Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #19

Re: The General (1927)

Thank you so much for the “Zorro” recommendation. My family loves them, and my kids want to share them with everyone. If they were a little more historically accurate I would push to show them in my kids California History classes.

Also, we are grateful for your recommendation of The General but how do you handle the ambiguity of rooting for the wrong side in this movie? Clearly, the South is protrayed as the good guys, and the North the bad side.

I’m delighted that you and your family are enjoying “Zorro.” I really hope Disney follows up with a popular DVD edition for those unable to get the limited Walt Disney Treasures edition.

Regarding The General, would you think I was joking if I said that the South were the good guys? Not on the issue of slavery, of course. But from a constitutional perspective it can certainly be argued that on secession the North was in the wrong, and the South (where they still speak of “the War of Northern Aggression”) in the right. (In one of the National Treasure movies, Nicolas Cage discusses how before the Civil War people said “The United States are,” and after the war people said “The United States is.” He says it like it’s a good thing that we have Lincoln to thank for, but for a lot of Southerners — and federalist types — it’s a sore tooth to this day, and I don’t say they’re wrong.)

The North may (or may not) have been wrong (or wrong-er) with respect to jus in bello (i.e., moral conduct during warfare) as well as jus ad bello (i.e., moral justification for going to war). But that’s a bigger discussion than I’m prepared to have here!

Be that as it may, the fundamental conflict in The General is not North vs. South, but protagonist vs. various obstacles. The movie asks us to root for its hero, to see his world from his perspective, which I think we can do whatever the merits of Northern or Southern claims in the war.

Link to this entry

Coming Soon

Recently Added

In Theaters – Latest

In Theaters – All