The New World, Virginia Dare, And The Historical American Nation
Last Friday, The New World, a fictionalized
account of the (most likely nonexistent) romance between
Captain John Smith of
Jamestown and the Indian princess
Pocahontas in 1608, rolled out nationwide to 811
movie theatres. It is currently boring senseless any
filmgoer naïve enough to believe the
rapturous reviews in
much of the prestige
That`s particularly unfortunate because a tremendous
true story is lost in the tedium.
The New World is only the fourth movie in
celebrated director Terrence Malick`s career, which goes
all the way back to the superb
Badlands in 1973 and the lovely-looking
Days of Heaven in 1978. Unfortunately, it is
another snooze in the tradition of his
The Thin Red Line in 1998.
The good news is that the version of The New World
that`s rolling out nationally is 15 minutes shorter than
the 150 minute ordeal I fidgeted most of the way through
in December before fleeing into an adjoining auditorium
Casanova. (Which isn`t any more historically
accurate, but at least tries to entertain the
Still, there`s another 45 minutes of repetitious shots
of verdant nature in prelapsarian Virginia that could
have been left on the cutting room floor. It`s been said
fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly. But where is it
written that auteurs gotta show every damn fish
swimming and bird flying in Virginia? Even at 135
minutes, this is still very much the Director`s Cut.
We`re unlikely to ever see the 90-minute Editor`s Cut
that would make The New World tolerable.
And even then it still wouldn`t be terribly good.
Smith, Irish pretty boy Colin Farrell, last seen
stinking up the screen in Oliver Stone`s
Alexander, once against plays a military legend
as a self-pitying mope. It doesn`t help that Malick
gives him little to do other than moon like a lovesick
adolescent over Pocahontas.
It`s striking, though, that in a movie celebrating the
superiority of American Indians, Malick couldn`t find a
Native American to cast as his heroine.
Kilcher`s Swiss mother is the cousin of
blonde babe singer
Eventually, Christian Bale shows up as the reserved
widower John Rolfe (who launched the tobacco business in
Pocahontas had become the first American Indian to
convert to Christianity, Rolfe married her in 1614. This
brought about a much-needed six years of peace between
the Algonquin Indians and the English.
Rolfe took Princess Pocahontas to England in 1616.
Malick depicts England as an oppressive place—although
in fact it was liberating enough to have fostered
William Shakespeare, who died that year.
Pocahontas charmed the royal family
and high society. But she died suddenly in 1617 as
the family was headed back to America.
Their son, Thomas Rolfe, moved to Virginia when he
became an adult. Today, most of the
venerable families in the Old Dominion claim
Pocahontas as an ancestor. By one
estimate, Pocahontas has about 100,000 living
American descendants today.
After all, Captain Smith was almost a superhero himself.
You have to be as self-infatuated as Malick is to make a
bore out of
Smith, who led a life filled with
extraordinary exploits. With Bale in the lead and a
first-rate action director, such as Braveheart`s
Mel Gibson (who provided the voice for Smith in Disney`s
drippy New Age
Pocahontas cartoon musical in 1994), Smith`s
story would have made a terrific movie.
Born in 1580, Smith left England at age 16 to be a
soldier of fortune on the European continent. First, he
fought the Spanish to help free the
Netherlands. Then, according to his memoirs, he
survived numerous spectacular adventures fighting
alongside Hungarians against the
Turks, including being captured and sold into
slavery in the Ottoman Empire and escaping via Russia.
He was only 27 when he landed in Virginia. But he`d
already had a lifetime of military experience.
Settling in America was a fraught enterprise, as
demonstrated by the still-mysterious extinction of Sir
Walter Raleigh`s Lost Colony of
Roanoke Island—shortly after the
birth of VDARE.COM`s eponymous
Virginia Dare in 1587.
After his return from captivity under
King Powhatan, Smith took control of the floundering
settlement of Jamestown in 1608. He proclaimed to the
many lay-about gentlemen, "those who will not work
will not eat," thus enabling Jamestown to
survive the harsh winter. As participants in a
commercial enterprise, the Jamestown settlers were not
as well endowed with the heroic self-discipline
displayed by the
religiously-motivated Pilgrims in 1620. Smith`s
leadership and hardheaded common sense were vital. As
were visits from Pocahontas that winter bringing food.
After Smith had to return to England in 1609 following a
near-fatal gunpowder accident, much of the colony
starved to death without his guidance. In London, Smith
published two books advocating that settlers and their
financial backers give up their get-rich-quick schemes
for finding gold, and instead get rich slowly by
farming, fishing, and trading with the Indians. He later
explored much of the coastline of New England and,
gave it its name in his famous 1614
1615, Smith launched a
well-planned attempt to settle New England, several
years before the
Mayflower, which would have made him by far the
most important figure in the populating of English
America. Unfortunately, his two ships were damaged in a
terrible storm and barely limped back to England.
Smith`s next attempt to reach New England, his ship was
pirates. The buccaneer captain turned out to be an
old friend from his mercenary days, and Smith talked him
into accompanying them to New England. Then, both ships
were captured by
French pirates, from whom Smith eventually made a
After one more failure in 1617, he couldn`t raise more
funding and retired to writing books.
Beginning during the
sectional tension of the 1850s, Northern writers,
Henry Adams, denigrated this Southern hero`s
credibility. In 1890, their skepticism seemed to be
verified when a
Hungarian historian announced that he couldn`t find
mention of any of the Hungarian people or places in
Smith`s account, and declared Smith "an impudent
the 1950s, however, another Hungarian historian
vindicated Smith`s story of his romantic Magyar
escapades. She offered a simple
explanation for her predecessor`s perplexity:
"The truth was that Smith, like so many
Englishmen before and since, had a genius, if not a
passion, for misspelling foreign names."
This doesn`t prove that Princess Pocahontas saved Smith
from being executed by King Powhatan`s braves. But it
could well have
Less likely is Malick`s contention that Smith
immediately fell in love with Pocahontas, who was
10 to 13 years old. Smith never claimed that, even
though he wrote that his escape from Turkish slavery was
due to his female owner falling in love with him. His
feelings for Pocahontas seem to have been avuncular
rather than romantic.
Smith`s life would make a dazzling epic adventure film.
But what are the odds of that ever getting made in
today`s Hollywood—where few topics are more
unfashionable than the British settlement of America?
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and