Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death! - A Review of The Patriot

By Zachariah Rousas Wagner
September 01, 2000

While maintaining some quasi-Biblical ideas (if that is not an oxymoron) The Patriot may leave some moviegoers cold-blooded. Although The Patriot was one of Summer 2000's most anticipated movies, critics now rip it up one side and down the other. Critics dislike the almost-Christian values portrayed by Mel Gibson's character, Benjamin Martin (modeled after Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox"). Critics have also complained about the film's historical inaccuracies. As a novice American "War for Independence" scholar, I can say that the inaccuracies these critics find distasteful stem from monstrously revisionist historical portrayals. Furthermore, in our culture there will be some inaccuracies due to a great amount of misinformation available today.

The Patriot's producers intended to bend the historical lines a bit (as any fiction writer must), while maintaining a broad historical accuracy. They faithfully accomplished this task. Many films demonize the Britons to an extreme and untrue state. The Patriot made viewers understand the workings of the British military system; and while some officers were cruel, the general army did not have feelings of contempt toward their American brothers. This is not to say that historical inaccuracies did not occur.

The Patriot had a very simple, but charming story line that was without sexual situations, coarse language, or other "adult" themes. This in itself is worth the $8.50 price of admission, because a film fitting that description is a rare commodity today. Some women, and some men for that matter, may find the battle scenes a bit unnerving. In spite of this, it remains a family film. The over-all appeal of the film is the great emotion that seeps from it. Yet, Christians should not find the events of the film as moving as the realization that those men died for freedoms that we throw away with ease. This should move any godly American. The Patriot gives insight into what those men felt and what they saw in the famous battles of America's War for Independence.

The Patriot is not a rallying cry to renew the fight for freedom today. It may be said that the Constitution was written in blood, but no blood is being shed while the Constitution is being shredded in our time. Christians today, whose ancestors were men who died for the freedoms we share, do nothing while those freedoms are taken away. Christians who do "fight" to preserve our freedoms today usually just write a letter of disapproval to their congressmen. At the very least, Christians may learn from this pagan-made, valueless film to hold valuable those freedoms God has given through the death of our forefathers.

The Patriot boasts a correct political agenda and a correct view of the treatment of slaves at that time. However, its portrayal of an American Revolution resembled the French Revolution (and therefore humanistic revolution). There was not the real godly patriotism of Patrick Henry and his, "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech. This film gave more honor to the humanistic French, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity or Death" motto.

The Patriot will not set your blood-a-boilin'; in fact, it will leave your blood cold when you realize the carnage that occurred on our account. Yet, meditation on this reality should lead us to another realization: that we too are in a war for American independence. This war is with a full-fledged humanistic government, not a British government that was beginning to become a humanistic state.

In many ways our battle will be harder than the war the Founding Fathers fought. We have delved further into the depths of humanism than Britain or its European contemporaries had at that time. What the French humanists failed to do speedily through the French Revolution, America has perfected through the slow but sure American Humanistic Revolution. Benjamin Martin's example should prove that we too will reap the consequences for inaction in good and necessary wars. Benjamin Martin should have said, "As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord." Will you?

Topics: American History, Media / Arts

Zachariah Rousas Wagner

Mr. Zachariah Rousas Wagner is a Reformed Presbyterian of the Reconstructionist persuasion. He is a Southerner at heart, remaining hopeful the South shall rise again. He is a member of Reformed Heritage Church, San Jose, CA. He is also a student at Whitefield College of Florida. He may be contacted at [email protected].

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