‘Texas Rising’ Panned by Critics Unfairly?

Texas Rising

Texas Rising, the History Channel mini-series (May 25, at 9 p.m. EST) about the rise of Texas following the Battle of the Alamo, directed by Roland Joffé, is a look at the history of Texas that held a lot of promise. Critics have, largely, panned it, for both being uninteresting and full of cliches and stereotypical portrayals of Mexicans, Native Americans, and women, but has the movie been unfairly panned?

While racism and prejudice existed then as it does now, some critics have blamed the director of Texas Rising for contributing to the continuance of racism instead of trying to make the Mexicans, Native Americans and female characters in the mini-series more three dimensional. There is little doubt that many of the characters in Texas Rising and the Western genre, broadly speaking, have not been fully explored and end up being two dimensional caricatures.

That does not necessarily mean that the “history” that is presented is not real, though it is presented with a definite perspective that focuses more on the white, male “heroes” of Western history and legend. Texas and the West “rose” at the expenses of the people who already inhabited and had settled the land, the Mexican and Native Americans who were already living there. That is the reality of it, and the rise of Texas depicted in Texas Rising is really the rise of a Texas dominated by, in large part, white American and European settlers.

In order to justify taking over land that was already lived in and occupied by other groups of people, the white Americans and Europeans who continued to spread West considered what they were doing to be bringing civilization to the lands they were settling. They also thought of it from the perspective that they were the “good guys” and that they just wanted to make better lives for themselves, even if it meant fighting against anyone who tried to stop them from claiming territory that was already occupied.

It is not necessarily that actual history is not presented in Texas Rising. Just keep in mind, while watching it, that it is presented largely from the point of view of the white Americans and Europeans who took over the land. They get most of the lines, and they are considered the “heroes” of the mini-series. Their blood, sweat, and tears did help lead to the Texas and the America of today, for better or worse, even though it came at the expense of the people who already were living in the land.

A review in the New York Times criticizes Texas Rising because the characters are not depicted in an “interesting” way, at last not when compared to “the heroes of the American Revolution [who] died at the Alamo.” Most movies based on the Battle of the Alamo focus on the battle, itself, and the sacrifice of their own lives that the men occupying the Alamo made. That would probably make whatever followed relatively tame, by comparison, though the director of Texas Rising, Roland Joffé, who also directed The Killing Fields and The Mission, could be fairly criticized for not doing his best to also make the mini-series exciting and as action-packed as possible, if that was the case.

Sam Houston and Mexican General Santa Anna Primary Characters of Texas Rising

The military leader and statesman Sam Houston, played by Bill Paxton, and his travails against Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, played in the mini-series by Olivier Martinez are the two primary characters in Texas Rising, though the mini-series has a huge cast of characters. Though Houston and Santa Anna are the main two characters, the mini-series will be shown as a series of historical moments, or vignettes, all of which will lead to the conclusion of Texas Rising on June 15.

Some of the other characters who will be in the vignettes include the Texas Ranger Deaf smith, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. He keeps to himself the fact that he has a serious disease. Cynthia Addai-Robinson plays a female character called the Yellow Rose of Texas. She is a spy who discovers useful information by seducing various Mexican military leaders.

Another interesting character in Texas Rising is Lorca, played by Ray Liotta. He emerges from a mass grave where the Battle of the Alamo took place and decides to engage in a guerrilla campaign. One of the most inventive ways he kills someone is by using a basket full of rattlesnakes. Also, Brendan Fraser, playing the Texas Ranger Billy Anderson who was raised by Native Americans, has some pithy and humorous lines.

Yet another character of note is Andrew Jackson, portrayed in Texas Rising by actor and musical artist, Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson provides the version of the Tom Petty hit, I Won’t Back Down, that was recorded for this mini-series, and there is a pretty cool video of it at YouTube.

The Viewers of Texas Rising Will Be the Ultimate Critics of the Mini-Series

The viewers of Texas Rising will be the ultimate critics of the mini-series, and if they continue to tune in after the first couple of episodes, and watch it to the conclusion on June 15, the mini-series will be considered to be a success, at least in terms of popular appeal. The viewers of America will be the ones who determine whether mini-series like Texas Rising are made in the future.

Despite the criticism made by some that director Roland Joffé paints his characters with a rather broad brush, drawing fairly clear distinctions between the “good guys” and the “bad guys,” that was not how executive producer Leslie Greif, who also was the producer of the successful mini-series, Hatfields & McCoys, believes the characters are portrayed. Greif stated in an interview that they “wanted to try to tell the story from a lot of perspectives,” adding that “there are really no villains in our piece,” and “we didn’t want to have a paintbrush and say this side is right and this side is wrong.”

