Does Hollywood Film 'Machete' Depict Arizona's 'Sheriff Joe' As Racist Fetus Killer?

Don Johnson as Sheriff Joe?
Don Johnson as Sheriff Joe?
Fox / vivamachete.com

Maricopa County's controversial "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio, the man who for many personifies Arizona's anti-immigration stance, is mad at Hollywood and, in particular, the Hollywood Reporter, for suggesting a fetus-killing racist cop in the new grindhouse film Machete is based on him. The Reporter:

Among "Machete's" more provocative elements are border vigilantes led by Don Johnson as a kind of avatar for Maricopa County's Sheriff Joe Arpaio and fake political ads for an incumbent senator whose platform is built on his "hard line against wetbacks" and a description of them as "parasites." That the two characters murder a pregnant Mexican woman to prevent her baby from being born in America and then shoot her distraught husband while uttering the line, "Welcome to America," underlines the point.

Actually Joe, we suggested it first, although, not having seen the film, we might have gotten our characters mixed up. (We said Robert De Niro was a possible Joe character, but it turns out, according to the Reporter, Don Johnson is the Joe-apparent) . On Tuesday Sheriff Joe issued a statement (PDF) that reads, in part:

Sheriff Joe Arpaio today says he is troubled by reporters who are drawing the conclusion that a murderous character in a film set for nationwide release this Friday, September 3, 2010, is actually modeled after Arpaio ...

"There are certain reporters who take every chance they get to demean this Sheriff in any way possible," Arpaio says. "I am quite sure that "Machete" producers did not have me in mind when they developed this character. But news reporters who disagree with my tactics on illegal immigration, willingly and irresponsibly publicly link me to a murderous, racist lawman characterized in this film as a means to further their own political viewpoints. I resent it."

(Aw. Plays small mariachi violin between fingers).

Our sister paper, Phoenix New Times, by the way, characterizes Arpaio, who once served a search warrant on the home of our company's chief, Mike Lacey, as having "violated the Constitutional rights of brown-skinned U.S. citizens and have committed outright cruelty against the undocumented."

It's predicted by the Reporter that the Robert Rodriguez film, which features an all-gringo cast of bad guys, will fan the flames of the nation's Arizona-fueled immigration debate.

"Machete's" convoluted story explicitly takes place amid the current powder keg of an immigration debate and on the heels of Arizona's controversial anti-illegal immigration legislation. Crooked politicians, powerful drug kingpins, malicious border vigilantes, antsy day laborers, conflicted customs agents and angry revolutionaries seethe along the U.S.-Mexico border in Rodriguez's film.

Can't wait to see it.

Check out LA Weekly film editor and critic Karina Longworth's review of the film here.


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