Gangs Of New York:"The Director`s Thesis—That These Bloodsoaked Thugs Are Somehow America`s Real Founding Fathers—Is A Lot Of Baloney"
March 11, 2011, 04:24 PM
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I did an article about the movie Gangs Of New York a few years ago. It's about the immigrant-driven Draft Riots in Civil War era New York, and one thing that annoyed me was the tagline "America was Born in the Streets". That is, although you may have thought that America started a Plymouth Rock, or Lexington and Concord, America didn't really begin until mass immigration started in the nineteenth century.

Mark Steyn doesn't think much of that thesis either:

By the time Scorsese gets to the riots, he's pretty much given up on his lame-o plot and the background - the riot - is all there is. He artfully dodges any point of view on the material: The riot just sort of happens, and spreads, like a disease or a meteorological disaster. The director is broadly pro-immigrant, pro-poor people, but, in this case, as he surely must know after all that research, the poor people - the immigrants, the draft dodgers - happened to be pro-slavery, pro-lynching, anti-Negro and anti-American. Yes, it's a shame the treasonous racists got gunned down by the soldiers, but it's difficult to understand the mindset of a director who yearns to film this incident for his entire adult life and then goes to inordinate lengths to obliterate the context of it.

What a waste. Still, Scorsese is never short of memorable images: there's one beautiful sequence linking today's New York with the Butcher's battleground - though, even as you admire it, you know the director's thesis - that these bloodsoaked thugs are somehow America's real Founding Fathers - is a lot of baloney. The Five Points was the worst slum on the continent, and the backwardness of New York politics generally was irrelevant to political evolution elsewhere.[SteynOnline - GANGS OF NEW YORK]

Steyn is rerunning his 2002 review in honor the upcoming St. Patrick's Day, since most of the rioters were Irish immigrants. This will no doubt lead to much interesting Reader Mail.