In Texas Rising, Sam Houston bides his time, trying to face General Santa Anna under conditions that will be favorable to him, though he leads less than a thousand men compared to the 5,000 veteran soldiers that are under Santa Anna’s command. Bill Paxton, who plays Sam Houston and was also in Hatfields & McCoys, said in an interview that the story of Texas Rising is “really the story of the Texas Revolution.”

Is the History Channel’s mini-series Texas Rising being unfairly panned by critics? Any review of anything is primarily a matter of opinion, but opinions that are based on facts, generally speaking. Director Roland Joffé and the mini-series have been criticized for not having some characters be fully developed, and for contributing to existing stereotypes by focusing on “good guys” like Sam Houston more than other ones, and for portraying Santa Anna as a basically “bad guy.” That was not, apparently, his intention; but, it is the opinion of some critics of Texas Rising. The viewing public will, ultimately, be the judges of if the mini-series is a success or not.

Opinion By Douglas Cobb

Sources:
New York Times: Review: ‘Texas Rising,’ a Mini-Series
on Alamo Aftermath With Dialogue to Forget
ABC News: TV Miniseries ‘Texas Rising’ Takes Big-Screen Approach
Entertainment Weekly (blog): Bill Paxton talks Texas Rising:
‘I believe I was born to play Sam Houston’

14 Responses to "‘Texas Rising’ Panned by Critics Unfairly?"

  1. Larry Myers   June 1, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    this is such a bad show. No research on location. Showing Goliad like it was in the mountains, Bad acting . as A Texan and history lover it is sad.

    Reply
  2. Dennis carter   June 1, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    The Texas rangers were not a bunch of idiots as they have tried to portrayed . they were the most respected and feared groups in Texas . I can’t stand how they have been cast. can’t watch any longer . The series is an insult to Texans.

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  3. Larry Flash   May 28, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Just awful. How can a director take so many good actors and have them act as if it were a high school dinner theatre? Just terrible, never mind the facts and historical, social, and cinematic discrepancies. I’ve got nothing against blacks, but I do believe in this instance of Texas independence, negroes (as was the common name until the 1960’s) were pretty much maids, valets, and cooks, not heroes of the Alamo. I don’t think helping Travis put on his uniform or giving him is breakfast meal rises to heroic levels.

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  4. LP   May 28, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    This series fully deserves the absolute worst criticism possible. Shame on the producers and writers. There is not one historically accurate scene to be found anywhere in this mess. Texans, and really all Americans, should be insulted by this mockery of our intriguing history. (Though it’s equally offensive to Mexicans and Native Americans.) The true history is so much more interesting than this fiction.
    The blatant inaccuracies are however the least of the offenses, as this series is simply not good on any level. (I know this is a matter of opinion.) The things that could have made up for the historical butchery would have been great action sequences, suspense, character and plot. All are fails.
    The action is worse than the cheesiest of old westerns, there is zero suspense (in fact, there’s goofy attempts at comic relief during what should be the most intense part of the story.) The acting is soap opera bad.
    For someone who knows Texas history, you can at least get a laugh out of how off target this is, for those who don’t know the history it will probably just be confusing and unentertaining – there is better drama on reality TV.

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  5. just a thought   May 28, 2015 at 10:48 am

    plus it has Trevor Donovan in it

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  6. Robert Richards   May 27, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Fuddy Duddy…this series DOES at least give a general overall gut feeling of conditions , bravery, great leadership and
    the thin line of destiny that kept TX from
    Mexico….I being 6th generation Texan!
    This does make many want to explore more
    Characters and events!

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  7. Orangie   May 26, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Has Texas Rising been unfairly panned by critics? Well… when it comes to taste, there is no discussion. So, panning should be expected. Lack of commentary would be much worse.

    For me, the mini-series is turning out to be very interesting. The characters are probably as developed as possible for a short run. And it has inspired me to look up a lot of the actual characters mentioned. So, whether it is accurate or not, it did pique my interest. And that is part of the learning process.

    As for the comment about the scenery being incorrect, well… for the most part Texas is pretty flat. So a little artistic liberties in location selection is probably OK, as long as it maintains the interest of the viewer. Besides, I have never had the chance to see the scenery in Mexico, where it was filmed. So that is pretty cool.. Besides, if they filmed in actual locations, there would probably be a Subway shop in the background. And the Alamo might look a lot smaller (which it is). But scenery and perfect accuracy would in no way diminish the story any more than if it was a spoken word play on an empty stage on Broadway.

