No Guts, No Glory

by Matt McKeon on October 24, 2007 · 0 comments

I took my US History I students on a field trip to the Minuteman National Park last Wednesday. Great day. My US History II kids, currently studying the Civil War, were left with my co-teacher, and we decided the show the movie, “Glory,” which I’m pretty sure that anyone reading this post has seen. I don’t like showing movies, it takes too long, its too passive, and movies are primarily entertainment, or art, if you will, and distort history.

Hell, I’ve distorted some history in my time, without even trying, but what gets me is that movies recycle the same god damn plot again and again. Take “The Patriot.” Who was the title patriot in the movie? It isn’t Mel Gibson. He’s motivated entirely by revenge. He’s riding the vengeance trail, a well marked route, travelled by every Hollywood action star since James Stewart.

Gosh, I wonder if the final scene will feature a climatic hand to hand duel with the chief bad guy, and it will look like the bad guy will win, but at the last moment, Mel will win. Phew, I didn’t see that coming!

In a much better film, “Glory” some of those cliches are on display. A tough Irish sergeant is uninhibited by p.c. and can spew racist insults–but you know, you’re got to be a hardass to toughen the men for combat, and apparently none of the blacks or the tender hearted white officers are up for the job. Thank goodness the viciousness was just for show, and when he salutes the 54th when they march, it means something special: tough guy to tough guys.

The hero=kill ratio. You can judge the star billing and charmisa of a star by how many extras he dispatches. Morgan Freeman kills quite a few, Denzel Washington knocks off half a dozen in the first fight, Matthew Broderick stabs and shoots three or four. Andre Brougher, playing the not-keeping-it-real Thomas, finally earns some respect by back shooting a reb at a critical moment. And he gets in some good killing in the final attack. The South Carolina young man with the sweet disposition is a demon with a rifle, displaying the key Hollywood connection between marksmanship and Bible thumping so beautifully protrayed in “Saving Private Ryan.”

What really bothers me is the character of Thomas, Shaw’s African American boyhood pal. He’s show as incredibly prissy, with a surreally over formal speech and pompous vocabulary. Of course he useless as a soldier and whimpers like a little girl during training, becoming a target for Denzel’s bully. Later, he does some nice killing, and earns the guys’ respect.

What bothers me is that education = not really black. Instead of being a vital member of the unit because he CAN read and comprehend documents, newspapers, army regulations, and contracts, his education makes him less worthy.

I’m going to post about some factual inaccuracies in “Glory” later.

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