Home > Uncategorized > “Turning An Act of Defiance Into A Monument of Courage!”

“Turning An Act of Defiance Into A Monument of Courage!”

Historical fiction tends to favor the latter half of the term.  This is what allows Ben Affleck to bring his immaculate jawline into the terrifying frenzy of World War II and  John Wayne to spout grizzled aphorisms in the midst of America’s second most famous revolution.

The trailer for 1960’s The Alamo is bizarrely (if not delightfully) campy. Texan heroes! Mexican villains! A massive crowd of extras who will no doubt make excellent cannon fodder! A pounding, thrilling score that backdrops the most infamous part of what is now downtown San Antonio! Et cetera. But history is not nearly this entertaining, or absolute.

An inherent complication that arises from narrativizing any event in history is that many of the myriad factors that influence it must ultimately be eschewed in favor of dramatic simplicity and clarity. A filmmaker can recreate the soldier’s uniforms down to the last bronze button, but there will still be factors and aspects of the battle and its leadup that will go ignored. In this way, the causes and realities of the battle must be brutally simplified, and so it will also go with the ultimate effects of the conflict. Though I saw the film some time ago, I don’t recall it mentioning the complete result of the battle, nor how the revolution eventually ended in victory for the Texans. This is similarly the case with Martyrs of the Alamo – the revolution is not important so much as the battle. Furthermore, the battle is not so much as important as it causes – an attack on freedom! A fight for liberty! A battle for…the right to deny the autonomy of fellow human beings!

The racism in Martyrs of the Alamo is shocking, no doubt, and its historical inaccuracy is acute. Perhaps it was not meant to serve as blatant anti-African American propaganda so much as it was to get the populace of the country riled up in a patriotic fervor. Indeed, like Griggs and his fictional secret society, much (social, physical, political) malice seems to be depicted as a struggle under the guise of a fight for equality and liberty.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 19, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    The entire movie of John Wayne’s Alamo is delightfully campy. But I think it accomplishes what it sets out to do much more effectively than Martyrs does. After watching it, I’m mostly willing to dismiss any of its discrepancies (including blatant name changes/alterations of events) because the daughter of the West in me feels proud that these men sacrificed their lives to buy more time for the comrades to achieve the greater good. I think Griffith tries to set out to portray a much more divisive message, but without the benefit of on-going dialogue, he fails to do anything but weave too much fiction into a problematic event.

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