Books and Movies Reviews

The Searchers

The savage persona, the war paint, the feathers and the beating drums are just some of the stereotypical images and attributes associated with Native American culture. The casting of Native Americans into villainous roles of early film and television has perpetuated a false perception of Native Americans that is still tied to their culture today. For centuries, Native Americans have been defined by stereotypical perceptions of Indian culture. These preconceived notions of Native culture are amplified if not derived from, the racially biased portrayal of Native Americans in the mass media and film throughout history. Though some of the modern depictions of Native Americans today are more positive and historically accurate, Indian culture still carries the stigma of the stereotypes and images established in early film and media
Since its release in 1956, John Ford’s The Searchers has become one of the most controversial films in Hollywood history. At the center of the controversy is Ethan Edwards, played by John Wayne in what many consider his finest performance. Throughout the film Edwards pursues a band of Indians who killed his brother’s family and captured the daughters, one of whom, Debbie (Natalie Wood), is still alive.
After marauding Comanches kill his brother’s family and kidnap their youngest daughter, bitter, morally ambiguous Civil War veteran Ethan Edwards sets forth on a desperate quest to find his niece, Debbie, and save her from the “savages.” In tow, however, he has young Martin Pawley, the adoptive son of the dead family. Though the rest of Ethan’s family was able to take Martin in and care for him, regardless of his bloodline, Ethan seems to be able to have no love in his heart for someone who is not completely white. Throughout the film, Ethan degrades Martin not only through his insults, but by trying to stop Martin from coming with him on the search. This can be demonstrated by when Ethan arranges for Martin to…

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