Shenandoah (1965)


I liked all kinds of movies, all sorts of different genres. I’ve recently come to really love old westerns. But sometimes Westerners are hard to watch through modern eyes. Their treatment of Native Americans is shoddy at best, and racist at worst. Shenandoah does ok by Indians, but its treatment of the Civil War and slavery is a little muddy.

I try very hard in this blog to not get political. I have political opinions, of course, but I want this site to be a place where all sorts of views can come and enjoy what I have to offer. This was especially true when I was just sharing live music. But now that I’m writing more reviews some politics will inevitably slip in. It is difficult to review certain types of art without letting some political opinions in. But I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.

That being said there are certain opinions that I will let out proudly. I think it is pretty safe to say that slavery was bad. It was a great evil in this country. That’s not controversial, and if you want to argue that point then you can just see yourself out.

A lot of westerns are set during the Civil War. Very few of them are pro-slavery, but their treatment of that institution, and of black people in general, can be suspect. The older I get the more difficulty I have watching Civil War movies that make folks fighting for the Confederacy into heroes. I know not everyone who fought for the South owned slaves or was particularly pro-slavery. Lots of young men fought for the South because that was their patriotic duty, many probably had no opinion on slavery whatsoever.

I don’t want to get too far into the weeds with this. Shenandoah is a pretty good movie starring James Stewart. He plays a character who wants nothing to do with the war. He has no love for slavery, but neither will he lift a hand to help fight against it. My review wrestles with what to do with a character like that. It is something I wrestle with every time I watch a movie with outdated stereotypes. Sometimes I love the movie, but it is difficult to parse that with the way the movie handles certain issues.

Anyway, you can read my review here.

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