Oakley – The Milagro Beanfield War

Analysis of Cultural Diversity in Robert Redford’s

The Milagro Beanfield War

In Robert Redford’s The Milagro Beanfield War, entrepreneur Ladd Devine uses wealth and elected officials to manipulate a Hispanic working-class community in building a recreation center. Areas of race, class, gender, and ability are all portrayed throughout the film—the most prominent area being the issues of the upper and lower classes. Does Redford’s depiction of war between classes reach a dominant reception or will situations and characters only appear as stereotypical and nonnegotiable interpretations? Taking a closer look and analyzing the literary and visual designs (among other technical aspects) may reveal the miracle beanfield a true sensation inspired by the heroism of a united people and a little bit of magic.
Immediately the name of Robert Redford may yield great attention. The acclaimed actor made his big break as “The Sundance Kid” and would go on to becoming a director earning an Academy Award in 1981. Eight years later he adapted John Nichols’ Novel of the Southwest into The Milagro Beanfield War;a film that tells of one man’s rugged individualism as he struggles to defend his small beanfield and his community against big business and political interests.
The cultural diversity observed kicks off with the predominantly Hispanic and Catholic fictional town of Milagro (miracle in Spanish). Heredwell the lives of Amarante Cordova, a stubborn old man who talks to an angel and dead saints; Joe Mondragon,a farmer out of work; Charlie Bloom, an unsuccessful lawyer who runs a bimonthly newspaper, and Ruby Archuleta the female mechanic—all of them, in one way or another, have something to do with a beanfield that is making a whole lot more trouble than it is actually worth.
The issue at hand, as one might think, doesn’t really have anything to do with the fact that most of the characters in the film are Hispanic and Catholic, but rather they are all under-waged working-class citizens who are Hispanic and Catholic. As if they are only good for is running a small town, farms, and construction, the stereotypical situation hardly gives them any credit for being capable, hardworking, and successful individuals. All the same, they still manage to band together and fight against the injustice set upon them by evil white men who are politicians and running big business—revealing that the lack of success and prosperity really come from the repression of a corrupt upper class that consists of dominate white patriarchal capitalists.
Gender roles are also explored in the film. The dominant masculinity expressed in the film is the irrational use of guns and violence while the intellectual and leading activist is the female mechanic. Rudy Archuleta is the primary voice against Ladd Devine and his plot to slowly end every man, women, and child’s way of life in Milagro while, Joe Mondragon represents a rugged, angry, struggling criminal nearly killing the people he’s fighting for.
What the people don’t realize is that along with the overpriced water for irrigation, their taxes will also be going up if the Miracle Valley recreational center is built—leaving them soon out of work and out of home with all their money going into the pocket of the state and Ladd Devine. This issue is soon realized when Joe decides to sow bean seeds with water he doesn’t own creating a spark of rebellion and independence. Before the people relied on Devine for work in construction, but when Joe cannot get a job, he takes matters into his own hands inspiring his small community and striking fear for the big profitable business.
Considering this issue from a more rational approach, Ruby wants to run an article in the newspaper to inform the people of not just Joe’s act of rebellion but also the consequences of the recreation center. She tries to leave it up to the discretion of Charlie Bloom to write the article, but Charlie plays the role of a bitter lawyer who won’t succumb to the women’s demands. In turn Ruby threatens to write her own article that Charlie later claims would get them sued for liable (perhaps stereotyping the irrational and forceful tone of women).  Later on, Ruby tries to call for a town meeting to democratically address the issue beginning it with a rhetorical speech to call into action an organization that would preserve the land. It is worthy to note that when someone nominates her to be the organization’s president, a member of the community states that she couldn’t because she’s a woman.
Finally there is an issue of segregation among Milago’s own people between generations and the abilities of the elderly. Along with that, there also appears to be an issue being tied with a member of the community with only one arm.Both are depicted as being delusional as the oldest man in town talks to the heavens and the man with one arm is still searching for the missing one despite the accident occurred long ago. In the end, they are town heroes very capable of holding their own.
Robert Redford directed a film that encompasses great cultural diversity between social classes and generational values by telling the story of a hypothetical and fictional event.Romanticizing audiences with discourses of an elderly man and an angel, Redford still manages to reveal a believable community with believable problems. The magic involved does not entirely take the film into a direction of being a fantasy, but rather the divine having an influence over the fate of the people. This is done mostly through the visual design of miraculous events being closely tied to the presence of the Angel. There is still a feeling of doubt as when seen with the older man by the objective view of another; the Angel appears to no longer be there. This is all accomplished by editing two shots together. For example, there is a scene where one shot features the Angel talking to the old man for a couple of takes and then vanishes once another character enters featuring the old man as talking to himself.
The use of location is also quite effective as the film was shot in the location indicated by John Nichols’ Novel: Milago is a town near the New Mexico Mountains. This adds to the realism of the setting by shooting on location. The time period would most likely be set during the time of the making of the film in the late 80’s. This could add an appeal to have a close relationship with the film as it takes place during a time audiences could relate. Modern viewers may not find it as appealing although the issues at hand may still be relevant.
The Milago Beanfield War empathically deals with social issues of a time through the eyes of those who experience hardship while gaining a hope in the divine and each other. The rolls of the people limit themselves only to the capacity of the mind. No matter the class, gender, or personal ability, nothing can or should stand in the way of social justice. Although violence appears inevitable, it is the inspired will of the people and their passionate heritage that wins in the end making a modern magic bean story yet another tale to learn from.
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