The film I will be analyzing, and reviewing is a documentary on the Mexican American War by the History Channel. The documentary was published on YouTube by AllHistories on September 28, 2009. The Mexican American War was fought because the United States wanted some of the land Mexico claimed was theirs. As Oscar De La Hoya states, this documentary “examines the Mexican American War from both sides; why it began, how it was fought, and why it ended the way it did (1:42, Part 1).” In this essay, I will argue that there is bias toward the Mexican side, therefore the documentary does not tell the whole story from both sides.
The Mexican American War officially began in May of 1846. The President at the time was James Polk. He had wanted to go to war with Mexico for some time but did not have the proper reasoning to declare war. To provoke Mexico into starting a war, Polk sent troops to the Rio Grande where they would set up camp at Fort Texas. From Mexico’s point of view this was their land, however, from the United State’s point of view it was their land. This led to Mexican troops firing on an American scouting patrol, killing 11 and taking 52 prisoners (9:05, part 1). The killing of Americans on The United States’ soil was all Polk needed to convince congress to declare war. The war lasted two years with many bloody battles resulting in heavy casualties for both sides. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave the United States the victory along with the land they wanted.
The film starts off by saying, “this is the war Abraham Lincoln called unjust and Ulysses S. Grant labeled one of the most unjust wars ever waged (0:00, first part).” This is one of the main arguments of the film and I believe they left it unexplained. The film makes this argument; to me it was never backed up with evidence. With that said, I believe this documentary did do a good job portraying the events of the Mexican American War. In the introduction, De La Hoya claimed the film examines the war from both sides. I will argue the documentary did not tell the whole story from both sides without any bias. For example, the film mentions that General Zachary Taylor directly ignored a Presidential order to hold a defensive position and pursue no further offensive action (0:33, fourth part).” This ordered was completely ignored which I believe would have gotten General Taylor in some trouble; however, the film never tells the viewers if Taylor was punished for his disobedience. After watching the documentary, I felt the narrator and commentators favored the Mexican side. Many times, when talking about the Americans it was in a negative tone with sad music playing in the background (1:16, third part). The way they portray the leaders of the Mexican army is much different then the way they portray the leaders of the United States army. For example, the film makes General Santa Anna look like a hero even when he loses some battles. This is different from the way General Scott and Taylor are portrayed. The two American generals won many battles for their side. I will argue further that more should have been done to portray them as heroes to their people in the same way Santa Anna was heroic to the Mexican people. From what I have learned from the class and the film I believe the video did a good job accurately showing the battles and major events of the war. However, there was one major thing left out of this film, the ending of the war. I was very confused when the documentary just ended without talking about the ending to the Mexican American War. This is a major part of the war that is completely left out which leaves the viewers wondering what happened. At the end of the documentary it says, “to be continued (4:02, sixth part),” but there was no continuation of the film.
In this documentary, they brought in multiple different commentators to share information with the viewers of the documentary. The first person they brought in was Jesus Velasco Marquez. Marquez’s specialty is the history between the United States and Mexico; he wrote multiple books on the relations between the two countries. Velasco Marquez was also crucial to the making of the PBS documentary about the Mexican American War. He was also part of the foreign services for Mexico. I do believe he is qualified to give his input on this documentary of the Mexican American War; his information does contribute to the validity of the film in a positive way. The second person brought to the documentary is Richard Winders. Winders wrote the famous book Mr. Polk’s Army; this book is about the lives of soldiers during the Mexican American War has won multiple awards. Winders is very qualified to be a part of the documentary, not only did he write a very famous book about the United States army during the war, but he has much more expertise on the topic of the Mexican American War. The next person to be introduced into the documentary was Associate Professor of History Brian DeLay. After researching I have found that DeLay does not have much expertise in the Mexican American War. DeLay has written a book about the Native American raids and the Mexican American War, but this book examines the Native American raids in the 1830s which is before the war began. I do not believe DeLay is qualified to be a part of the documentary; I think he does not contribute to the film and should have been left out. Sam W. Haynes was the next commentator to appear in the film. He like DeLay does not have much research on the Mexican American War; I believe he does not contribute to the validity of this film. Therefore, he should not have been included in this film. The final commentator to appear in the documentary was Josefina Zoraida Vasquez. She is an expert in Mexican History especially on the Mexican American War. Vasquez has written multiple books and has done extensive research on the War. She is one of the most qualified people who could have appeared in this documentary. I believe three of the five commentators to appear were qualified to be a part of the video. However; I will argue two of the three (that were qualified) had bias towards the Mexican side of the war. I believe there should have been more commentators brought in that had expertise on the American side of the war. Those commentators that were qualified had expertise in Mexican History. I argue there should have been more commentators with expertise in American History.
The format of this documentary was very effective in giving information on what was happening during the war; I believe the way the information was presented was the biggest strength of the document. It was presented in a way that was very easy to understand what was happening; they did a good job of portraying the significance of each event of the war. I thought it was a very good idea to add in outside sources to comment and give information on the war. However, I will argue they should have brought in more experts on the American side of the war. I believe this would have made the documentary more complete. One weakness of the document was the pictures and/or videos they showed. Sometimes the pictures or videos they would show would not give the whole picture on what they said they was happening. For example, they mentioned that General Taylor had a very informal way of running his camps (4:57, First Part), but the picture they showed did not show a camp that looked to be informal. There were multiple times throughout the video where the narrator would mention the intimidating appearance of the United States army, but in the pictures shown of the American soldiers they did not appear to be intimidating at all. The final thing I thought was a major weakness was how the documentary just ended. In the introduction, Oscar De Le Hoya mentioned the film would examine why the war ended the way it did. However, the film just ended without ever discussing the end of the war. This contributes further to my argument that the documentary was biased toward the Mexican side. Upon further research, The United States did end up winning this war, gaining the territory that is now seven states. I believe this should have been included in the documentary.
In this essay, I argued that there was bias toward the Mexican side which lead to the documentary not telling the whole story from both sides of the war. Throughout the documentary the narrator as well as the commentators that spoke on the film talked negatively toward the United States. There were multiple times in the film where the commentators and narrator would show sympathy toward the Mexican side for their losses, but not the United States. There were five of these commentators brought in, three of them I argued were qualified to be in the film and of these three two of them specialized in Mexican History specifically the Mexican American War. I believe there should have been at least one more qualified person to provide information on the Americans in the Mexican American War. Overall, I believe the documentary did a good job in explaining why the war started and how it was fought; it made the war easy to understand. However, to improve the film I think the producers should have included a better conclusion to the video, so the viewers would know what happened at the end of the war.
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