The history of Texas is fascinating – Six Flags! – but it’s a very challenging subject for a drama series to tackle, partly because so many different groups of people are involved and partly because it’s all been so mythologised. I’ve got no personal connections to Texas at all, but, when I arrived in San Antonio, in the afternoon of what had already been a busy day, I just dumped my stuff in my hotel room and rushed straight out and practically bounced along the road to the Alamo, and then stood there doing the whole “OMG, I’m at the Alamo!!” thing and taking dozens and dozens of photos!
So, hey, I can hardly blame the producers of this series for starting off with the Alamo. However, really, they should have started with some background information, rather than just a few very gung-ho and one-sided sentences about how everyone in Texas was battling for freedom against an oppressive regime and had no choice but to fight or die. All right, Santa Anna was indeed an evil military dictator. His massacres of prisoners at both Goliad and the Alamo were appalling, and his attempts to repeal the Mexican Constitution and centralise power in himself alienated people across Tejas and across the rest of Mexico as well. And we did, to be fair, get to see Santa Anna – played by Olivier Martinez (that bloke who used to go out with Kylie Minogue and was then married to Halle Berry) – and hear his views. We even got to hear them in Spanish!
But I think that some background information about Mexico gaining its independence from Spain, the influx of Anglo settlers into Tejas and a more balanced presentation of Santa Anna’s reforms was called for. As it was, it all seemed a bit 1950s. Then, we got the women who’d survived the Alamo being kidnapped by Comanches, who were then chased and killed by the heroic Texas Rangers. Excuse me?!! The Comanches never came into it! They come into an awful lot of Texan history, but not that bit. This is 2016 – are we not a bit past the days of showing bloodthirsty Comanches running off with screaming women and children and being chased down by heroic white militiamen, on occasions where they didn’t even do anything?! Furthermore, one of the women was named as Emily West. Ah, I know that name … oh, yes, the Yellow Rose of Texas. Er, isn’t the whole idea about her that she was with Santa Anna at San Jacinto? She was never anywhere near the Alamo!
Oh dear. Sorry, this all sounds very negative, doesn’t it? And I gather that some people have moaned that the landscape’s wrong. It is wrong, but I suppose you’ve got to film where you can. They could hardly have filmed it in modern-day San Antonio: there’s a branch of Haagen Dazs next door to the Alamo! On to the positive stuff. It was genuinely very entertaining and I rather enjoyed it. And it’s not as if they’ve made up the actual main events, or got the dates of them wrong. Most importantly, they made the point that Tejanos as well as Texians were involved in the Texan War of Independence: it’s easy to get to thinking of it as Anglos versus Hispanics, when it was nothing of the sort. They also showed that there were black people present at the Alamo – although there were no mentions of slavery, and certainly no mentions of the fact that Mexico abolished slavery and that that was one of the reasons why many Anglo Texians wanted independence – and also showed a Comanche war conference, so it really wasn’t one of these old-fashioned things which only show events from a white Anglo viewpoint and make everyone else into baddies.
So plenty of gold stars for that. I’m not saying that everyone has to be obsessively “politically correct”, but there were a lot of different groups involved in the events in Texas/Tejas in the 1830s, and, in order to understand what was going on, it’s important to take all the different viewpoints into account. But I think they have let the mythology take control of things. However, it’s meant to be a drama series, not a documentary series, so maybe I’m being over-critical. And, at the end of the day, a drama series is meant to entertain, and this certainly entertained!
Ooh, and I do love those Southern accents! Bill Paxton did a sterling job of playing Sam Houston. Makes you want to fly off to the Deep South right now, and enjoy being addressed as “ma’am” …