Open thread, 7/30/2013

By Razib Khan | July 30, 2013 12:09 am

Sorry, this was late. Was out of town, showing my daughter the sites of the world….

MORE ABOUT: Open Thread
  • Robert Ford

    Saw Terrance Malik’s The New World finally. People here might be intrested as it depicts, quite graphically, what it was probably like when Pocohontas lived. Quite a moving and thought provoking film.

    • Sandgroper

      …but hopelessly romantic and historically inaccurate. Definitely worth watching, though – preferably after reading Charles C. Mann’s 1491, not before. I did both.

      • Robert Ford

        any chance i could get a cheat sheet list on what the corrections should be? i’d be interested to know as i haven’t read that. there are a few that i would guess but they’re obvious…

        • Sandgroper

          The most obvious is that it is extremely unlikely that Pocahontas had any kind of romantic relationship with John Smith, which forms a fairly prominent part of the film. Her religious conversion to Anglicanism and marriage to John Rolfe were genuine enough, but that happened after the colonists kidnapped her, apparently with the intention of ransoming her to her father for whatever it was the English wanted – but that ploy didn’t work, because (i) she was not actually a princess and therefore not that valuable as a hostage, and (2) she elected to remain with the English. The slight fly in the ointment at that moment was that she was already married to someone else, an indian, but the English did not recognise heathen marriages, so conveniently ignored it.

          In real life John Smith was short, portly, ugly and with a full beard, and evidently much given to embellishing written records of his adventures – it is unlikely Pocahontas ever saved his life, although she did intercede on the part of the colonists at other times. And at the time he knew Pocohantas in Virginia she could have been no more than 11 or 12, a naked little girl running around doing cartwheels with the kids in the settlement – and there is no record whatever of any romantic liaison between them. in fact, it seems she came to regard him as something of a father figure, from what she was recorded to have said to him when they met again in England, although she did have the incentive to be fully accepted as an English subject.

          The depiction of the indians as squeaky clean noble custodians of the land was probably a somewhat romantic view – they took personal hygiene more seriously than the English, but they are made by Malick’s lens to look so clean and wholesome as to be unbelievable.

          You need to read 1491 to get some of the more subtle nuances. But I really do recommend you read it, it’s a cracking read – I found it un-put-down-able and got through it in double quick time – something I can’t say about 1493, which I struggled through rather more.

          I found building the story of the film around a non-existent romance with a rather older Pocahontas than she actually was, to be an irritating obstacle to my enjoyment of the more historically accurate aspects of the film – and there are plenty of them, filmed in Malick’s eye-candy cinematography. Despite that, I have watched the film 4 times (very unusual for me) because I think if you can divert your attention from Pocahontas and Smith flinging themselves at each other, there is much there that does indeed give a very good sense of the time and place, and the nature of both the indians and the wretched Jamestown settlers.

          I can also recommend Malick’s Thin Red Line, if you haven’t seen it – in my view probably his finest work.

          • Robert Ford

            okay thanks a lot for that summary, much appreciated. I’m actually kind of glad I didn’t know all that before I watched the film because it probably would have ruined it. I mean, I could tell the romance part was exaggerated but…anyway, I’m quite fond of Tree of Life myself:) I did not care for his new one

  • Neuroconservative

    Not quite as highbrow as Malick, but I wonder if Razib has seen Naked & Afraid?

    • razibkhan


  • Sandgroper

    I meant to mention, Mike Morwood died.

  • razibkhan

    yes. definitely a big deal….


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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