Essay Sample: Classic Western Films on Racism and Victimization of Indians in America

Published: 2019-09-04
Essay Sample: Classic Western Films on Racism and Victimization of Indians in America
Categories:  Racism Culture Movie
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1957 words
17 min read

Through this term paper, I will focus on the brutality of the Native Indians by the white oppressors I have read articles, reviewed relevant books and used web sources to facilitate my term paper. The authors of these materials have put more emphasis on the victimization and brutality the Native Indians faced after the end of the civil war. I went ahead and compared the three film productions in question racism and victimization on Native Americans by the white settlers. In my term paper I will refer to two Western films; John Fords 1956 classic The Searchers, Arthur Penns 1970 film The Little Big Man and Tom Laughlins 1971 film Billy Jack. Westerns are primarily films, poems, and plays that were based on settings of early 16th century. Their main theme revolved around hostilities by Americans towards Indians. Euro-Americans were the white settlers who had migrated from Europe whereas the Native Americans were the Indians. My goal of this paper is to determine the brutality and to suffer the Native Indians faced in the hands of the white settlers. I am going to use different characters in each movie and scenes to bring out the real interpretation of the film with regards to the brutality of the Indians.

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My paper is divided into sections. The first paragraph after this will give an insight and overview of the three films that I will use as my reference. The second and third paragraph contains the illustrations and interpretation of the film The Searches. The 3rd and 4th paragraph will include illustrations and analysis of the movie Little Big Man. The subsequent sections will contain the film Billy Jack, the comparison of the three films and finally the conclusion.

The Searchers film taints both the natives and the whites as the problem to American civilization. This is contrary to other classic western films portrayed only Natives Americans as the root problems of the American society. Rather John Ford explains that the white settlers were part of the problem too. Out of sheer ignorance and hatred, they preferred blaming the Native Americans. The Searchers theme revolves around the real obstacles to American civilization after the civil war. John Ford uses the conflict between the native Indians and white settlers to paint a bigger picture for all to see. His primary motive is to expose racism and victimization not only against Indians but also other races including African Americans. Leading roles in the film are John Wayne, as Ethan Edwards, and Jeffery Hunter as Martin Pawley. He is a confederate in a mission to find his kidnapped niece Debbie, played by Natalie Wood. Ethan believes the Comanche who are the Native Americans are responsible for not only kidnapping his niece but also murdering his Brothers family. The Comanches leader Scar, played by Henry Brandon is responsible for the kidnapping. He believes that by kidnapping Debbie, he is avenging his sons death at the hands of the Euro-Americans. Through this film, John Ford tries to explain that it is not always the natives who are the cause of American problems but also the white settlers. Similarly, he tries to bring about the aspect of racism on interracial marriages between the two factions and their implications. On the contrary, The Little Big Man revolves around an old mans story about the victimization and untold suffering of the Cheyenne (Red Indians) at the hands of the white settlers. The film in itself tries to portray Native Americans as victims in the hands of the White settlers. The leading role is Jack Crabb played by Dustin Hoffman. He narrates in an interview on how his Indian clan suffered at the hands of the white settlers. He is a man who is privileged to have been part of both cultures. Billy Jack, on the other hand, focuses on the oppression of counterculture students by other individuals who disregard their culture. Billy Jack is portrayed as the protagonist in this film. He fights and defends the oppressors of counterculture students. He opposes the modern culture unlike heroes in the above-mentioned films.

The Searchers has been credited for being unique among the Western films produced before its release in 1956. John Fords movie specifically targeted moviegoers of the 1950s when racial discrimination was at its peak. He intended to expose the real racial faction that was the obstacle hindering American civilization. Indians who are Native Americans face a lot of discrimination from the white settlers. John Fords movie could not be released at a better time than in the 1950s when racism was at its peak in America. The Searchers outlines the problems Indians face in the hands of white settlers. The problems include brutality, murder, and racial discrimination. The first scene commences with the massacre of Ethans brother Aaron Edwards, his wife and son. Walter Coy plays Aaron Edwards role. Similarly, Dorothy Jordan plays the role of Aarons wife. The massacre leads to the kidnapping of Aarons daughters Debbie and Lucy played by Pippa Scott. The massacre happens to be carried out by the natives led by Scar. Through the first scene, John Ford tries to bring about the conflict between the two factions. Ethan then emerges from a cabin door riding his horse from a rather harsh land to his brothers house. His main motive is to search for his brothers kidnapped daughters Debbie and Lucy. John Ford portrays Ethan as a staunch white racist who despises the natives predominantly the Indians. Even though his brother adopted Martin Pawley, who is of mixed race, Ethan has refused to accept him as his kin. Besides that, in one of the scenes, Ethan aims and shoots a Comanche warrior during one of their raids. He specifically aims at the eyes of his victim He argues that shooting his victim's eyes would prevent him from reaching the happy hunting ground. The two men set out on a mission together; to rescue Lucy and Debbie (Stebbins 33).

