Home > Uncategorized > Martyrs of the Alamo – Women

Martyrs of the Alamo – Women

I found the implicit sexual danger to the admittedly few female characters in Martyrs of the Alamo very disturbing. I understood its purpose- to alienate people seen as “other” as dangerous to the reproductive future of the white race. But I still find it highly problematic, especially in light of the female political climate of the time. The suffragists were in full swing in 1915, as were the women of the Temperance movement. By placing women as these inherently vulnerable creatures, Griffith’s not only negates all of their viability as separate entities, he essentially places women in the same realm of “other.” Women, like black men or Mexican men, require the application of white male power in order to know their proper place in society.

This was particularly disturbing for me in the portrayal of Sussanah Dickinson. Probably because we live in a post-Second Wave feminist world, I had always heard Mrs. Dickinson portrayed as a strong, courageous woman who refused to abandon her husband until the very end. Whatever faults in ideology might be found in the 1960 version of The Alamo, John Wayne does make sure to portray “Su” as a woman with a backbone of steel who can stand up to the overbearing Colonel Travis with no trouble. This respect for women is noticeably lacking in Griffith’s film and I think is one of the greatest errors in the film.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. krcoleman
    April 19, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    I think it’s safe to assume that Griffith was not a particularly open-minded man. It seems like he went out of his way to portray anyone in his films who wasn’t a White man as pitiful and in desperate need of White men to keep running the world. I hadn’t considered that Griffith’s portrayals of women as weak and vulnerable could be undermining the suffrage efforts of the time period, and I definitely think that could be an interesting topic to look into further.

  2. markcotham
    April 19, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    It seems that in some senses the women of the movie served as a foil to the men, just as, I believe, the black characters did, so that the movie could further bolster pride in white masculinity.

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