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Apocalypto, Mayans, and misattribution

Apocalypto, Mayans, and misattribution December 6, 2006

Okay, this is weird. Yesterday, I linked to a spoiler-filled article on Apocalypto by Traci Arden, an expert on Mayan culture, on the Archaeology magazine website. Among other things, she writes:

I am not a compulsively politically correct type who sees the Maya as the epitome of goodness and light. I know the Maya practiced brutal violence upon one another, and I have studied child sacrifice during the Classic period. But in “Apocalypto,” no mention is made of the achievements in science and art, the profound spirituality and connection to agricultural cycles, or the engineering feats of Maya cities. Instead, Gibson replays, in glorious big-budget technicolor, an offensive and racist notion that Maya people were brutal to one another long before the arrival of Europeans and thus they deserve, in fact they needed, rescue.

Now Reuters reports that real-life Mayans are offended by what they have seen in the trailers for this film — and get this:

Gibson replays, in glorious big budget Technicolor, an offensive and racist notion that Maya people were brutal to one another long before the arrival of Europeans and thus they deserved, in fact, needed, rescue,” said Ignacio Ochoa, director of the Nahual Foundation that promotes Mayan culture.

Seems to me that either Ochoa plagiarized the Archaeology magazine website, or he quoted a passage from Arden’s article and the Reuters reporter failed to attribute it correctly.

Incidentally, I think Arden’s interpretation of the film is wrong on this point, but I won’t say why until after the film comes out.

DEC 11 UPDATE: Interestingly, a BBC News article on the hubbub posted last Friday cites both Reuters and Traci Arden’s article.


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