November 12, 2012

Amazon massacre in The Mentalist

In Sunday's episode of The Mentalist, titled If It Leads, It Bleeds (airdate: 11/11/12), Volker, a wealthy industrialist, may have killed Cassie, an investigative journalist. Cassie's publisher, Berman, explains why to detectives Cho and Rigsby:BERMAN: Volker had a geothermal project in the Amazon rainforest which was going to double his presence in the emerging markets. But when an indigenous tribe claimed the land sacred, it threatened to kill his deal. So...he made them disappear.

CHO: A whole tribe.

BERMAN: A whole village...found in a mass grave. The killing was blamed on fighting between drug traffickers and leftist rebels, a terrible tragedy that just so happened to remove all opposition to Volker's project.

RIGSBY: Come on. Nobody could get away with something like that.

BERMAN: Volker did. Look, he's smart. He does anything possible to keep his hands clean. He'll get other people to do his dirty work. But Cassie, she caught him anyway.
Comment:  Funny how movies and TV shows always invent something "exotic" like a geothermal project in these situations. In reality, most Amazon conflicts are likely to be over your basic natural resources: gold, oil, or water.

That aside, this scenario is painfully close to reality. Miners and ranchers are encroaching on Native land. Indians who try to stop them sometimes get killed. The corporate and governmental powers behind the encroachment are rarely held accountable.

Indeed, this storyline probably was inspired by this news story in September:

Venezuela’s tribe massacre mystery

Eighty Yanomami were reportedly killed by Brazilian miners. Evidence suggests this may not be the case

The attack probably didn't occur, but it's still a plausible storyline. Kudos to The Mentalist's writers for using it. It may be the first and last time Amazon land rights get mentioned in a network TV drama.

The Native issue comes up again only peripherally, when Agent Lisbon accuses Volker of the crime. But bringing it up at all puts The Mentalist ahead of other shows.

Recall that one TV show, Off the Map, was set in the Amazon rainforest, possibly Venezuela. Yet I don't think it ever mentioned Indians, much less Amazon land rights. Another show, The River, treated Indians mainly as spooky savages.

I believe this is the fourth time The Mentalist has featured or mentioned indigenous issues. Someone on the staff is thinking about Indians, and that's good.

For more on The Mentalist, see Treaty Payments in The Mentalist and Maya Artifacts in The Mentalist.

No comments: