I have seen the movie Dances with Wolves several times, and I have always liked it. I watched it again tonight, and I am quite confident in saying that it is one of the best films ever made.
Dances with Wolves touches upon several themes that are of importance to me. The Native Americans are the underdogs in this movie; yet, they are the actual heroes. That is a complex understanding for many–especially for those of us who grew up with a firm belief that the good folks always wear white, ride white horses, and win; and the bad folks wear black, ride black horses, and always lose. Dances with Wolves dares to reiterate the point that things are not always black and white. This is an issue that I examined in my earlier post today. It also voices the reality that everyone does not always get what they deserve. The fact that a person or that a culture succeeds does not always mean that they are the good guys.
About midway through the movie, we are drawn into a scene which reveals that the white men have unnecessarily slaughtered a herd of buffalo for the single purpose of merchandising their skins. The meat of the buffalo, a staple of the Native Americans. is allowed to spoil, and we the established white people are challenged to form the conclusion that the fact that “we” comfortably do a thing does not always make it correct.
In a similar and perhaps more painful scene, the white soldiers kill the wolf that had befriended the character played by Kevin Costner.
The wolf was never fully tamed and he was also not the establishment. Rather, it is clear that the wild wolf was the victim of the thoughtless, feelingless establishment.
On my garden blog today, I wrote a post questioning what is and is not a weed Here. The wolf is a bit like a weed. Both are beings of nature–and not controlled by man. Today, I talked about how the wild, spring violets that I dearly love are loathed by many. Some even consider them to be noxious tares. I quoted Victor Hugo, who reminded us that especially in regards to nature, the categorization of things requires thought:
With the exercise of a little care, the nettle could be made useful; it is neglected and it becomes hurtful. It is exterminated. How many men resemble the nettle!” He added with a pause: “Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators. – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
The movie Dances with Wolves makes a similar point. The Native Americans were portrayed to be like nature’s wild violets. Without being planted, without being cultivated, without being tamed, without being controlled, the Native Americans dared to grow.
The need for control causes many to reject what is beyond their cages. The Native Americans were untamed and foreign to and out of the white man’s regulation and ultimately, the whites eradicated them. But the wildness and naturalness of the Native Americans did not make them bad. Beneath the exteriors and the differences in dress and language, the Native Americans were human–in fact, they were more human than the whites who sought to eliminate them and their habitats. The movie Dances with Wolves asks the viewer to look beyond what he has been taught to see and to reserve immediate judgment.
People who judge without thinking upset me. It seems that lately, I have been writing extensively about the people who refuse to see, to feel, and to think beyond their boxes, and Dances with Wolves is a perfect film to illustrate the need for more compassion and for less thoughtless judgment; but that is not the only thing that is good about the movie. The soundtrack is exquisite.
All of the lead roles are played passionately.
Dances with Wolves is beautiful. It is masterful in every way possible, and I heartily salute the fact that it won the 1990 Oscar for Best Movie. It is a tribute to the humanness that I wish I saw in all of humanity.
©Jacki Kellum April 21, 2016