Film and the American Moral Vision of Nature
Theodore Roosevelt to Walt Disney
Published by: Michigan State University Press
Imprint: Michigan State University Press
Sales Date: 2011-06-01
With his square, bulldoggish stature, signature rimless glasses, and inimitable smile—part grimace, part snarl—Theodore Roosevelt was an unforgettable figure, imprinted on the American memory through photographs, the chiseled face of Mount Rushmore, and, especially, film. At once a hunter, explorer, naturalist, woodsman, and rancher, Roosevelt was the quintessential frontiersman, a man who believed that only nature could truly test and prove the worth of man. A documentary he made about his 1909 African safari embodied aggressive ideas of masculinity, power, racial superiority, and the connection between nature and manifest destiny. These ideas have since been reinforced by others—Jesse “Buff alo” Jones, Paul Rainey, Martin and Osa Johnson, and Walt Disney. Using Roosevelt as a starting point, filmmaker and scholar Ronald Tobias traces the evolution of American attitudes toward nature, attitudes that remain, to this day, remarkably conflicted, complex, and instilled with dreams of empire.