August 17, 2010

Savage Indian in The Machinist

Salvador Martinez brought this movie to my attention in a Facebook note:There was a scene in the movie "The Machinist" where the leading actor and a boy went on a ride called "Route 666." In this ride there was a variety of atrocities, horrific scenery, and terrible events (i.e., a car wreck, a hanging, a crime scene, a silhouette penthouse). One part of the ride that struck me as horrific and stereotypical was the classic (and mechanical) Plains Indian savage hollering at an alarming tone hatching away at the two riders. Was this really called for? Was it even necessary?Comment:  That does indeed sound like something you'd see in an old funhouse ride. It's reminiscent of the original log cabin at Disneyland. But the filmmakers didn't find this scene, they created it. Even if they had found it, they could've left it out.

Clearly this stereotype wasn't necessary for the movie. But it's necessary for Americans to repeat it over and over to maintain a grip on their national mythology:We came here seeking freedom and opportunity. We tamed the wilderness and settled the empty land. Yes, it was dangerous; wolves and Indians and other wild animals tried to prey on us. But they eventually vanished--slunk away like curs before the tide of progress. God cleared them out of the way so we could achieve our Manifest Destiny.If people started questioning this, our whole society might fall apart. We might begin putting people before profits. We might begin voting for healthcare reform, immigration reform, even energy and environmental reform. That would signal the triumph of the dark and degenerate hordes (blacks, Latinos, Indians, Muslims, gays) over our white Christian nation.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

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