I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Outlaw Josey Wales

tn_outlawjoseywalesBack in 2013 I started a new old wives tale that it is good luck for a critic’s first review of a new year to be a Clint Eastwood movie. I continued the tradition for 2014 and I ended up having a really intense year that was not fuckin around when it came to either highs or lows. It was a year that included a funeral, way too much time spent hanging out in hospitals and job-related fears like losing my health insurance. But on the other hand I finally published that damn novel and I had a great trip to Tennessee and of course my TED talk or whatever at Cinefamily was a great blessing and the highlight of my career so far. It was also just an evolutionary step for ol’ Vern because I learned I could actually make a public appearance without ruining everything, as far as I could tell. So in honor of my miraculously retained Outlaw status let’s start off 2015 with THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES. I haven’t seen this one in forever and a day and a half.

What we have here is a badass western revenge story. Clint directs and plays the titlational Josey Wales, who at first is just a regular non-outlaw family man. Then “redleg” raiders come through raping and pillaging, kill his boy and his wife, burn down his house, scar his face. Who knows how many days later he’s still just sitting there brooding on his patch of land when a squad of Confederate guerillas come by, tell him they’re at war with the bastards who did this. “I’ll be comin with you,” Josey says.

mp_outlawjoseywalesBEither Josey has an undisclosed past in combat or he’s a fast learner, because by the end of the opening credits civil war montage he’s the baddest pistol packin mother on four legs. But the war is over and they still haven’t killed Terrill (Bill McKinney, the maniac driver with the trunkload of bunnies in THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT), the leader of the squad that killed the Wales family. John Vernon convinces the team if they turn their guns in to some Union soldiers they can go free. Only Josey refuses, so he’s the one who has to come back and singlehandedly kill almost all of the “blue scumbellies” who execute his buddies with a gatling gun.

So that’s how he becomes The Outlaw, and it’s a run-for-the-border movie heading for The Nations instead of Mexico. He has with him a young, wounded soldier (Sam Bottoms) and then it turns into a WIZARD OF OZ type deal, picking up new people along the road: an old Cherokee misfit (Chief Dan George), a feisty upper class Northerner lady (Paula Trueman, PAINT YOUR WAGON), her pretty granddaughter (Sondra Locke of course), a young Navajo woman who doesn’t speak English (Geraldine Keams), a dog. Josey keeps finding new badass ways to evade capture (including sending his dead friend’s body on a horse into a camp to draw fire), proves to be an equally good shot with tobacco spit (he hits a snake oil salesman’s shirt, a dead guy’s head, a scorpion, a beetle, the dog), and tries to prepare his ragtag squad for a last stand at the old lady’s late son’s ranch near Blood Butte.

As far as just being a Clint Eastwood western, this is up near the top of the non-Leone ones. It’s his sixth movie as a director and second as director of a western, the first was HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER. It’s very badass but technically more lighthearted than that one ’cause there’s no Devil symbolism and he doesn’t rape anybody. There are some enjoyably quirky side characters, some nuanced relationships and some contemplation at the end.

Clint’s son Kyle makes his film debut as Josey’s son at the beginning. I noticed Joel Cox is credited as an editorial assistant. I believe that’s his first time working with Eastwood too. He did THE ENFORCER the same year and at this point has edited 35 Clint movies including TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE and his episode of The Blues. This was also the beginning of the Eastwood and Locke relationship. Philip Kaufman (THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING) was originally the director of the movie, but the two fought over Locke and Eastwood took over as director. This led to the DGA rule that cast members can’t replace a director. So in a way Sondra Locke got Mel Gibson’s hairdresser that job directing the reshoots on PAYBACK.

The villainous Terrill is overshadowed a little bit by secondary villain Fletcher, played by John Vernon. He’s the guy who convinces the Bushwhackers they can get amnesty by turning themselves in, and of course considering Vernon’s filmography we’re not surprised that he’s a fucking traitor. But he turns out to have more dimension than your usual John Vernon bastard. Yes he meant to sell them out, but he didn’t know they were going to kill them. When the angry senator commands Fletcher to “hound” Josey he says he can’t just chase him, he has to kill him. He knows otherwise Josey will come for him. Still, he seems to feel guilty for what he did and to enjoy Josey’s victories against his side.

