As a child, I liked the 1992 Last of the Mohicans movie. I saw it again in my 20s and realized it was bad except for the music. This scene is totally moving, though:
This pure, innocent, beautiful white girl is about to be raped by a bloody savage and she’d rather die!
While reading the The Last Taboo at the New York Times, an epic length meditation on the black penis, I thought to look for the original Birth of a Nation on YouTube. It’s more than 3 hours long, but of course there are excerpts:
Wait…is the scene in Last of the Mohicans, which I liked as a little mulatto boy, a film nerd tribute to a movie about how great the Klan is? Before just now, I didn’t know that, in the book, Cora isn’t white. She’s a quadroon, and she loves Uncas. She was apparently the first tragic mulatta (the first tragic mulatta was a quadroon). In the movie, she’s just plain white, and she loves the Indian who’s a white guy. This is explained by the film’s creator:
GF: Was there a point when you were writing the screenplay where you abandoned Cooper’s novel?
MM: Yes, very early on, though not at a specific point but in specific areas. For example, I based [Major] Heyward on Cooper himself, not on Cooper’s character. Cooper believed in static hierarchies, a kind of political harmony of the spheres: If people and classes stay in place, there’s a harmony; if they don’t, there are problems. In Cooper, Hawkeye is constantly apologizing or reassuring total strangers that he’s not of mixed blood!: ‘Hi, I’m Hawkeye, how are you? I’m not of mixed blood.’ So the whole notion of races crossing, of miscegenation, of people moving into different classes, was anathema to Cooper. I decided to take all these characteristics and stick them into Heyward. If you read the novel very carefully, the daughter, Cora, who falls in love with Uncas and dies, is a mulatto. Her father, Colonel Munro, wanted Heyward to marry Cora but Hayward preferred Alice; Munro was initially insulted and went into a two-page diatribe about the fact that her mother was an aristocratic woman. I switched it around so that it’s Cora and Hawkeye who fall in love.
In the early 1990s, I thought Indians were cool, based on stuff like Last of the Mohicans. Looking back on it, this is similar to my white friend who told me that his sense of history comes from movies, and he thought The Last Samurai was respectful of Japanese people. I’ve never seen it, but…
It feels like this, knowing I liked the movie: