Yes, last of the Mohicans is a traditional narrative. Some would say the very structure of narrative is sexist. There is always a man at the centre who is a hero. Women are relegated to positions as sexual objects, often the bad guy is not white. In this sense drama can look like a negotiation of different bodily value in a culture. Narratives are accused of being patriarchal because they privilege the male perspective. In my experience, this has been used as an excuse to gloss over what I feel are a lot of brilliant pieces of literature. Feminism and Postmodernism are often privileged, the narrative is often viewed as something that is associated with low culture and is therefore less sophisticated.
I will say right now that I have been through enough shitty post-modern, amorphous, whiny pieces of shit to say that this utopian need to defy the traditional structure of narrative has resulted in this obsessive need to be new and different and to challenge the conventions of theatre so much that it ends up disappearing up its own asshole. The postmodern movement ends up glorifying bad half-assed storytelling, theatrical masturbation, extended movement pieces, pointless collages of nonsensical tripe – or worst of all, Shakespeare with cell phones… I just feel like when there are absolutely no rules, and no formal training in the traditional structure of narrative, theatre education embodies all the worst elements of a liberal arts education. It becomes something that is so free and open it is invulnerable to any kind of critique – it can never be wrong. There is no structure with which to compare it in order to criticize it. This however, doesn’t make it good. Anyways, while I will be mentioning modernist/PoMo writers/performers, such as Eugene Ionesco (post coming soon), and generally people who push the envelope a little more, I will be devoting time to traditional narratives and epic films which totally unapologetically privilege the male point of view. This is not something to apologize for or vilify. Men have their own perspective. Sure it may be over-done, but the structure of narrative can be reappropriated in an infinite number of ways to privilege a female point of view as well. It can also be reworked creatively in all kinds of cool asynchronous ways (Pulp Fiction). The fact is, women and men are both obsessed with this genre. This is basically the structure of the romance novel/the adventure novel/historical fiction/thrillers… It’s compelling. The age-old story of some marginal bastard son of a nobleman rising through the ranks to get the girl and fight an oppressive regime against impossible odds only to end up changing the social order has a visceral appeal because we can all identify with these leading male characters. They’re compelling. They rise out of a marginal community and call attention to oppressed class. I for one am not ashamed to say that I enjoy a good narrative, a good historical fiction, a good Louis L’amour western. Brilliant men had an interesting perspective in the world which they used the narrative to draw out in an artful way.
In some ways, the possibilities of the narrative are limitless. God dammit I even like a good action movie. Last of the Mohicans combines the romantic imaginatory vacation of historical fiction with a badass damsel in distress heroic narrative. It is…seriously jsut so badass you guys. It doesn’t have a black and white view of colonial times, nor of subjugation of the lady-folk. A shallow analysis might conclude that this is a racist story, portraying the Huron as savage tortures and rapists, in many ways it laments the passing of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and portrays the British and French as despicable and disconnected from their own sensuality.
The archetypal British redcoat figure is a prime example of this – Maj Duncan Heyward (Steven Waddington). He totally tries to hit up the damsel in the story – Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe) but his approach appears to be somewhat creepy, overly respectful, distanced, lacking in any kind of visceral sexuality – everything that is wrong with the ideal Victorian male. Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) on the other hand, is a mountain man raised by the Mohican Iroquoians, who totally sweeps her off her feet with his no-nonsense frank seduction – also, he’s Daniel Day-Lewis, yet another example of women respecting men who call a spade a spade and just get on with the damn seduction, no apologies necessary. But I’m all over the place here. Anyways, Daniel Day and Uncas show that just because a male is aware of his sexuality, and makes the first move, he’s not an alpha male dickhead who needs to display dominance at all times, his power is more subtle; something the contemporary TapouT culture could definitely learn.
I also just love the setting and the depiction of warfare. Check out this sweet clip (SPOILER ALERT) It’s from the ending.
So as a brief synopsis – Hawkeye, Uncas and Chingachgook are caught up in the wars between the English/Iroquois and the French/Huron. They totally shack up with these British babes (daughters of the English general) whose escort is totally in love with them and of course, hates the three heroes. He finds an excuse to imprison them because they refuse to serve in combat. They are forced to participate in a siege while the French close in on them. Magua, the Huron war chief (Wes Studi) has an extreme grudge against the redcoat general and swears to “wipe his seed from the earth” (i.e. – kill his daughters). Anyways, long story short the Huron sneak attack the British (with the three heroes taken prisoner) who have promised to leave the territory after losing the battle. The three dudes and that creepy English major escape with the lady-folk after their father is killed by Magua, but the determined Magua pursues them with a vengeance. They are forced to leave the women to be captured, as the Huron will not kill them. Then the story becomes an amazing chase when the three Mohicans pursue Magua to save the women from slavery.
The battle scene –
Sure, because men were privileged they had more opportunities to create…absolutely…but does that mean they were always perpetuating an ideal of patriarchy? Absolutely not. Men were people, and often, they had surprisingly feminist messages. It’s really sexist to assume men are all pro-male perpetuating robots. In my experience the “good guy” is always the guy who actually respects the damsel’s autonomy, who is sensitive and gentle. The bad guy is the rapist who doesn’t give a shit. Last of the Mohicans is a prime example of this concept, by the way. In a world in which men dominate…the ones who are able to connect with women are seen as the most admirable. What does that say about men? That we are nothing without women, that our happiness depends on them….that they have something that we lack?