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Dances with Wolves: Dominance and Assimilation - Movie Review

Autor:   •  April 11, 2011  •  Book/Movie Report  •  1,324 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,799 Views

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The movie Dances with Wolves tells of a soldier, John Dunbar, who is unhappy with the current state of his life. He attempts to kill himself and instead ensures victory for his troops. Even with the honor he receives for his boldness, Dunbar is still not satisfied and requests to be sent to the frontier in order to see it before it is gone. The fort he has been assigned to lead has been abandoned and yet he decides to stay alone. While at the abandoned fort, Dunbar encounters the Lakota people and eventually assimilates into their culture. The film portrays itself as a new telling of history where the Indian people are not just the companion of white men or unintelligent savages, but they are the equals and their lifestyle is something to strive for. Dunbar supposedly finds a more satisfying lifestyle among the Indians where he finds a type of acceptance among them. The audience is meant to believe that he becomes fully assimilated with the Lakota. Yet, if this were true he would not impose white men's way of fighting on the Indians and he would certainly not leave them at the end of the movie. As Louis Owens states in his article "Apocalypse at the Two-Socks Hop," "Dances with Wolves is, from beginning to end, the perfect, exquisite reenactment of the whole colonial enterprise in America, and it is the most insidious vehicle yet for this familiar message because it comes beautifully disguised as its opposite: a revisionist, politically correct western" (114). The movie is a clichéd tale of white men dominating savages disguised as a revolutionary telling of true Indian lifestyle being a better alternative to the white men's way of living.

In the beginning of the movie it is clear that Dunbar is unhappy with his current life. He even goes so far and to attempt suicide and yet fails. Therefore, when he finds happiness among the Lakota tribe the audience assumes it is because they have a better lifestyle. In reality, Dunbar is feeding off of the tribe's reliance and idolization of him. He absorbs the Indian way of life and in turn becomes more Indian than the actual Indians. As Owens states when Dunbar finds the herd of buffalo, "It seems that Dunbar, the white colonizer, has already grown beyond them. If the relationship between Plains Indians and buffalo is a signifier of Native authenticity, then clearly the Costner character is more authentically ‘Indian' than the Indians in this scene as he leads the Lakotas to the herd" (125). Although the Indians have been tracking buffalo for years, Dunbar is able to locate the herd before any of the experienced Indians. This action is what earns him acceptance into the tribe and even elevates him to hero status for saving the tribe from starvation. Throughout the movie Dunbar is seen as a "Christ-like" figure that the Lakota's will eventually submit to. As Owens states, "The ‘white god' will return to civilization,


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