Posted by: Johan Normark | March 29, 2009

Criticize colleagues or yourself, not Hollywood

I can already visualize the angry complaints about inaccuracies and the accusations of ethnocentrism, racism, etc. that will follow in the backwaters of the upcoming movies revolving around the year 2012. We have seen these accusations and complaints before concerning Apocalypto, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, King Kong, etc. I have been part of this choir myself but I have a more or less neutral position nowadays.

Mayanists have been quick to dismiss Apocalypto and its director (and, surprise, there are countless inaccuracies and exaggerations in that movie). However, it is not Mel Gibson who is the bad boy. He was just using known stereotypes and generalizations created by others. These others, who are they? They are first of all countless of people that, since the conquest, have had their own biased views on the Other (not only Spaniards, but “Mayans” themselves”).

And, of course, some of these more recent others are well known Mayanists like the late Linda Schele, Mary Miller, David Freidel, Arthur Demarest, and a host of others who have spent considerable time focusing on violent activities, auto-sacrifice, human sacrifice, torture, decapitation, etc. It is ironic then when one finds interesting quotes here:

Demarest says “I don’t care about some minor historical inaccuracies. That’s Hollywood. What I’m very worried about is how the Maya themselves will perceive the film.”

Freidel says “I can promise you that there will be a massive repudiation of this film, not only as a work of fiction, but as a systematic and willful misrepresentation of the Maya.”

These are interesting quotes considering their own publications that have focused more on violence than on any other single topic. Yes, the movie misrepresent the “Maya”, but so do “Maya Cosmos: Three thousand years on the shaman’s path” as it is a masterpiece of arborescent thinking.

Is this ignorance of ones own role in creating Gibson’s mega-violent epic, a lack of self-criticism or in fact a reliance on the arborescent cultural model that too often mixes contemporary people with those of the past? In any case, it is easy for a Mayanist to criticize Mel Gibson, but perhaps we should look in our mirror first.



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