George’s character Lone Watie is another highlight. It’s so rare, especially in a western, to see a major Native American character that doesn’t fit the standard issue stereotypes. This guy is smart but he’s not here to share his mystical wisdom with the white man. He’s a smartass who likes to flip Josey alot of shit. He’s not a tribesman, he’s an individualist. You get the feeling he doesn’t really fit in anywhere, and that he doesn’t give that much of a shit about it. When we first meet him he’s dressed like Abe Lincoln. You can’t imagine him having much in common with Ten Bears (Will Sampson from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST), who’s interesting too, but a little more like who you expect to be in a western.

I like Josey’s rapport with the old lady too. Kinda reminded me of John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn in ROOSTER COGBURN. She’s rightly proud to be a Yankee and says that “Anything from Missouri has a taint about it.”  Interesting. Is his friendship with/tolerance of her a sign that he’s evolving beyond a goon for the pro-slavery forces? She seems to think so when, in a prayer, she says, “And thanks alot for Josey Wales, who you changed from a murdering Bushwhacker on the side of Satan to a better man in time to deliver us from the Philistines.”

That brings up a major issue I have with some of these westerns. It’s kind of like the American equivalent of the Japanese movies with rapist heroes. How cool of an outlaw can Josey be after we take two seconds to consider what his side is fighting for? It’s not just a normal immoral/amoral thing like robbing trains or something, it’s defending a despicable institution of oppression, the legacy of which still haunts us today. In movie terms, Josey is prolonging the lifestyles of the white people in 12 YEARS A SLAVE and MANDINGO. How righteous can his revenge be when it involves defending 400 years of atrocities worse than what happened to his family?

I’m okay with these Union soldier characters being savage marauders. I’m sure it happened. I can even forgive them being portrayed as cackling villains who just like doing evil shit. But it doesn’t feel like this is all about the dehumanizing effects of war, like it’s saying that both sides did bad things, at least not at this point in the movie. It feels more like it’s good guys and bad guys, doesn’t it?

I know, it’s just a story, and it’s okay to tell stories from different perspectives. But the fact that it takes this perspective… you gotta wonder, you know? Noble underdogs victimized simply for their violent insurrection to prevent the freedom of an oppressed race never seen or mentioned one time in the whole movie – what kind of a person is inspired to tell that story?

The DVD in my Clint box set has some extras on it, including some text about adapting it from the novel Gone To Texas. The aforementioned Philip Kaufman, who wrote the screenplay along with Rawhide story assistant Sonia Chernus, says he cut most of the ideology from the book but used the pro-South, anti-North themes because they were a staple of western melodrama. It talks about how the book was originally called The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales and was a small press book with only 75 copies made. And no more than 74 made it to book stores because one was sent to Clint’s production company Malpaso. In an interview elsewhere on the disc Clint says he left it sitting on his desk for 2 weeks because the cover was terrible. I thought he meant it looked shitty and amateurish, but I guess he just means corny judging by this pretty cool looking first edition copy that could be yours for only $7,500.00.

Anyway, Clint’s friend Bob Daley felt sorry for the author and gave it a shot, ended up liking it so much he insisted Clint read it. Clint immediately loved it and bought the rights.

Obviously that’s pretty inspiring for a small time author chump like me. Who is this writer who lived the dream of getting his book made into a movie by Clint? According to that extra, “It was written by Forrest Carter, who claimed to be a 46-year-old half-Cherokee Indian with no formal education. Carter found fame as an Indian poet and storyteller. Friends convinced him he should put a story on paper.”

Interesting. But, wait a minute… is it just me, or did you guys notice something a little odd about that? Yeah – it says he “claimed to be” half-Cherokee. It doesn’t say he was. What are you not telling me, DVD extra?

mp_outlawjoseywalesI had to look this guy up. I must’ve known this before, but I forgot: Forrest Carter is the same guy who wrote The Education of Little Tree, an award winning bestseller from 1976 that was marketed as his memoir. But he was really a guy named Asa Carter. He denied it during his lifetime, but was definitively outed by a cousin in 1991. Not only was the book fictional, but it was written by a former Klansman and writer of a famous George Wallace segregation speech. Worse than that, he later ran against Wallace and accused him of being too liberal on race.

Maybe that’s because Wallace was trying to chill out a little to not seem like as much of a nutball. But Carter had always been a more hardcore racist than the infamous segregationist. In Birmingham in the ’50s Carter had founded a group of assholes called “Original Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy.” Members of his group abducted and castrated a black man (they were caught, but their sentences were later commuted by a parole board) and attacked Nat King Cole at a concert. Carter later quit the group and shot two of the guys, but not because he turned un-racist. It was over money.

