Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Disaster-lypto" - Mel Gibson's Latest, Racist Insult

Apparently, insulting and racist attacks against indigenous peoples continue to be the acceptable status quo in the world today. Although Mel Gibson was vilified for his drunken, anti-Semitic tirade a few months ago, and Michael Richards is still, justifiably, in the woodshed for his racist rant at a LA comedy club last month, it remains open season to mock Native people in both public and private arenas. On Friday, December 8, Mel Gibson's new movie, "Apocalypto," opens nationwide. Gibson appropriates the Maya people, in their classic period, for this gratuitously violent depiction of a very complex society -- about which Gibson knows nothing. The film is a disaster -- historically, culturally, anthropologically, spiritually, and humanly. "Disaster-lypto," if you will.

The most repulsive aspect of the film is that the Maya are "saved" from their self-inflicted "apocalypse" through the arrival of Christians -- a historical glitch, because the European, Christian evangelical destruction of indigenous peoples did not begin until 300 years after the movie's setting. That doesn't dissuade Gibson though, who admits that he was making it up as he went along. (see Village Voice review below) For an anthropological critique, see: "Is 'Apocalypto' Pornography?" by Traci Ardren. LINK and this insightful one from The Nation: LINK

Gibson got his ass kicked all around Tinseltown by the Jewish community for his idiotic rant about Jews being responsible for all the wars in the world. "Apocalypto" seems to be Gibson's translation of that lesson from his earlier drunken meltdown as: "it's important only to insult people who you think will not fight back." As indigenous peoples, we'd better not let this one pass -- or we deserve exactly what we get from Gibson and Hollywood (in this case Disney Studios). Gibson's admission that he made up most of his invader fallacy, is a practice with which we, as indigenous peoples, are quite familiar, unfortunately. And Gibson's reward for this latest product of total cultural incompetency? The film is getting Academy Award buzz. So, the message is: insult Jews and African-Americans and get publicly rebuked and chastised. Insult indigenous peoples, and get considered for an Oscar!?

The construction of indigenous peoples' reality by invader (fill in the blank - writers, historians, anthropologists, priests/popes, judges, politicians, filmmakers) dates back to the commencement of the invasion by Columbus. The distorted images of cannibalism and human sacrifice among Native societies are so deeply ingrained in the invader hegemony that now even indigenous people parrot it. Nacona Burgess, Activities Director at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, where a screening of Gibson's disaster was scheduled to be held, reinforced the commonly-held, ignorant and racist stereotypes about Maya and Aztec peoples. "All of our students are adults, and they could've handled the sacrificing scenes because they know that's how it was in the Mayan civilization," Burgess told The Santa Fe New Mexican. That's how it was? Says who, Mel Gibson? We're now going to let Mel Gibson define Maya history and reality? Unbelievable. How about let's ask some Maya people -- like the more than six million in Guatemala? Like the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico?

Gibson went out of his way to wrap his tripe in the veneer of legitimacy by sponsoring a screening of the film at the Chickasaw Nation's Riverwind Casino in Oklahoma last week. Some of the attendees shilled for Gibson. "It is very important to note that Mr. Gibson has gone to great lengths to cast indigenous people in this film," Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said. "This not only helps make the film more realistic, it serves as an inspiration to Native American actors who aspire to perform relevant roles in the film industry." Right. Jobs, jobs, anything for jobs, massah.

Instead of fabricating the histories of indigenous peoples, Gibson would be better served atoning for his own society's brutality and inhumanity. If he is so enthralled with human sacrifice, let him make some films about Euro-American-Australian human sacrifice, beginning with the 300 year-long Spanish Inquisition:

followed by the Salem Witch Trials of 1692:

perhaps then a film epic about the centuries of human sacrifice in America/Australia (Gibson's original invader state) to keep the race "pure" through the lynchings and other acts of collective violence against people of color:

and bringing it on up to a film inside the contemporary human sacrifice chamber at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, where hundreds have been sacrificed to appease the God of Vengeance.

We will not be holding our breath waiting for these Gibson blockbusters. In the meanwhile, read this review of "Disaster-lypto" from the Village Voice, and organize appropriate anti-racist actions (boycotts/pickets/letters to the editor) in your community. Don't let this racist pig get away with this attack on us.

UPDATE - 7 November 2006
The American Indian Movement of Colorado is calling for a boycott of the Mel Gibson film, "Apocalypto," due to its blatantly racist, anti-indigenous theme and message. Colorado AIM urges all people of goodwill to refrain from giving the bigot Gibson any profits from this film. Instead, Colorado AIM urges its members and allies to send the $20-30 that you might spend on attending the film to the following groups who work with Maya communities that are in active struggle for their survival and resurgence:

Chiapas Support Committee (
P.O. Box 3421
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 654-9587

Café Rebelion ((
381 E. 55th Avenue
Denver, CO 80216
(working directly with Maya coffee and honey cooperatives)

Mel Gibson Is Responsible for All the Wars in the World
OK, slight exaggeration, but he's at least to blame for this one he made up
by J. Hoberman
December 5th, 2006 1:26 PM
full Village Voice review

Apocalypto has a faux Greek title and an opening quote from historian Will Durant that ruminates on the decline of imperial Rome. It may seem an odd way to comment on the supposed end of an imaginary, unspeakably barbaric Mayan civilizationÂ?but WWJD? Mel Gibson means to be universal.
Following the gory trail marked by Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto is a blatantly sadistic spectacle Â?albeit not without a certain chivalry. Women are raped and children butchered but Mel shows no taste for such savagery. (You might even call him protective: In one feeble bid for a PG-13, the surviving children of Sugar Tit village are left to fend for themselves in the charge of a teenage babysitter.) Mel is a glutton for male punishment. There's not a man in this movie who isn't scourged, bashed, or puncturedÂ?unless he's disemboweled.

Unlike its predecessors, however, Apocalypto is unburdened by nationalist or religious piety�it's pure, amoral sensationalism. By those standards, the most engaging sequence is played in the evil heart of the Mayan sacred city. Give the devil his due: Hieronymus Bosch or Matthias Grünewald would have appreciated Mel's vision of paganism run wild. The place is a monstrous construction site cum marketplace where life is cheap (and so are the extras), and the blood pours over the stone monuments like molasses on Grandma's griddle cakes. It's political too: Gesturing muck-a-mucks in feathered masks rise from their human footstools atop garish temples to address the juju-dancing mob below.
Maybe the Mayans really did bounce human heads down the steps of their pyramids but, being as their civilization collapsed hundreds of years before the Spanish conquest, how would we know? "A lot of it, story-wise, I just made up," Gibson confessed to the Mexican junketeers who visited his set last year. "And then, oddly, when I checked it out with historians and archaeologists and so forth, it's not that far [off]." Or far out, for that matter. Irrational as it may be, Mel's sense of history does have a logic: JP's trip to hell ends when the Christians arrive.


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