Ooh–I just love that Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” is not only a box-office smash but is twisting the knickers of the oh-so-politically correct college anthropologists who have spent decades promoting the legend that the Maya Indians of Mexico and Central America were peaceful stargazers who spent their days weaving blankets and worshipping Grandmother Willow–until the dead white colonial male European colonials came along and wrecked everything.

Here is anthropologist Traci Ardren wringing her hands at Archaeology magazine:

“I know the Maya practiced brutal violence upon one another, and I have studied child sacrifice during the Classic period. But in ‘Apocalypto,’ no mention is made of the achievements in science and art, the profound spirituality and connection to agricultural cycles, or the engineering feats of Maya cities. Instead, Gibson replays, in glorious big-budget technicolor, an offensive and racist notion that Maya people were brutal to one another long before the arrival of Europeans and thus they deserve, in fact they needed, rescue. This same idea was used for 500 years to justify the subjugation of Maya people and it has been thoroughly deconstructed and rejected by Maya intellectuals and community leaders throughout the Maya area today…. To see this same trope about who indigenous people were (and are today?) used as the basis for entertainment (and I use the term loosely) is truly embarrassing. How can we continue to produce such one-sided and clearly exploitative messages about the indigenous people of the New World?”

Yes, let’s have some “Maya intellectuals and community leaders” (that’s academic-speak for “Marxist scholars and agitators at Mexican universities”) tell us how to think. Earth to Ardren: The Maya were “subjugated” long before the Spanish arrived after their civilization collapsed in 900 A.D. (so much for their “achievements in science” and “engineering feats”) and they were conquered by successive indigenous groups that were even more into “brutal violence” and “child sacrifice” than they were. The Spanish didn?t get there until 600 years after there was no more Mayan civilization.

Now for some more Apocalypto-ic anthropological rantings, in this article from the Washington Post in which scholars fret that Mel Gibson is damaging the Mayan image:

“The main gripe, says [Brown University’s anthropoligist Stephen] Houston, is that ‘Apocalypto’ will make a bad impression on the general public. ‘For millions of people this might be their first glimpse of the Maya,’ he says….

“‘We have no evidence of large numbers of slaves,’ [University of California-Riverside anthropologist Karl] Taube says. Rather, most Mayanists suspect the pyramids and the like were built by free Maya who saw it as a civic duty, perhaps forced upon them, labor as tax, or perhaps voluntary, as the medieval cathedrals were built by European guilds.”

Yeah, sure. Note that none of the professors denies that the Mayans routinely tore out the hearts of their defeated enemies along with inventing writing and crafting nice works of art. So what? The Nazis did great movies and graphic design.