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"Road to El Dorado": Fool's Gold

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  • Robert Schmidt
    Indian Comics Irregular #28 I haven t seen the new animated flick The Road to El Dorado yet, but I have seen the commercials and trailers, the plot
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 25, 2000
      Indian Comics Irregular #28

      I haven't seen the new animated flick "The Road to El Dorado" yet,
      but I have seen the commercials and trailers, the plot summaries, and
      the reviews. They make it clear this movie is perhaps the worst
      mass-media depiction of Native people in a decade. If "Pocahontas"
      took two steps forward and one step back, "El Dorado" steps straight
      off the edge of a cliff.

      How does "El Dorado" go wrong? After seeing the movie, Sara Vazquez,
      MD, wrote:

      As a Mexican-American woman, I felt that the portrayal of the
      Indian characters in the movie was universally degrading to my
      gender and ethnicity; from the vacantly-expressioned childlike
      townspeople, to the scantily-clad loose-moraled heroine, to the
      bloodthirsty conniving priest, all portrayed the worst stereotypes
      that continue to hurt Indigenous and mestizo people today.

      What about the age-old argument that movies are harmless fantasies
      not meant to be taken seriously? Olin Tezcatlipoca, director of the
      Mexica Movement, addressed it in an LA Times article (4/10/00). He
      compared "El Dorado" to a concentration camp caper in which
      happy-go-lucky Fritz deals with an evil rabbi and a Jewish sex toy
      without ever mentioning World War II, Nazis, or the Holocaust. His
      conclusion:

      DreamWorks is claiming that the film is a "complete fantasy fairy
      tale," but the scenario of the concentration camp above would
      never be accepted as a "complete fantasy fairy tale" by anyone.
      DreamWorks thinks it is acceptable here because the story is only
      about indigenous people.

      To mix metaphors, if this yellow brick "Road" was paved with good
      intentions, it misses the gold by a mile. It doesn't even earn a
      tarnished bronze. Whatever praise DreamWorks deserved for
      undertaking a movie about Mesoamerican culture, in which Cort├ęs is
      the villain, the filmmakers forfeited it with the results.

      Independently, Tezcatlipoca and Vazquez have called for a protest and
      boycott of "El Dorado." For their views and more, visit
      http://members.xoom.com/peaceparty/eldorado.htm.

      The Temptress as Role Model?

      The ad campaign gives a good idea of "El Dorado's" lack of
      authenticity. The Native woman, Chel, is dressed in a tube top, a
      loincloth, and little else. As Vazquez noted, this is totally unlike
      the conservative Mesoamerican woman's typical wear.

      Some Latinos have called Chel another "hot and spicy" Native--a
      hoochie-coochie mama. And this is the PG-rated version. Initially,
      the movie featured "steamy love scenes and saucy outfits" for her,
      according to the Times.

      The animators claim they wanted to give Chel "a rounder shape and
      make that an affirmation of being beautiful." That is, they wanted to
      make her different from Pocahontas, Belle, and other Disney heroines.
      From this you might surmise Chel isn't Playmate material like Sacheen
      Littlefeather.

      Wrong. The supposed role model is voluptuously sexy, which is
      arguably worse than making her athletically sexy. So much for
      progress in depicting Native people.

      PEACE PARTY Wins Puffin Prize

      On a more positive note, PEACE PARTY won a $500 grant from the Puffin
      Foundation, which is dedicated to "continuing the dialogue between
      art and the lives of ordinary people." This follows the $1,000 grant
      PEACE PARTY earned in 1997. The people at Puffin, at least, know the
      difference between serious art and stupid stereotyping.

      Rob Schmidt
      Blue Corn Comics
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