The Road to El Dorado

road to el dorado

The Road to El Dorado
Rating: PG
Run Time: 89 minutes
Released: 2000
Directed by: Eric ‘Bibo’ Bergeron, Don Paul, Will Finn, David Silverman, Jeffrey Katzenberg

Cultural Rating: paw

Overall, the film does little to engage with issues of gender, race, body, sexual orientation, or disability. Additionally, the film Others the people of El Dorado in terms of race/ethnicity and religion.

Summary

When Tulio and Miguel accidentally find themselves aboard Cortés’ ship, they must make their escape to El Dorado, a legendary city full of gold.


Ratings

Language: poo

  • Demeaning language- “fool”
  • Mild swearing-“hell,” “oh my god”

Violence: poopoo

  • Punching, hitting, slapping
  • Shooting spears
  • Swords, knife
  • Threats of flogging, punishment, human sacrifice
  • At one point Miguel is hit in the face and a few drops of blood are seen
  • Visual of skeletons with swords through them

Sex: poopoo

  • Tulio and Miguel’s naked buttocks are shown as they jump into a lake to bathe.
  • Chel briefly gives Tulio a sensual shoulder rub
  • Intense off-screen kissing
  • Kissing

Drugs and Alcohol: poo

  • Tulio and Miguel drink what appears to be wine.
  • Chief Tannabok smokes a cigar.

Cultural Analysis

 Pros:

Gender:

  • Tulio and Miguel challenge traditional stereotypes regarding masculinity. For example, they are goofy, poor, get into trouble, and are not muscular.
  • Chel, a female character, helps Tulio and Miguel get out of trouble on multiple occasions. This is significant because female characters in children’s films are often the characters who need saving rather than those who perform the heroic acts.

Race:

  • The people of El Dorado are of color.

Sexual Orientation– N/A

Disability– N/A

Body:

  • Chief Tannabok is fat bodied and is depicted as respected, kind, and intelligent. This challenges dominant media narratives regarding fat bodies in which people with fat bodies are regularly depicted as immoral.

Cons:

Gender:

  • Chel is the only female character with a speaking role. The other women in the film are either mothers with children or are serving men. Chel embodies the exotic Other as she uses her body to manipulate men, is exotic in appearance (large eyes, big lips, wide hips), voluptuous, traditionally attractive, and sexual. Chel is also immediately the object of the male gaze. Tulio and Miguel look at her with an interested eye, consider her a “temptation,” refer to her as “Chel Dorado,” and make an agreement that she is sexually “off-limits.”

Race:

  • Even though the city of El Dorado is fictional, the people who live there are stereotypical depictions of indigenous peoples. For example, they are “barbaric,” have human sacrifices for the gods, and are easily manipulated by the more “civilized” people.
  • This film adheres to the white savior narrative. Tulio and Miguel, who are depicted as White Europeans, help the peoples of El Dorado defeat Cortes (a colonizer) and his army and save the entire city of El Dorado, thus suggesting the peoples of El Dorado are incapable of defending themselves.
  • Tulio and Miguel (white) are thought to be gods and worshipped by the indigenous people of El Dorado. This is problematic because whiteness is regarded as god-like and because this suggests that the people are not smart enough to differentiae gods from humans beings.
  • Further Othering occurs in the film when Tulio and Miguel refer to the religion of the people of El Dorado as “mystic mumbo jumbo.” This is problematic because religions of non-Western cultures are often stereotyped as mystical/magical Other rather than understood through the lens of cultural relativism.

Sexual Orientation:

Disability: N/A

Body:

  • Tzekel-Kan is slightly grotesque (he has a large nose, long fingernails, changing eyes) and is depicted as evil. This is problematic because grotesque bodies are often associated with immoral character.

Suggested talking points

  • A common theme in movies is romantic love between a man and a woman. This can be problematic on two levels as romantic love is depicted as necessary for happiness and, also as heterosexuality is a prerequisite for romantic love.
  • Tulio and Miguel are often shown lying and cheating, but they are never punished for doing so. For example, they use loaded dice while gambling, use an armadillo instead of a ball during a ball game, and lie about being gods. This gives off the message that lying and cheating are ok as long as you win (capitalistic ideology).
  • A major aspect of this film is colonialism and the relationships between the colonizer and the colonized. Hérnan Cortés is a well-known Spanish conquistador who conquered the Aztec peoples in the 16th Even today we see the continued unequal power relations between nations and peoples because of colonial practices.

Image: Amazon.com

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