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  8. Jim Myers   May 26, 2015 at 5:07 am

    I thought that “Hatfield/McCoys” would have been a good History Channel movie, but it was so inaccurate in just about everything that makes a good movie, that I wasn’t interested in watching another episode. Same goes for Texas Rising. It was poorly directed, very bad selection of actors, and all in all, just a very bad effort to educate people about what was happening in 1830s Texas. I, and several of my friends will not watch another boring, shotty episode of this crap. History Channel….I will NOT watch another movie that you have any part in. Very Disgusted!

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  9. CW   May 26, 2015 at 12:30 am

    It is being panned by critics because it’s awful. For some time now I have been looking forward to this series and I sat down tonight with some considerable anticipation that quickly evaporated when 2 guys on horseback discussed being 20 miles from Goliad with the mountains of Big Bend (or Northern Mexico or somewhere) as their backdrop. There are no mountains within 500 miles of Goliad. Then the shot of buffalo on the plains outside Nacogdoches and I’m not able to take any of it seriously any more. No effort at all with location selection. That and the canned and predictable dialog and I’m not even terribly worried with the historical inaccuracies because I’m afraid that not that many people are going to see it. So the fact that the “Texas Rising” really began as part of a larger Mexican Civil War and dissatisfaction with Santa Anna and that Texas was but one of three Mexican states that formed their own government while many others were in open revolt just doesn’t matter. The only real difference here is that Texas happened to be the only one that succeeded, otherwise Mexico would be even smaller today. Heck, the fighters at the Alamo never even learned that Texas declared independence. Their 1824 flag was a reference to restoration of the Mexican Constitution of 1824, one that Santa Anna tossed aside. So the view that a bunch of Anglo Texians awoke one morning and decided to conquer this vast land is a myth. Far more nuanced a story, the Texas Revolution had both supporters and opponents among both the Anglo and the Mexican population. Even more than the errant locations and flat dialog, it is the lack of character development that would lend insight to this turmoil that is this series biggest flaw.

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  10. Doug   May 25, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    It’s very flawed and continues the inaccurate theme of the Alamo story. Focus is on Anglo ‘heroes’. The Tejanos created the idea of bringing in the Anglo Americano not as a buffer to Indians or US but as a population source for economic development so that Tejas could become its own state separate from Coahuila. Its a shame that in this day, the History channel of all outlets is doing a disservice in portraying this part of Texas heritage. From little things like the environmental settings that look nothing like the actual location to events and the characters involved in them. Deaf Smith and Lupe Ruiz Smith had a daughter Maria Gertrudis Smith that was already 11 years old at that time, not the little orphaned girl in the movie they named Elena. Her mothers name was Maria Robleau. The characters of Smith is well represented but not so accurate of Seguin and Leal. Seguin trusted and had steadfast confidence in Austin and Houston. Their families had become very close over the years of colonization. The reporting of Fanins turn around was reported by Seguin, not to him. Seguin was sent by Houston to ride along the san Antonio river to check the state of the ranches, its people and recon with scouts Seguin had watching the Alamo situation which he reported to Houston. Record clearly show that D Smith and his guys came across Dickenson after she left the Alamo, but the indian raid on her is theatrical not historic. The facts of the individual motivations of the characters is also historically inaccurate. Travis and his camp had an agenda that was largely disputed by the colonists. Seguin rallied his friends and family around the constitution violation, not an independent Texas. It would be refreshing to see a portrayal of Texas history from the vantage of the native born Texans, the Spaniards that became Tejanos rather than the mythical and tall legendary Anglo Americano heroes created perspective.

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  11. chuckitt   May 24, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    don’t blame the white euro americans for the taking of the land. it was the Mexicans who wanted them there to help buffer themselves from the Indians. I hate it when they try to rewrite history to be politically correct. sur the white americans wanted to expand but in this case it was the non white mecicans who were doing the expansion.

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    • Douglas Cobb   May 25, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Again, this was just an article about is the show being unfairly panned by critics. However, it is called “Texas Rising,” not “Mexicans Expanding” or “Mexicans Rising.” The series is about the rise and birth of Texas.

      Reply
  12. lb   May 24, 2015 at 6:13 am

    What the writer forgot to mention that the people who lived in the area of the Alamo, including the Mexicans, wanted to get away from Santa Anna. There were Americans who lived in Mexico but Santa Anna was a terrifying ruler and they wanted to escape his wrath.

    Reply
    • Douglas Cobb   May 24, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      The article was not meant to be a history lesson, but just one about if Texas Rising was being unfairly panned by critics.

      Reply

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