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The Xenophobic Right's Weird Reaction to Hollywood Blockbuster 'Machete'

Robert Rodriguez's new film is madcap Mexploitation, but the paranoid crowd sees propaganda for the coming "race war."

Most critics have come to more or less the same conclusion about Robert Rodriguez’s new film, “Machete.” With few exceptions, the movie has been received as a directorially accomplished and modestly enjoyable comic-book revenge fantasy — easy to look at, easy to laugh at, and easy to forget. There is, of course, a contemporary twist. Critics also invariably note the ultraviolent operetta’s cartoonish pro-immigrant politics, in which virtuous Mexican day laborers struggle against and defeat villainous drug lords and murderous Anglo border vigilantes.

More gore-ality than morality tale, the film essentially does for the border what Rodriguez’s friend Quentin Tarantino did for the Third Reich in “Inglourious Basterds.” Which is to say, he turns it into a vehicle for guts-splattered slapstick stirred with a mix of fact and fancy, heavy on the fancy. "Machete" is an argument for comprehensive immigration reform by way of Tromaville. A film in which a man swings down the side of a building using another man’s intestines as a rope, as Danny Trejo’s title character does, is not taking itself very seriously. Nor, say critics, should it invite audiences to do so. “The only viewers [“Machete”] is likely to upset are the same kind of people who once claimed that the purple Tinky Winky in ‘Teletubbies’ promoted a gay agenda,” wrote Stephen Holder of The New York Times. Or, as “Machete” costar Michelle Rodriguez told Cinematical, “It’s a freaking exploitation film. If anybody tries to take [it] seriously, [as a] political statement, I would laugh at them.”

Rodriguez has been laughing for over a week now, because since the film’s release on Sept. 3, some usual suspects have concluded that Tinky Winky is now part of the Aztlan plot. For the more outraged conservative critics of “Machete,” the spectacle of America’s first Latino action hero laying waste to cartoon rednecks the way John Rambo once laid waste to cartoon commies is too much to bear. For them, “Machete” is a harbinger of race war, if not the geographical disintegration of the country itself. “The Reconquista is here—at a theater near you,” wrote contributor James Pinkerton, referring to a nativist conspiracy theory about Mexico plotting to “reconquer” the American Southwest that is also known as the Plan de Aztlan. Richard Spencer, a former American Conservative editor who now edits, sniffed that the movie was “a catalogue of depraved and predictably left-wing outrages” whose only message is “ Kill Whitey! Kill Whitey! Kill Whitey! is a project of, the nativist hate site named after the first English child born in the New World, Virginia Dare. VDARE’s own in-house film critic, Alexander Hart, wrote in a similar vein that the film purveyed an “anti-white, anti-American, treasonous agenda” offering “patriotic Americans an honest look of how Hollywood really sees us.” (Hollywood, in this case, is the Rupert Murdoch-owned Twentieth Century Fox.)

Slightly to the right of VDARE is the openly white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, which likewise describes “Machete” as an “anti-white snuff film.” In a public show of opposition to Rodriguez’s widescreen affront, the Indiana chapter of the CCC last week protested the film’s opening at a Regal Galaxy Cinema in downtown Indianapolis. American Border Patrol, another hate group, encouraged similar protests by publishing a map identifying the locations of theaters playing the film near L.A.’s MacArthur Park, where violent protests erupted this week following the fatal shooting of a Guatemalan immigrant named Manual Jamines by an LAPD officer.

According to William Gheen of ALIPAC (Americans for Legal Immigration), the recent MacArthur Park protests should be seen in light of the release of "Machete." “The latest illegal alien fueled riots in Los Angeles began three days after MACHETE was released nationally, depicting an army of illegals violently rising up against American oppressors,” Gheen wrote in a letter to ALIPAC supporters. “Having a movie like Robert Rodriguez’s MACHETE showing in over 3,000 movie theaters in America, we must be on guard for possible massive civil unrest. If the unrest in Los Angeles continues or spreads, ALIPAC will publicly demand that MACHETE be withdrawn from theaters.”

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