Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mel Gibson--Stick to Mad Max, Jesus or Braveheart!

Mel Gibson--Stick to Mad Max, Jesus or Braveheart!
by Max Macias

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." Will Durant Quote

This quote above begins Mel Gibson’s newest work, Apocalypto. These words can be interpreted to mean that the Mayans and all Nican Tlaca cultures got what they deserved. Contained within this moral judgment is the justification that we received what we deserved as well. This is to say, the descendants of the savage ‘Aztecs, Mayans, and other Indians of the Americas’ are in their present social situation because of their past actions and rightfully so. This justifies the way things are and serves to build hatred against indigenous peoples, but more importantly it can also weaken our own self-worth. Some people will say that Apocalypto is just a movie, but it is not just a movie--this kind of work can and should be defined as propaganda. When you see something wrong about the way we are portrayed/treated/ it is your duty to stand up and say “No!”
Mr. Gibson an admitted propagandist! The Passion was made to gain Christian converts and to solidify belief. The Passion Attempts to justify Jesus’ sacrifice, and thereby justify Christianity. A work that justifies a political or religious ideal is propaganda! Why would we interpret this work any differently?
There are many aspects of a film; how well those aspects are created and executed dictates the quality of the work. Apocalypto is many things, but a good film it is not. The writing is unbelievable, the theme is non-existent, and the sets are a huge disappointment. Insults to the viewer and Mayan culture permeate the film. While the natural scenery in the film is at times quite beautiful, and the acting is good, these aspects do NOT excuse the movie.
This film fails on the fundamental level of believability. A movie asks the audience to believe what they experience. When an observer sees something on the screen that is clearly impossible—then their concentration on the story is spoiled and therefore their experience of the film as an uninterrupted event/work is ruined. The viewer’s attention goes from the film to questioning what they see. One of the basic rules of filmmaking (and of all theatre arts) is to not do this. Apocalypto repeats this fundamental mistake over and over again.

Story (condensed version—I know I left some details out)
A peaceful village of Mayan forest dwellers is attacked and the survivors are captured. As the village is under attack, the hero—Jaguar Paw—is able to hide his family down a hole. They become trapped in the hole. He promises to come back for them. Jaguar Paw and the other survivors are taken to a Mayan city where the women are sold into slavery, and the men are to be sacrificed. Most of the men escape sacrifice through a totally unbelievable episode. Jaguar Paw eventually escapes with a party of Mayan city dwellers in hot pursuit. He eventually kills most of them, and then makes it back to his village. The Mayan city dwellers finally catch up to him, but they see Europeans landing in their boats and are stunned. This allows Jaguar Paw to escape.
This story, while at times exciting, is unrealistic and unbelievable. Several opportunities arise upon which one could deepen the story, or build it up into something more than one level of meaning. ALL these chances are wasted and I was left totally disappointed. Mel asks us to believe that Jaguar paw can leap out of a tree and then outrun a jaguar—this was totally unbelievable and idiotic. I felt abused and misled by Mr. Gibson.

History or Cliche?

My mother and I went to see the movie together. She kept asking me throughout the movie, “Were they really like that?” And I kept telling her, “No, no, Mom….” I kept wondering how many people saw this movie and thought that it was super realistic and historically based. When and if this happens, a movie changes from being just a movie, to being propaganda justifying the dominant culture’s viewpoints. Film and television act as fundamental teaching utensils in American culture. Movies and TV display propaganda constantly. When this film goes to DVD and is played on television, millions of people will watch it and take it as historically accurate. They will believe that Mayans were diseased savages with no good qualities. I wonder how this will help relations between European culture and Nican Tlaca. Who will this movie help, and who will it hurt?
There are many problems that distract the viewer from what little there is of a story in this work. One way this occurs is with the overuse of clichés. A cliché, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a fancy way of saying overused idea. A sickening example is when Jaguar Paw, the hero of the film is just about to be sacrificed—guess what happens—no really—guess! Surprise, surprise—there is an eclipse at just that moment. The eclipse scares the Mayans, and then their priest declares that Kulkulkan has been satisfied. He needs no more sacrifices.
The above is one of the worst, and most overused clichés in film, television, and writing! In addition, everyone knows the Mayans were great astronomers and were superb mathematicians. How did they NOT know of the eclipse? Or did they know and were they misleading their people? Are you telling me they were unaware of eclipses? These kinds of questions created many moments of disbelief and ruined the film even more for me. Why would someone write something this bad? It is clearly insulting to the audience and ruins the viewer’s ability to believe what they are witnessing in the film. Again, the question of propaganda arises.
The other, far more insulting cliché is that right at the moment when the Mayans have caught up to, and are about to kill Jaguar Paw, the Europeans arrive. They actually save Jaguar Paw by stunning the Mayans and allowing Jaguar Paw to leave. This is the greatest insult in film since Dances with Wolves saves the Indians in that piece of work. The fact that it is historically inaccurate creates a belief in my mind that this is a work of propaganda by a religious fanatic who wants to establish that our people were/are savages for having their own religions and belief systems. It justifies how we were and are still treated.