Basically, this is one of the worst pieces of shit ever who wrote the book that inspired THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES. No wonder it has all this Confederate crap in it. But there’s alot of mystery around Carter, since he died in obscurity in ’79 and moved alot of people with his literary depictions of Native American life. Some speculate that he could’ve felt remorse for his life of bigotry, and that’s why he distanced himself from his former life and wrote decidedly non-white-Supremacist books like Little Tree and the Geronimo portrait Watch For Me On the Mountain. But he took his pseudonym from Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. And in my opinion you don’t name yourself after a guy like that if you’re turning your back on a racist past.

So, yeah, fuck that guy.

Wait a minute, is that what Josey meant when he said that Jamie “never turned his back on his folks or his kind”? That “his kind” part seemed a little iffy to me. It’s too bad, because otherwise it’s a great eulogy that includes the phrase “I got no complaints.” That’s all most of us can hope for when we pass away, that the people we know will have no complaints about the lives we lived. Whether or not they are “our kind.”

Josey is an outlaw because he refused to surrender a lost war, and I guess metaphorically I’m a bit of that too. In an era when even the established veteran film critics have a hard time getting paid, I’m out here stubbornly trying to do it without even giving in to accepted ideas of professionalism, networking and marketing. Some of this probly makes me cool and some of it probly means I’m stupid. Whether or not I ever figure out how to do it right, I won’t surrender either, I won’t stop writing my stupid movie reviews. I don’t know how to stop.

You know what? This will be a great year full of good times and new horizons for all of us. Here’s to having adventures without needing to join any ideologically unforgivable commando squads. Just to be clear I am still just Vern or Outlaw Vern, not The Rebel Outlaw Vern. I’m a blue scumbelly through and through.

One other thing real quick… do you guys think it would be cool if this year I insisted on spelling it “ǾǙŦĿǺẄṾḜƦƝ”? Kind of like a safe middleground between unpronouncable-Prince-symbol territory and actual written English? I don’t know. Think it over, let me know. Happy 2015 everybody.

UPDATE: I have just been reminded that Forrest Gump was named after the same Klansman/Confederate General as Forrest Carter.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, January 5th, 2015 at 2:13 pm and is filed under Western. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

35 Responses to “The Outlaw Josey Wales”

  1. Wow! What an interesting bit of creepy history sprung from this beloved gem. Never had any idea. Thanks, Vern!

  2. Crushinator Jones

    January 5th, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    This was a really interesting bit of scholarship, Vern. Nice work, and solid review as well. Happy New Year!

  3. One Guy from Andromeda

    January 5th, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    re: a major issue I have with some of these westerns
    I think a lot of these films are read too much on face value. It’s not very likely that the people who made these films were ignorant about these ideological pitfalls. The mistake a lot of filmgoers make, in my optinion, is to assume that because somebody is presented as the hero of a piece and because it is enjoyable to imagine yourself in his position (because he is a badass good looking star) means that in the opinion of the people who make the movie the protagonist is morally in the right. A lot of this stuff is a pretty obvious indictment of the way of life of the main character (especially in westerns/actioners=shoot everything until the problem is solved).
    This way to read pretty much any kind of fiction is pretty much assumed in other media (nobody reading a Bret Easton Ellis book would assume that you should behave like these people), yet in movies the criticism is immediately: how can anyone promote such a depraved lifestyle, burn this film. It also works the other way around, as with the latest Bond film that basically was a two hour takedown of the guy, a demonstration that he is actually the bad guy, but Hollywood tropes are so entrenched in people that they cannot even tell. More than a hundred years of movies and still nobody takes them seriously as being capable of having subtext.

  4. One Guy from Andromeda

    January 5th, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Not saying you’re doing that, Vern, this part of your review just made me think of it.

  5. Yikes. Still love this movie though.

  6. The problem with Civil War stories is that the Confederates are just cooler. They got better uniforms, more interesting generals, and intriguing moral conflicts. Take away the fucking horrendous ideology, who you gonna side with? The guys who won the war simply through superior numbers and financing or the scrappy, barefooted underdogs fighting for their homeland? It makes me want to see a ‘Nam movie told from the Vietcong’s side.

    Anyway, stay strong in 2015, Vern. If doing what you’re doing is stupid I hope you never wise up.

  7. Huh. I was reading a historian’s blog just yesterday where he mentioned that the political and regional divides you see in these movies reflected real life ― the western outlaws were generally Democrats, Confederate veterans and their sons, and the marshals and lawmen were Republicans and Union veterans.

