Scholars Say Mel Gibson's Action Flick Sacrifices the Maya Civilization to Hollywood
This is a problem because most scholars, while acknowledging the violence of this pre-Columbian society, universally applaud the Maya as among the New World's most sophisticated and subtle civilizations. They were, especially at their height around A.D. 800, remarkable Stone Agers who erected avant-garde cities and towering pyramids in the jungles of Mexico and Central America, created sumptuous art, practiced a precise astronomy and (yes, there's more) developed not only a written language, but a heady cosmology of time and space, built around a complex, ordered society of maize, kings and gods. The Maya flourished for a thousand years. They were winners.
But "Apocalypto's" focus on the more, shall we say, extreme hobbies of the Maya (i.e., removal of still operating body parts) is giving the community of Maya researchers the fits. The archaeologists are shouting: slander! They're circulating statements and editorials and e-mails.
"It is a shocking movie to us," says Stephen Houston, professor of anthropology at Brown University, and like the other Mayanists quoted in this article, a scientist who has spent years excavating sites in Mexico and Central America.
Houston and his colleagues say they are not just engaging in the predictable academic nitpicking about the historical accuracy of a potential Hollywood blockbuster--though they are also happy to point out the alleged goofs (the famous Bonampak murals are altered to show a warrior holding a dripping human heart when nothing was in his hand before)--and, in fact, they applaud the things Gibson and his designers got generally right (the groovy tattoos, facial scarification, colorful textiles, nasty weaponry, punky ear plugs, etc.)
The main gripe, says Houston, is that "Apocalypto" will make a bad impression on the general public. "For millions of people this might be their first glimpse of the Maya," he says. "This is the impression that is going to last. But this is Mel Gibson's Maya. This is Mel Gibson's sadism. This is not the Maya we know."
Some of the scientists have seen the movie, others have watched the trailers, read reviews or summaries. David Stuart, professor of Mesoamerican art and writing at the University of Texas, saw a rough cut of the film with Gibson and penned an unpublished editorial with Houston that suggests Gibson's Maya are so evil that they were "a civilization . . . that deserves to die."
Hansen defends the film, believing that his fellow Mayanists will be "pleasantly surprised." He says, "For the most part it is very accurate," and "I was amazed at the level of detail, the stone tools, gourds, iguana skins, strung up turkeys, just amazed." Yet, he adds, "there were things I didn't like that they went ahead and did anyway," and he agrees "there was a lot of artistic license taken," and that there is a mash-up of architectural styles, art, costume and ritual from different time periods during the millennium-long Maya reign.
And the sacrifice, the gore, the Maya as savage? The film does "give the feeling they're a sadistic lot," Hansen says. "I'm a little apprehensive about how the contemporary Maya will take it."
I've reposted Russ's message (with paragraph breaks) for technical reasons:
Writerfella here --
The obvious answer to such complainants is this: MAKE YOUR OWN MOVIE AND ADHERE TO YOUR OWN WELL-PUBLISHED AND SCIENTIFICALLY DOCUMENTED HISTORIES, IF YOU DARE.
Mel Gibson's APOCALYPTO, to this date, has made $50,866,299 Domestic and $67,484,664 Foreign, or a total of $118,351,299 almost tripling its initial production costs of $40,000,000. And it now is set to be released on DVD on May 22, where industry accountants are estimating it will earn $118M more and above, erasing any perception that the film was a box office loser or even a disappointment.
Let the naysayers combine their resources, as stated above, and make their own movie, and then see if it performs toward sextuple their budget in financial return. writerfella even will offer those 'experts' a title: APOPLECTICA...
Give me $40 million (Apocalypto's budget) and I'll do it. In fact, I'll put up $2,000 from my savings if you give me the other $39,998,000.
Again, performance has little to do with quality. From what the critics have said, The Other Conquest was much better than Apocalypto even if it did much worse.
Writerfella here --
Surely, once you provide writerfella with your documented degrees in archaeology and anthropology and American ethnology and even history, plus your filmography and the tenures that would render you equality with professors and 'scholars' you so sumptuously quote and espouse.
Otherwise, all you are telling writerfella is that you have accepted tribal $20 bills one hundred times...
I'm pretty sure I already know more about the Maya than Gibson does. But give me the money and I'll hire people to ensure my film is accurate.
In fact, I'll hire all the top experts, not just one expert (as Gibson did), and vet my script with them. That way, you'll know the story reflects the consensus of scholarly opinion, not my sadomasochistic fantasy of same.
Incidentally, I still haven't received any gratuities from gaming tribes. If you want to keep fibbing about my source of income, I'll keep calling you a fibber.
Writerfella here --
The questions become the same as when industry producers questioned the value of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. 'What arts? What sciences?' Members of your own group, the Native Gaming Commission now have come under scrutiny. Believe it or not, your own telephone records are being examined. writerfella has nothing to do with such processes, but friends of his are reporting the above. And if indeed as you say that you know more about Mayan culture than does Mel Gibson, then why are there no films of yours at the current Cannes film festival that deal with the very same subjects? You basically have repeated lines from the old song, "I can do better anything you do, I can do anything better than you,..." So, why have you not? Now, there's an answer writerfella would like to hear, and writerfella believes that the next most avid listener would be Mel Gibson...
Are you talking about the National Indian Gaming Commission? If so, that's a federal regulatory body that has nothing to do with me. You really should refrain from writing about Indian gaming, since you botch it every time.
The NIGC recently voided the management contracts of some Oklahoma gaming tribes. Perhaps that's what you're talking about. If so, the NIGC may be checking their phone records, but it isn't checking mine.
Why haven't I done a film about the Maya (or any other Native subject)? I thought I answered that already. Again, "give me $40 million (Apocalypto's budget) and I'll do it."
Why don't we talk about an area where I do have the funds to "do my own"? Namely, comics. Not only do I criticize other people's Native comics, but I show them how (I think) Native comics should be done.
In other words, there's no hypocrisy here. Repeat: Give me $40 million and I'll show you how to do an accurate Native-themed movie. If you're not going to give me the $40 million, don't waste time talking about it.
Post a Comment