Bare Breasted Indians
Published: N Magazine 25.2 Winter, 2005
Historical Inaccuracy is Disappointing
(Scroll down for Apocalypto comments)
It is said you should not judge a book by its cover. How
about judging a movie by its trailer? There have been a couple of movies that
I thought I would see, but upon seeing the trailer in advance of the movie, I found some glaring inaccuracy that just ruined
it for me.
One was the controversial Passion of the Christ. When I first read of this Mel Gibson project it was intriguing. A period movie in the languages that were spoken at the time. This
gave me the idea that there was going to be an accurate portrayal of Jesus' life. Then
I saw the trailer where they showed the Romans about to put a spike thru Jesus' hand, nailing him to the cross. That blew it, and I realized this was just another poorly researched Passion Play, no better than those
popular in medieval Christendom, but with better special effects.
For those who don't know, Jesus was not nailed thru the hands.
The Romans knew that this seemingly logical nail site would not work because the flesh tears away under weight and
the victim's hands fall free. The nails were put between the ulna and radius
bones in the wrist, which would hold a body until it was nothing more than a skeleton.
Now, another historical movie is slated to come out at the end of 2005, one that I initially said
was a must-see for me. The New World,
starring Colin Farrell as Captain John Smith is about the settlement at Jamestown and the relationship with Pocahontas, Chief
Powhatan's daughter. The visuals in the trailer were stunning, cinematography
excellent, but the costuming, though elegant, was historically inaccurate and again ruined the whole historical aspect of
For you see, the very beautiful and striking Q'orianka Kilcher, who plays Pocahontas, is
seen wearing a "Fredericks of Jamestown" halter top when she meets the strange hairy aliens.
Fact is, if the weather was warm enough to wear the halter top, there would have been no reason
to wear it. Natives on this continent wore clothing to protect against the cold
and were not corrupted into body shame as the Europeans, who would later bring that concept to them.
When the real Pocahontas met Captain Smith, she was a barebreasted girl of 12. She was likely totally top free, or she may have worn a dress, with or without a shoulder strap, for the
native women wore no more top covering than the men. Female breasts were shown
as shamelessly as the male.
What Capt. John Smith really would have seen
Could be a couple of reasons for this obvious historical inaccuracy.
One is that most Americans have lived under our Puritan/Taliban mindset for so long they don't know that the idea that
female breasts are shameful is their own limited cultural construct, and that most tropical cultures in the world see them
as just another common body part.
Another possible reason is that a PG-13 rated movie will get more money than an R rated one, and
bare female breasts would garner an R rating. This is really a shame that our
screwed up cultural mindset would require an R rating for showing a woman's breasts as a natural body part, a child feeding
part by the way, with no sexual context.
There is one other possible reason for inaccurately covering Pocahontas' breasts (although the rating
system is the logical one). Ironically, it may be to avoid the outcry from Native
Americans. Yes, the very people who lived so naturally and had a healthy, shameless
view of the human body were corrupted by the sick religious teachings of the Puritans and now their descendants wish to revise
history and deny that their forebears were bare.
How could I expect an entertainment industry to stand up to such political correctness when professional
anthropologists have succumbed to the protests. While living in Gainesville Florida
in 1996, there was a feature in the paper about the Florida Museum of Natural History making detailed models to "create an
authentic replica of people who inhabited South Florida for thousands of years before the Spanish conquered their homeland." Well, I wrote to the museum complaining that their models were clothed, when in fact
the actual engravings of the first encounters with Europeans showed them to be mostly naked, and the women never covering
I received an unexpectedly candid reply from a curator at the Institute of Archaeology and Paleoenvironmental
Studies at the Florida Museum of Natural History. He agreed with my point that
the Calusa did go naked or nearly naked. He said that sometimes the women wore
skirts and the men did wear a loin covering. However, it is accurate that the
women did not cover their breasts.
He admitted what I already knew, that archaeologists do project the present cultural constraints
onto the past in spite of their best efforts to be objective. Quite candidly
he stated that, "in the museum profession, this is a particularly sensitive matter for us because we must strive to be as
accurate and truthful as we can be, yet we cannot offend the very public that we are trying to educate." He went on to assure me that they agonize about every issue I raised.
He also told me why it was such a sensitive issue with the Natural History Museum. Seems they had a "First Encounters" exhibit in Gainesville and portrayed a paramount chief of the Cofiticheque
with too little clothing. The chief was a woman and was quite well described
by several of the deSoto chroniclers, but because they portrayed her accurately with bare breasts the Indians were furious
and the exhibit was picketed by Indian activists. The Museum ultimately backed
down and a modest leather cape was fashioned for the queen of the Cofiticheque, based on no historical information at all.
So, if professional
archaeologists are forced to portray a known bare-breasted female Indian chief in a garment that she likely would have found
offensive, so as not to offend the modern sensitivities of Indians who have lost their cultural root, how could I expect an
entertainment industry to rock the boat with a real portrayal.
An equally outrageous false presentation was published in the supposed
venerable National Geographic magazine in December 2000. In portraying a scene of people who inhabited Florida 14,000 years ago, they had a naked child running
in the background and a man wearing a loincloth but nothing else in the foreground, but the woman in this obvious warm environment
was wearing a full cape and skirt. I no longer subscribe to National Geographic which is a sell-out based on these politically correct and obviously inaccurate reconstructions. The art for this fanciful picture, by the way, was done with consultants from
the University of Florida.
This scientific bending to modern political and cultural dictates is a shame on many affronts. It perpetuates the Puritan belief in body-shame that makes something nasty of a part
of the female body that is no more offensive than the male counterpart. And it
perpetuates the lie, which under the auspices of the so-called professionals and scholars, becomes the norm in the minds of
the masses, driving the truth even further into the arcana of academia. Quite
frankly, it makes us look pretty stupid as a culture and that is the worse shame.
So, it is unlikely I will be seeing The New World, because
it is in fact an inaccurate portrayal from the same old world.
Well, since I trashed a Mel Gibson flick above for historical inaccuracy, let me
trash another one for the same reason, but one that I did see.
Apocalypto, which came out in December 2006 had a couple of major
problems, confusing Aztec rituals with Mayan and putting the collapse of the Mayan civilization at the time of the Spanish
arrival. Missed that by a few hundred years Mel.
However, taken as fiction it was an exciting action movie with a human element
rather than a documentary of the decay of a civilization. And, as a fictional piece, at least their costuming was more
accurate than what is being presented in museums and the venerable National Geographic magazine.
Mel accurately portrayed the Mayans as a near naked culture, where the women
did not go out of their way to cover their breasts. This was subdued, wearing bands of necklaces as seen in natural
cultures today, but most of the women were as bare breasted as the men.
Apocalypto 2006 Dalia Hernandez & Rudy
Not American Indian, but another natural culture