The Alamo

Somewhat Recommended. Not a very exciting movie, by modern action movie standards, but acceptable. Okay, I gotta say that I am not fully apprised of the “actual history” of this event. I put “actual history” in quotes because revisionist history is a tricky thing. Although most revisionist history that goes on these days is politically correct, and is more accurately described as postmodern propaganda, the reality is that not ALL revisionist history is wrong. Some people who claim movies like this are revisionist history that attack our cherished beliefs are naïve if they fail to recognize that their cherished beliefs are themselves often based on a “revision” of history. The fact of the matter is that ALL history is subjective. As Robert the Bruce in Braveheart says, “history is written by the winners.” And if we fail to acknowledge this truth and the particular prejudice of every side in an issue, we are the biggest dupes of all. All history is subjective interpretations of individuals, whether they were actually there or not. This is not to say that because all history is subjective, there is therefore NO history that is true. That is relativistic reduction to absurdity. It is merely to be balanced and aware of a higher truth that governs proper analysis. Only then may we be able to sift through the opposing versions and find a more accurate or full picture of what may have really happened. And even if we find out the WHAT of what happened, the WHY will always be ultimately elusive because of individual bias. The fact is, some historical revisionism is good, if the “history” or myths we cherish are wrong. Having said that, I would say that this movie, without having the benefit of knowing particular facts about the history myself, seemed to be a fair and balanced treatment of the events. I saw The Alamo with John Wayne just a couple years ago, and I gotta say that it was long and rather boring, and very heroically mythical in a naïve sense. You have these men like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie portrayed as heros who are as big as their legends and aware of it, scampering around making wisecracks that reinforce their own greatness. Well, you know, I don’t believe it. People are more complex than that. Even heros are not perfect. Every human has flaws and sins that haunt him. To deny this is to propagate a myth that may make us feel good about so-called heros that inspire, but it is simply not true, and ultimately detrimental to our spiritual good. Look at the Bible. It doesn’t whitewash its heros. It unabashedly exposes Moses’s fear, David’s adultery and murder, Jacob’s deceptive nature, Peter and Paul’s arguments. But that does not negate their heroism, it merely reminds us that men are not the ultimate heros, God and the truth is. Just because men have faults, does not mean they cannot do great things or be heros. It is just to say that they are not gods. Ain’t nothing wrong with having heros, but it is wrong to deify them in clouds of perfection and sinlesseness. So just because a movie may show a man’s weakness does not make it a character attack. I believe that The Alamo 2004 is fair in this way. Some will no doubt complain that in this movie, Colonel William Travis is depicted as a heartless adulterer, Jim Bowie as a renegade land-swindling slave owner, Davy Crockett as a frightened vagabond war criminal who participated in an atrocity and exploited his own false reputation, and General Sam Houston as a venereal ridden drunkard. Well, look, if any of these things are false, or that is, cannot be supported by some historical account, then, maybe there is reason to complain. But even then, I don’t consider them all that bad, because, in the end, the movie does portray all of these men as heroic and honorable and courageous in spite of their flaws – and that is the key. It does not characterize them as villainous or false heros. They overcome their character flaws and find the courage and honor and nobility they required. And not only that, their cause of Texas is upheld as noble in the movie. I expected the typical hate-America-first revisionist tactic of making America the bad guys, and Mexico the good guys. But I personally did not see this. General Santa Ana was shown as a detestable lowlife, a spoiler of innocent girls, a glory-seeking scumbag who did not value his own soldiers. He says, “What are the lives of soldiers, but so many chickens.” This is classic villainism if you ask me. Not only that, but the couple African slaves in the fort are shown with opposing views. One wants to help the Texans, the other wants freedom. Good balance there. And they make a point of showing that there were Mexicans who were fighting with the Texans against the Mexicans! As for the faults of the heros, Travis grows into a sensitive leader who dies for a higher cause, Jim Bowie learns to respect his leadership and Davy Crockett is the coolest of all. Hey, the fact is, people do make godlike legends of their heros, and Davy Crockett is shown as a man who rises to the grandeur of his own legends. His courage is much more realistic to me because I do not believe it is honest to show men who do not care for their lives AT ALL in service to their cause, no matter how much higher it is. Courage is not the absence of fear it is the facing of fear. And that is what Crockett does in this movie. Really, he ends up being just as big as his legend if you ask me. When talking to Bowie, he says that if it were up to him, he would hop the wall and take his chances at escape, but this is so much bigger than him. He knows he is an example to other men of courage and he must live up to that courage for everyone’s sake. Also, in the end, when Crockett is captured, literally, the last man standing on the Texan side, and he is given the chance to beg for his life, he calls for Santa Ana’s surrender. What a great heroic stand of defiance and greatness. And you know, so what if Bowie was a slave owner. So was Jefferson, so was Washington, so were most people of that day. It was a collective prejudice that was wrong, but it does not invalidate their greatness, it simply shows a weakness or imperfection. Yes, this is a character flaw, but not an unredeemable one. Just cause someone owned slaves does not make everything he does bad. That is simply ad hominem nonsense. And I think the movie agrees. In my view, this movie was not a hit piece on heros, it reinforced their heroism. Having defended the movie, I would balance that with the acknowledgement that the central conceit of modern “realism” is in fact it’s own mythical fallaciousness. Think about it. A movie, which is itself mythical in nature, portraying the “reality” as opposed to the myth. Does anyone spot the self-refutation here? The fact is, all these movies, like the upcoming King Arthur and others that claim to be showing the “real story behind the myth” are all just a bit too disingenuine. How do they know the “real” story? All they are doing is countering one historical source against another, or worse, guessing at what “really” happened based on their prejudice against accepted history and proclaimed privileged position, which is actually a bias itself. So they have faith in one source over another, one prejudice over another. The fact is, these movies are not replacing myth with history, they are replacing one myth with another myth, a new myth, based on new prejudices and biases.