    There was a tendency for a long time to paint the Confederates as “wrong but romantic.” And I suppose maybe The Outlaw Josey Wales buys into that a little ― at a minimum, it’s using the Union forces as a stand-in for the 1970s U.S. of Nixon and Vietnam. But the movie’s fundamentally about a guy who turns away from his obsession with revenge to build a little community of downtrodden nonconformists. Its heart’s in the right place.

  8. I’ve known about the book’s author for a long time and I’ve made peace with it by drawing this conclusion: if I could go back through history and meet the great storytellers, all the way back to those who invented mythology around campfires, I probably wouldn’t like most of them and many would probably even try to kill and eat me. It’s just the way it is.

  9. (However, I’m not worried Clint would try to eat me and I’d like to meet him because he made this movie and UNFORGIVEN, which also happens to be about a bunch of dangerous, immoral assassins.)

  10. Happy New Tear and all that, Vern & company. This American Life did a piece on Forrest/Asa Carter that you can find here. It’s pretty good.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/527/180-degrees

  11. I’ve always seen this movie as being about the education of a bad man. It’s debatable if Eastwood the director sees Bloody Bill Anderson and his men as anything other than just “guerilla forces in a lawless time”, but I think most viewers see this backstory as a violent way of living that Mr Wales has to give up if he’s planning to og on living in the “new” America. And he learns this, and a lot more, from the various people in his entourage.

  12. Hey Majestyk: The barefoot scrappy underdogs fighting for their homeland? That’s the Minutemen and the American Revolution, not the Confederacy and the American Civil War. The Confederate army weren’t the Viet Cong or the Algerians or the damn Ewoks, they were an extremely well-funded, well-organized, highly professional military force, many of whose officers had graduated from West Point. The North didn’t win by sheer force of numbers, either; they had to institute the first draft in American history. There were a couple of occasions when the Confederate Army invaded the North and came damn close to actually laying siege to Washington (Gettysburg is only the most famous example).

    They did have the more interesting generals, though. Gordon Meade can’t really compete with Stonewall Jackson, although us Yankees can proudly lay claim to Union Cavalry commander George Armstrong Custer, Ambrose Burnside (who inspired the name “sideburns”) and General Joseph Hooker (who always had many prostitutes hanging around his field camps.)

  13. Even though I understand where it’s coming from, I’ve always found the romanticization of the Confederacy strange. It bothers me less in The Outlaw Josey Wales because the character seems to be in the fight for personal revenge and because most of the film, as others have pointed out, is about Wales and his band of misfits trying to make a life for themselves out West. But the Western badass as Confederate trope comes up in a lot of fiction I like. I’m a fan of the funny book hero Jonah Hex, and he walks around in a Confederate uniform. And even Firefly’s Mal is portrayed in a similar fashion (but of course all of the Civil War stuff is superimposed onto a sci-fi setting). As much as I love these characters, the connection to the Confederacy still bothers me some, even when those connections are mitigated.

    For a long time there was a romantic notion that the Confederacy was a lost cause that was nobly fought. Today, it’s obvious that it was a war fought in order to maintain slavery, but I think the belief that the Confederacy was doomed to lose was one element that allowed people to ignore slavery (that and the idiotic “states’ rights” argument). But nothing could be further from the truth. It’s true that the North was more fully industrialized and may have had more resources. But the South had an incredible amount of wealth because they had tons of raw resources and they didn’t even have to pay the workers for their backbreaking work. For a time even England thought about joining the war on the side of the South because cotton was such an essential crop for the country. The Southern generals also had more war experience, which is why the North stumbled for so long, before Grant and Sherman finally put things right. And, finally, the South weren’t fighting to win. They were merely fighting not to lose. If you think about it, it’s really incredible that America wasn’t split into two. Like America in the Revolution and the Vietnamese in the Vietnam War, the Confederacy just had to make it difficult enough for the North to finally admit the war was too expensive and damaging. This is why it would have been impossible for the North to have won without Sherman’s March to the Sea and his destruction of Southern resources. For the North to win, it had to be pretty damn definitive.

    So I understand where that romanticism is coming from, but even when I was younger I never really got caught up in it. It’s probably partly due to the fact that I’m from Ohio, home to Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman.

