The texas revolution has been mythologized in film history essay

Matthew EderDr. Lila RakoczyHistory 3388. 01Mythologizing the Past” Remember the Alamo!” the battle cry made famous during the Texas War of Independence stirs up all kinds’ emotion both good and bad. It also helps feed myths and legends of events that may not always be accurate and allows history to be skewed from the facts to better target the preferred audience. ” Crisp points out time after time, some voices of the Texas Revolution have been placed in the limelight, while others have been neglected or even silenced” (Davidson and Stoff x). In the case of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution, history seems to favor the Anglo-Americans. While history and the mythology favored by this group shines a negative light on the Mexican forces and to an extent the Tejano population by the simple fact of neglecting them or not giving them any sincere attention. Myths do not need to debunked and taken from the public history of the Texas Revolution and the Alamo, but they do need to be researched properly and have the findings made available to help the public better understood the myths. The Texas Revolution has been mythologized in film, art, literature, and even poetry. Some of the larger myths revolve around Davy Crocket, Jim Bowie, and Travis inside the Alamo. The myth surrounding Crockett seems to garner the most attention and is one of the key topics discussed in Sleuthing the Alamo by James Crisp. He focuses mostly around Crockett’s death and how historians and the public seem to be very torn between how it happened and the image portrayed of Crockett’s ” heroic last stand”. Film has portrayed Crockett several times, most notably in 1955 by Fess Parker shows a Davy Crockett continuing to fight off the Mexican soldiers as the movie fades to black and, “…there is no doubt that Walt Disney’s Davy went down swinging” (Crisp 68). In 1960 John Wayne portrayed the role of Crockett in The Alamo helps strengthen this mythical image by showing Crockett fight to the death. More recently in 2004 Billy Bob Thornton played a slightly more historically accurate version of the mythical giant of Davy Crockett in, The Alamo. This version was embellished upon just like the rest for a Hollywood film. My most memorable embellishment of Davy Crockett in this film is when he decided to play the fiddle along with the Mexican military’s band. Also, instead of fighting to the death heroically and being over come by the ” evil” Mexican army it shows a captured Crockett executed along with other prisoners under the orders of a villainous Santa Anna. Crockett’s myth along with others is even fueled by the art depicting the Alamo. Henry McArdle created Dawn at the Alamo which resides in the Senate Chamber of the Texas State Capitol. ” At the dramatic heart of the picture, a leering Mexican soldier is about to thrust a bayonet into the back of an unsuspecting William Barrett Travis, the commander of the beleaguered Alamo garrison”(Crisp 165), historians argue this to be inaccurate and believe that Travis was actually killed much earlier in the fighting by a bullet to the head. Davy Crocket is also portrayed in this painting by McArdle, it shows him grappling and fighting off several Mexican soldiers with his back to a wall, further fueling the myth of the heroic Davy Crockett fighting to the bitter end. The myths surrounding the Anglo-Americans that fought in the Texas Revolution and the negative portrayal of the Mexicans overshadow the Tejanos such as Juan Seguin who was, “…one of the first Texans to take up arms against what he called the ‘ aggressions’ of ‘ the tyrannical government of Santa Anna’”(Crisp 43), who also returned to bury the remains the Alamo defenders. Crisp’s narrative helps examine the different views and stances historians have taken on the Alamo and figures such as Crockett. Some have tried to express different views on Crockett’s death only to be harshly judged with hate mail and by fellow historians that let their personnel feelings crowd their judgment. Dan Kilgore published How Did Davy Die? in 1978, he stated that Davy Crockett had surrendered or allowed himself to be captured by the Mexican Army. This was met with criticism from people with a strong attachment to the image of Davy going down swinging. One writer “…wanted Kilgore’s mouth washed out with soup” (Crisp 104), this man from Alabama felt so strongly he included this statement in his letter: “’several facts concerning white-Southern men, age 17 on: Countenance is excellent, keen eyesight, healthy, and indeed will battle it out with you fists, knives, guns or will climb up on the roof of a Texas-based church [and] fight in front of God, women & everybody…Before I would have allowed a pompous, filthy-mouthed dog-of-a-man such as ‘ General’ Santa Ana to capture me I’d shoot myself two or three times, vitally’”(Crisp 105). This shows how the myth of Crockett is perceived by the public and the need for the public to be able to understand myth from history. When you deal in public history such as the Alamo and Texas Revolution you will be dealing with mythical figures and events. The public either embraces or quite possibly might reject and even find offensive in the case of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution. A major problem with the myths from the Alamo is how they portray non Anglo-Americans. Crisp states that the first fact he learned about Texas at an early was that the, ” place I called home was once an independent nation” (1). He goes onto reiterate about his learning of the Lone Star flag and how he sensed it somehow held an importance to others. ” I was born a Texan. The meaning of that identity was shaped by the constant invocation of ‘ our’ heroic struggle for freedom from a brutish oppressor-‘ Remember the Alamo!’”(Crisp 1), is a basis for how kids where educated to feel about being from Texas and its history. Crisp goes on to talk about Texas History Movies that made up part of his class curriculum in his Texas History class, which did not shy from showing “…Mexican cruelty and butchery” (Crisp 9). Things such as these helped foster the resentment by Mexican descendants and the racist portrayals that developed from the mythology that was reinforced through the different mediums: art, film, and literature. Throughout the twentieth century prevailing wisdom stated that a racial, cultural, and political gap between Anglos and Mexicans was the main cause for the Texas Revolution (Crisp 23). This method of thinking started in 1911 with Eugene Barker and though this theory softened over the years and leaned more to the term ” cultural conflict”, and continued up into the 1990s. The films and artwork of Crocket and the Alamo depict heroic men fighting against a menacing looking Mexican Army lead by a tyrannical dictator wanted to remove the Anglos from his country and take their land and lives, or so the supporters of these myths would have you believe. ” For 70 years, the Alamo was largely ignored, until late-19th century racism brought it back into the forefront.  At this point, the variety of people defending the Alamo is reduced to Anglo-Saxons” (Wingo), which is strange because there where many Tejanos also fighting alongside them and the Tejano Juan Seguin played an instrumental role in Texas’s War for Independence. As Crockett’s mythological fight to the death at the Alamo gained more notoriety Tejano participation in the whole war seemed to fade away all together even though they fought side by side with these Anglos. The depiction of Mexicans seemed to be shown in a much more negative light as the Anglo myths grew. In film it seemed that actual Mexicans either were portrayed by non Mexican actors or barely at all in Disney’s Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier. The painting, The Fall of the Alamo by Onderdonk, while on display was vandalized and slashed. According to DeShields ” Mexican visitors to the gallery, expressed anger, sometimes with clenched fists and vehement gestures, a t certain figures in the picture”(Crisp 175). Some might ask why Mexican viewers were so angered by a painting… They had cause to feel this way infront of them was a “…symbolic depiction of the Mexican army as a savage horde…Before their eyes, a new historical mythology was being produced. History was not being rewritten. It was being repainted”(Crisp 175). Public history displayed this way about the past helps mold mainstream attitudes towards the present culture. Crisp believes that this racially charged rewriting/repainting of history that occurred over a hundred years ago could still be affecting us today, especially Onderdonk’s painting which is resided in the Governor’s Mansion. Mythological figures and events arose from the Texas War for Independence and most notably the Alamo; this encompasses the men associated with these events along with the events themselves. When dealing with public history as a historian it is important that the history and its subject matter are front and center not the personnel feelings of a historian. In the fore