Giant: The Bible of Texas

So claims Joe Bob Briggs, in this review of a new book. He makes the film sound titanic.
It’s a great movie and has many themes, but the whole arc of the story can be understood as “The Reeducation of Bick Benedict” (the Rock Hudson character). Rock doesn’t choose to stop being a bigot; he gets the bigotry beaten out of him by his wife and son and a Texas that simply can’t keep pushing back against the legacy of the Spanish missions. In 1956, three years after Brown v. Board of Education, that was a message that, in the South, you would think might rustle up some hackles. The fact that it didn’t—and the fact that, to this day, Texas politicians are a moderating influence on the hard-liners who want to close the Mexican border—indicates more than anything that sometimes films can change minds. Nobody watches the 1960 depiction of [The Alamo] anymore. Everybody knows Giant....

[The director] understood Texas. He understood the old-school ranching part, the new-money oil part, and the synthesis of the two that would emerge decades later in the form of distinctive cities like Austin and San Antonio that still make Texas a world of its own. The famous false front of Reata, the Benedict mansion on the prairie, has long since fallen into ruins, and the frenzy surrounding the Giant filming has been all but forgotten, but the land around Marfa is known worldwide today as the domain of Donald Judd and other postmodern sculptors, and Texas remains the only state that has adopted bilingualism so thoroughly that some cities have Spanish media and use Spanish at public meetings. The cattleman’s code, the rebel spirit, and multiculturalism found their center in a region many would consider least likely to succeed, and George Stevens saw that long before anyone else.
Texan readers, what say you? Is this film as central to your understanding of your home as he thinks it is? Did it shape the culture as much as he says?


Anonymous said...

I don't think so, but I'm up in the Panhandle. The ranchers were the oilmen. _The Last Picture Show_ and _Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade_ (the ending sunset scene was filmed up here), John Wayne's _Alamo_ and _Red River_ have a lot more cultural resonance. Oh, and _Lonesome Dove_, because of the Charlie Goodnight connection. That wasn't a big-screen film, but the miniseries on DVD and VHS can be found in a lot of homes I've visited.

_Cimarron_ might be another that resonates, at least for me. The docu-drama _Bomb City_ about a punk who was accidentally killed by a kicker after a long-running dispute between punks and kickers got out of hand probably says a lot, but I have not seen it and don't really plan to. I collided with both groups when I was in high school.


douglas said...

" Texas remains the only state that has adopted bilingualism so thoroughly that some cities have Spanish media and use Spanish at public meetings."

Um, never heard of California? I can assure you many a public meeting uses Spanish or provides translators.

Texan99 said...

I've never heard it discussed. It's true that the Spanish culture is pervasive. In Houston and even more here in Rockport, it's not uncommon to hear conversations that shift back and forth between English and Spanish every few words.

Gringo said...

I last saw Giant - 3 decades ago? There were Hispanics in Tejas before Anglos came to Texas. A number of my neighbors can trace their ancestry to Tejas before the Anglos came- one had a converso ancestor in northern Mexico.