“Those people practices human sacrifice!”

The focus on violence degrades the humanity of the Mayan civilization. The focus on the sadistic qualities of the Mayans in the picture was wrong. The Mayans had sacrifice, but it was highly ritualized, and not nearly as sadistic as portrayed in the film. There was not ONE redeeming quality in the Mayan city dwellers. If someone who is ignorant sees this film and takes it for history, then they will be glad to have gotten rid of those ‘savage civilizations.’ Again, I have to question if there was a religious or a cultural agenda going on with this movie.
Why do movies ALWAYS portray our people as savages? Our people were highly civilized and were superb mathematicians! Is there really some kind of political, religious, or other agenda going on? Just ask yourself about all the people who hate us, who want us gone. Where do they get these ideas, and how are they reinforced? Clearly, people like the minutemen and their allies, stormfront are ready to do almost ANYTHING to rid themselves of us. Then there are there are intellectuals like Samuel P. Huntington who is a racist bigot and works for Harvard University while writing bigoted propaganda! Why wouldn’t there be filmmakers, and other media types bent on portraying us in an unflattering manner? As we see today in Iraq, history repeats itself. We need to guard ourselves and call it as we see it. Point out the flaws in our ‘friends’ reasoning. If we don’t NOBODY else will!
Mr. Gibson’s work is an attack on us and should be seen as such. We will NOT stand for being portrayed as savages with nothing of substance to offer the world. We will not hate ourselves, and will remain proud and strong in our struggle against their interpretations of us. It is up to us to make films and literature that will portray our culture realistically. It is up to us to define ourselves and to write our OWN history! It is up to us to tell the truth.

Copyright Max Macias 2007

Monday, February 2, 2009

Hip-Hop and Web 2.0 (something I wrote a long time ago and haven't done anything with)

[If anyone is interested in this and wants to collaborate--get in touch with me please]

This is kind of an outline of the paper I want to write on hip-hop. Please give me your advice about how I could make it better.

I've noticed some striking similarities between hip-hop and our field--web 2.0 aspects and more.

Take for instance one fundamental aspect of hip hop--REMIXABILITY--one takes what one deems is valuable, and creates something new.

Mashups have been fundamental in hip hop since day one!


The fact that knowledge does not come from a vacuum, and pretty much EVERYONE who has contributed important knowledge to the world has had a teacher who's ideas the student REMIXED.

Take Franz Brentano for instance--he taught both Edumund Husserl and Freud, while Freud went on to teach Jung, and Husserl went on to teach Heidegger. The students REMIX their teachers work.


Tagging--hip hop tagging is placing one's mark on something, claiming it as one's own--this is what we do when we tag something in flickr, or whatever we use that gives us the option to TAG something. We can find it again, so with tagging, when one, or others see the tag they know who tagged it, and how often it comes up—how much the tagger has gotten “thrown up.”

Not only do we make it our own, but we also influence others. When someone tags a train they throw some art up there that is distinctive. I'm talking about bombs--where they don't just write their name as the tag, but they put on the train. If someone becomes familiar with these types of tags--they can tell which tagger is which and know their styles.


This is similar to the tagging we do on the web, and to how information is transferred between people--be it artistic style, or some other type of information. Our tagging can influence others through the discovery of new information that leads to the creation of new knowledge.

Also the fact that hip-hop and web 2.0 did NOT come from big corporations.

Hip Hop came from a small group of individuals, and web 2.0 also came from a relatively small group of individuals developing new ideas that were creative as well as social.

I mean when hip hop was first developed--the dj's would plug-in to the street lights and broadcast their mashups and new beats to the public, who in turn remixed this new information into knew knowledge to create something new. It was fully open-source and free. How beautiful can you get? This was actually a result of a remix from the Caribbean—dJ cool-herc came to nuy from there and brought the style, and influence of the Caribbean DJ’s who would put their systems on the backs of trucks and broadcast their shows to entire neighborhoods.

Do you know of anyone who has done any work on this?

I've never encountered it.

I think it can be a way to reach both people interested in libraries and hip hop.

What do you think?

Stop AAPI Hate!