The film also highlights the problems native Indians face with regards to racial discrimination. Ethan on his mission of finding the two girls is suspected by Martin to have killed Lucy. The reason for his brutal action is because Lucy is a victim of rape by the Comanche hence she has ceased to be white and deserves to die. Correspondingly, during a search of Debbie, he denounces them as no longer white. to a Calvary officer (Stebbins 32). He argues that since those Comanche warriors raped them, they cease to be white but Comanche. Through this illustration, John Ford displays the US Calvary not as protectors of the vulnerable but as oppressors. Additionally, he discloses the extent of rot in the American society by then with regards to racism against native Indians. Later in the film, we come to notice about the real motive behind the murder and kidnap of Aarons family and daughters. This is depicted in the scene where Ethan meets Scar, the leader of Comanche warriors, in his quest to rescue Debbie. Scar explains his motive behind the killing and kidnap of Aaron and his wife. He categorically states that he is avenging the death of his sons in the hands of the settlers. Through Scars words to Ethan, John Ford tries to bring out the genesis of the conflict between the two factions. We come to realize that it is the white settlers who started the war against the Indians. Scar and Ethan both have tread on dark pasts before. The two face off, and it is Martin who kills Scar. John Ford portrays Martin as a representative of the new face of Indians who would embrace civilization together with the whites. On the contrary, Scar and Ethan represent the obstacles to American civilization and their elimination in the society would lead to better life. In majority of the western films, good triumphed over evil. John Ford incorporates this and in the end, Ethan does not enter the Jorgensen farmhouse which represents American civilization and unity (Stebbins 34). This film set a precedent for other films on discrimination against Indians by whites. In 1971, director Arthur Penn launched the film Little Big Man.

Little Big Man is a classic western film whose theme centers on the moral void among the American society predominantly whites. This film is produced in the 1960s when the morals of the American Society had replaced the culture that was in place before civilization. Additionally, it portrays the brutality and massacre of the Native Americans by the U.S Calvary. The Cheyenne are pictured as being a native community living in harmony initially. Moreover, they are portrayed as holding an established culture. On the other hand, the white settler culture is unjust, and people seem to take advantage of the weak. The film focuses on Jack Crabb, who alternates between two societies; Cheyenne and white cultures. The first scene opens with the aging Jack Crabb in a veteran infirmary speaking into a tape recorder. Jack flashbacks on how he was assimilated by the Cheyenne after his family members were murdered in the raid. There he finds a stable, harmonious community with strong cultural values. The Cheyenne chief, played by Chief Dan George, Old Skin Lodge adopts him (Tavernetti 127).

After some years, the U.S Calvary attack the Cheyenne and Jack is captured and placed in the custody of Baptist minister and his wife. While in captivity he acquires formal education and white values. After learning about the white people, their cultures, and personalities he disregards white people as exploitative, hypocrites and opportunistic. That prompts him to leave in search of his former home. He is accompanied by his Swedish wife, Olga. Unfortunately, she is kidnapped by Indians after they were ambushed on their way to reunite with the Cheyenne. Jack Crabb returns to his initial tribe courtesy of his brothers. Motivated by his quest to find his kidnapped wife, he joins Custers Calvary. While with Custer, he witnesses the massacre of Indian women and children (Tavernetti 127). Arthur Penn uses this scenario to paint a wider picture of the U.S army involvement in the Vietnam War then. The massacre of the Indian women and children in the film symbolizes the massacre of women and children in My Lai Vietnam. Subsequently, Jack experiences a lot including the death of his wife and son in the hands of Custer and his Calvary. The film portrays the erosion of the Cheyenne harmonious culture by the U.S Calvary in the name of civilization. T In the process, the U.S Calvary commits crimes against humanity on the Cheyenne. He portrays the white settlers as greedy, goal-oriented with indented personalities (Tavernetti 128). He goes further and describes them as opportunistic. The film helps us understand how the white settlers brutalized the Native American customs and cultures and replaced them with hostile traits in the name of civilization. This represented the countercultures that were experienced in the 1960s. The genocide against the Native Americans and their cultures represented the end of a once thriving culture with a culture full of greed and assassinations etc.

The film Billy Jack produced by Tom Laughlin gives an insight on the hatred against counterculture individuals. The film, aired in 1971, centers Billy Jack as an activist who fights and protects the counterculture students from oppression by the other students. Tom Laughlin portrays himself as Billy Jack. Billy is of half-breed origin. He is partly Indian and Navajo. Tom Laughlin casts Billy Jack as a former Vietnam veteran. He leads a violent demonstration when a group of Indian children is denied access to get ice cream and in turn abused by a gang of white boys. Tom Laughlin director of this film uses this scene to explain how the counterculture students were discriminated. The setting o...

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