    And also thanks for your research Vern. I was aware of the controversy surrounding The Education of Little Tree and its author Forrest Carter, but I had no clue that he had also written the Outlaw Josey Wales. There’s actually a long history of racists being obsessed with and in awe of Native Americans in America. The anti-immigrant Know Nothing party from the first half of the 19th century actually included lots of Native American iconography in their rituals. And a briefly famous Native American author George Copway was welcomed as a member of their party for a time. I have a theory as to why racists in America are sometimes interested in Native American culture. First, by taking on rituals and traditions linked to Native Americans it serves to naturalize them and their organizations. By transference, they can become native, which in turn separates them from all of those immigrants coming into the country. Second, most of these people probably subscribe to the myth of the dying Indian. They felt that Indians were naturally going to die off so that whites could inherent their land, so they didn’t believe Native Americans posed a threat anymore and they could safely revere them.

    Sorry for the long post, but your review touched on some subjects I’ve been thinking about recently.

  14. Aren’t all violent characters in movies – from Robin Hood to John McClain – offensive in some way?

  15. The German title for this move translates btw as THE TEXAN, which is completely inaccurate on several levels.

  16. Has anyone seen THE RETURN OF JOSEY WALES directed by and starring Michael Parks?

  17. RBatty, it’s also worth noting that the Natives who fought in the Civil War mostly fought for the South. A lot of Natives were given land in the South and became slave owners so they had a good deal at stake. I’m sure they weren’t too sympathetic to keeping the Union together either.

  18. Also, is it just me or is the Gatling gun shootout in this film really poorly staged?

  19. And in my opinion you don’t name yourself after a guy like that if you’re turning your back on a racist past.

    You might, actually. NBF (spits on ground) kind of softened on that as he got older.

    Also I kind of feel obligated to remind people: fuck the Confederacy and every idiot who flies their flag

  20. David, I think the gatling gun shootout is staged pretty much as they were used in real life. It’s just an unpractical, ugly weapon. Question; Are we changing our minds about the fact that this is (or used to be) Clint’s best movie?

  21. You ever seen or reviewed TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARAH? Clint and Shirley MacLaine, great banter and great fun.

  22. If we look at Clint’s 10 westerns, how would we rank them? I would place THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY at the top and I think PALE RIDER at the bottom. But what about 9-2?

  23. David — The involvement of Native Americans in the American Civil War is really interesting. I remember being shocked when I first learned that the Cherokee kept slaves. And I read somewhere that the last major Confederate general to surrender was actually Cherokee. Just a few years ago there was a big controversy about Cherokee freedmen (their term for descendants of former Cherokee slaves) that were ejected from the tribe that continues today. It’s pretty fascinating stuff.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee_freedmen_controversy

  24. I never liked Sondra Locke. She always looks like she’s got watery eyes and a runny nose and needed saving. But, if she contributed to his directing, then I guess I’ll have to give her a break.

    I don’t think it’s all that surprising that some of the Native American nations would be pro-slavery. They had slaves before we started importing our own. They took slaves from other tribes as spoils of war, so they were okay with the philosophy of it, the white settlers just industrialized and perfected the business of it.

  25. I disagree, Pegsman. I’ve seen a fair share of Gatling gun shootouts in Spaghetti Westerns and they’re usually a lot better than the one in this film (Blindman and If You Meet Sartana Pray for your Death come to mind). The guys getting shot just fall over. Nothing around them gets hit, no hits on the ground or in the tents. It made have saved them the time of rigging up squibs but it’s the antithesis of exciting. Add to that the fact that he Yankees just stand around waiting to get shot or, worse yet, walk or ride right into Josey’s line of fire. To do things so shoddily almost a decade after Bonnie & Clyde or The Wild Bunch is inexcusable. Still like the movie though.

  26. David, everything is better in European westerns. Stuntmen over her even fall better. But I don’t think you’re quite fair to Eastwood on this one. They did use a lot of squibs in BLINDMAN (there’s no blood, though), but that was inside a cantina – and a very different kind of gun. Josey Wales is out in the open, and the only thing he can shoot at is a tent. And the soldiers fall pretty decent in my opinion. As for Sartana, are you sure about the title? He had a gatling gun in SARTANA IN THE VALLEY OF DEATH and he used an organ to shoot 50-60 guys in LIGHT THE FUSE…SARTANA IS COMING, but I can’t remember a machine gun in IF YOU MEET SARTANA PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH?

  27. I would greatly disagree that everything is better in European Westerns. In fact, I’d say the good majority are borderline unwatchable. I must have misremembered the Blindman scene. I thought it was a Gatling gun but it might have been a more modern belt-fed gun. I’m not misremembering the Sartana film. In it a Mexican bandit massacres a bunch of dude with a Gatling gun. The film is nonstop action so it’s easy to forget a good deal of it. Even then, some squibs on the tents or the ground would have gone a long way. I think it just shows Eastwood’s laziness as a director.

