Anthropology. This does not in any way make me an expert in either field, but I will say that I have studied with some of the most radical professors in both, and went to see Gibson's film "Apocalypto" fully anticipating to be embarassed or disgusted by his lack of historical knowledge and either overt or latent racism.

I came out of the movie, however, with a completely different opinion than that of the author of this article. One of the most popular and frustrating trends among American films when it comes to depicting indigenous peoples of North and South America is blatant Exoticism--making the "native" seem either savage and unhuman or other-worldly and hyper-spiritual, with a culture and self-awareness that is completely different than ours.

Gibson's movie not only strays from making the Mayan another exotic Other in the history books; rather, he does the complete opposite, and makes a main character in Rudy Youngblood's Jaguar Paw that is utterly relatable, sympathetic, and admirable (but not in that tragic "noble savage" way). Even the elite Mayan classes who are responsible for the bloody sacrifices in the film are not portrayed as evil--they are politicians who seek to quiet an increasingly unhappy public, women who sit by in silence, and children who have been raised in luxury at the expense of others. Ultimately, Gibson does not portray the Mayan civilization as either backward or superior; instead, he draws political and cultural parallels between today and "back then" that do not remove the Mayan from modern criticism (which historically, is problematic at best, but certainly not racist). In fact, it is by treating the Mayans as cultural equals not beyond or above interpretation and criticism that Gibson gives the Mayan civilization more respect than any other movie portraying ancient peoples that I have seen.

Did Gibson screw up some facts? Yes. (Though less than people like to assert--see the National Geographic article entitled "Apocalypto Tortures the Facts", in which the reader discovers through close reading that in fact, he wasn't that far off most of the time). Did he bypass actual Mayan people for actors that fit the "Native American-looking" stereotype? Yes, though he didn't go and cast a Hollywood star by any means. (Youngblood was a virtual unknown--a risk from the start--and from watching this film, has incredible talent not easily found in any actor). Did he make some classic "white man tells Indian story to say something about white culture" mistakes? Absolutely. (Clearly he has some feelings about the alleged moral decay of American culture and the Iraq War). But overall, he made an engrossing (while violent) film that followed the harrowing tale of an individual and the larger fall of a civilization that for once, did not reek of exotic "Otherness" and distance from its subject.

The problem of overgeneralizing cultures, races, neighborhoods, wars, etc. is a trend of not just Hollywood, but journalism as well. The author seems too quick to judge (prejudge?) Gibson and his criticisms of racism are transparent at best.

Haley

New York, New York

Apr 18 2007 - 4:53pm

Web Letter

I have no idea why men like you love to run people down like Mel Gibson and are so quick to bring racism into the equation. It boggles the mind!

Now if he ran arround spouting white power remarks then I could see why you would call him a racist, but to call someone a racist that you don't even know and from what I gather is pobably because of his well publised encounter with the police not long ago is totally wrong. The man was drunk!

Sir, don't you know anyone who's gotten a bit too tipsy and said some stupid things before? Things they would never say to anyone had they been sober. I guess there really are some perfect people out there. People who think that the things they write and say are never offensive to someone like me who prays that maybe one day the people of this nation will stop letting the colors of our skin seperate us from the people we used to be Americans.

Sir, Please understand me I'm not trying to defend the things he said I'm just trying to get you to be open to the idea that maybe he's not the monster you believe him to be.

No one but God can accurately portray the pure innovation of this amazing civlization and the wonderful lives they lived, but at least the man did his best and now more people will know who they were and what they did. That should count for something, shouldn't it?

Tabatha Marie Emel

Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

Feb 24 2007 - 6:42pm