  28. You know I’m joking about the quality. There’s a lot of shite (I like most of them too, but that’s just me), but the best ones – the ones by one of the Sergios – are really good. It is a gatling gun they use in BLINDMAN, but it’s one of those replicas from the 60’s that handles a little bit to easy to be believable. I’m sure you’re right about IF YOU MEET SARTANA PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH. Looks like I have to break out my Sartana box again. It’s a fantastic movie, but I haven’t seen it in a couple of years, so I guess I remember it wrong. Eastwood’s famous for working fast, but there are squibs on one of the tents at least. Squibless machine gun scenes can be a pain to watch, I give you that. The first big massacre in DJANGO is the worst, I think. Not only does Franco shoot without touching the trigger, there are not even a single hole in any of the buildings…

  29. Yeah, they do squib one tent, I’ll give them that. Similarly, they squib one building (or a post) in Django (it’s when he shoots at the main villain), but yeah, it’s another one where guys just fall over. I feel the editing is a bit tighter though. Fistful of Dollars has another bad machine gun massacre where Ramon shoots continuously and somehow never shoots the horses, the ground or the hill that two soldiers run up. I say that most Spaghetti Westerns are unwatchable as someone who has great affection for the genre. I’ve met and worked with quite a few Spaghetti Western actors and directors (including Franco Nero and Enzo Castellari) and I’ve had a film screened at the sets in Almeria, Spain, but outside of the 3 Sergios, and a stray film here and there, they’re mostly pretty bad.

  30. My standards aren’t that high and I usually find something to enjoy, even in the bad ones. I think it’s the punk attitude I like; “We have some horses and some guns, we can do this!”

  31. Damn, I can’t get over that you’ve worked with Nero and Castellari!

  32. Maggie – The reason that many Cherokee supported and owned slaves does not necessarily have to with the history of slavery among Native Americans. From what I’ve read, slavery among Native Americans was on a much smaller scale and slaves mostly constituted individuals captured during war. Over time, slaves could also become full tribal members. The type of slavery the Cherokee practiced in the nineteenth century was full on plantation slavery, which pretty much fitted slavery into the growing capitalist system. Slavery became a way of boosting profits by decreasing labor costs and having a large number of laborers at your disposal for some really difficult, backbreaking work.

    Anyway, the Cherokee were members of the “Five Civilized Tribes,” Indian nations that adopted lots of white culture, including constitutional governments, Christian religious practices, farming, housing, and, in this instance, slavery. At the time, many white Americans saw this assimilation as a way in which American Indians would become full American citizens and Christians. But for the Cherokee this assimilation was most likely strategic. It was a way for them to assert themselves as a full sovereign nation, separate from the United States. Unfortunately, as you see with something like the Trail of Tears, adopting white culture didn’t actually make whites treat Native Americans any better.

    As for the gatling gun in the finale of Outlaw Josey Wales, I don’t remember thinking it was sloppy, but I haven’t seen the movie in a long time.

  33. I for one am looking forward to Vern’s review of AMERICAN SNIPER.

  34. I’ve been thinking about this idea of the confederate soldier as the hero and I don’t think we can dismiss them as unworthy heroes because they fought for the confederacy. I would bet that the average confederate soldier was pro-slavery about as much as our current soldiers fighting in the Middle East are pro-big oil.

    I know it’s different because the confederate soldier wasn’t choosing soldiering as a career like most of the guys in the military currently. We think of Civil War soldiers as fighting because of ideals. I think it was more that he was fighting because war came to him. I imagine choosing not to fight wasn’t much of a real choice. I don’t think we can assume they were in favor of slavery.

    That’s not to say it wasn’t an accepted part of his society. That’s one of the problems with making a movie set in a different time – it’s always going conflict with our modern day ideals unless you take a Tarantino approach and completely disregard historical accuracy or white wash it all and pretend it was all peachy.

  35. I’m still uncomfortable with characters who fight for the South when issues of slavery and the like aren’t explored in the narrative (although, as I said, I’ll forgive it if I like the character and story). The Ang Lee film Ride with the Devil does a pretty good job of exploring Confederate soldiers who get caught up in the war without really understanding its larger implications. It also looks at a particular real life atrocity Confederates committed against Unionists. And since it’s an Ang Lee film, it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at.

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