Created By: Camacan on February 13, 2009
Nuked

Aztecs

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I notice we don't have a subtrope for the Aztecs under Hollywood History.

The Aztecs are our placeholder for all ancient South/Meso American cultures, including the Inca, Maya and many others: this trope is all about crude lumping, geographically and in time. Let's describe the stereotype and get some examples.
  • Lots of priests, religion and monstrous gods.
  • Human sacrifice: cutting out the heart of a living victim atop a step pyramid.
  • Big stone temples with distinctive stonework[1], usually equipped with traps and underground labyrinths. This visual trope can turn up all by itself.
  • Sometimes hidden advanced technology and/or links to aliens.
  • Feathered headdresses, clubs studded with chunks of obsidian, loincloths.
  • Corn harvests.
  • Gold. Complex stone jewelry: earings, necklaces, chest pads. [2]
  • Ornate and colourful decorations, geometric patterns. Intricate and scary carvings.
  • Jungle settings.
  • An abundance of horrible wildlife, big and small, esp snakes, spiders and jaguars.
  • A drug culture -- coca and hallucinogens.
  • Close association with Conquistadors.
  • Desiccated bodies in ceremonial outfits: unwrapped mummies.
  • Cursed artifacts.
See Also: Hollywood History and Very Loosely Based on a True Story.

No Launching Please
Community Feedback Replies: 39
  • February 12, 2009
    Camacan
    Some starting examples.

    RoleplayingGames

    • The blood mages from Castle Falkenstein
    • Shadowrun: Aztlan.
    • In Nomine features some Aztec gods.
    • Wraith The Oblivion: unusual in having sympathetic Aztec ghosts.

    Literature
    • The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump.
    • Captive Universe: a Generation Ship is launched to the stars. The population of the ship is given a copy of the Aztec's culture which is depicted as brutal but ideal, from the designers point of view: it is very stable and crushes all curiosity and restlessness.

    Comics
    • The Zzutak Animators from early Marvel Comics
    • The Tick has human-sacrificing Aztecs who are, essentially, a bunch of idiotic cosplayers who got carried away.
    • The Adventures of Tintin: The Seven Crystal Balls Prisoners of the Sun.

    LiveActionTV

    Videogames
    • Aztec: a early videogame from the Apple II era.

    Webcomics
    • Dr Mc Ninja is currently confronting modern day Aztecs with world-destroying technology.

    Anime
    • The Mysterious Cities of Gold The heros encounter the Maya, Inca, and Olmecs. The show is a mix of ancient history as filtered through this trope and science fiction.

    Film
    • The Hovitos underground temple from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
    • The Maya-style temple in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. the film has aliens living with the ancient Maya and teaching them about agriculture.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl features cursed Aztec gold with Aztec-style skull carvings.
  • February 12, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    One of the Where's Waldo? books had Waldo in the middle of a giant Aztec vs Spanish battle. Weird thing was, the Aztecs seemed to be winning.

    Oh, and plenty of games have levels in Aztec ruins. Greendog was mostly set in them, Lara Croft has been in a few.
  • February 12, 2009
    Coriander
    I would just like to express my total and complete approval of the Lego Aztec up there. He is the best kind of awesome.
  • February 13, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    cultures they frequently stand in for include the Maya, the Inca, the Mixtec, Olmecs, Huastecs and zapotec civilizations. You can just tell I'm a little bit of a mesoamerican dork, can't you?
  • February 13, 2009
    Camacan
    We need mesoamerican dorks! Especially if they can give some examples of said cultures or the generalised fuzzytrope in media of any form (hint hint :) )
  • February 13, 2009
    Koveras
    In Call Of Juarez, the characters are after the Aztec treasures (and actually find some).
  • February 13, 2009
    Andyzero
    A startling Gecko Ending to Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro has Yako investigating her father in Brazil, and meeting a tribe of Yakuza Aztecs.
  • February 13, 2009
    Cao Cao
    • Apocalypto by Mel Gibson
    • The Fountain by Darren Aronofsky
    • One of the pantheons player characters can choose from in the tabletop RPG Scion is the Aztec one. This troper has had great fun playing a child of Mictlantecuhtli, God of death and the underworld, who is a sadistic SOB even by the standards of Aztec mythology. And that's saying something.
  • February 13, 2009
    Ouroboros
    The Lizardmen in Warhammer Fantasy are a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans.
  • February 13, 2009
    bluepenguin
    Fahrenheit had some kind of ancient Mayan cult that was into sacrificing people by cutting their hearts out.
  • February 13, 2009
    Some Guy
    I dread the day this article will be eternally submerged in arguments about whether the Aztecs or the Conquistadors were the ones who were really "evil".

    which doesn't have a darn thing to do with how they're portrayed in fiction, so I don't know why everyone starts arguing this Truth In Television point whenever it comes up.
  • February 13, 2009
    Madrugada
    ^^So far, you're the first one to bring it up...
  • February 13, 2009
    Tzintzuntzan
    My never-finished YKTTW for Nation Of Hats notes that fictional Aztecs usually have no personality other than engaging in human sacrifice. This is where the "who's more evil" crap comes from, because if all they do is sacrifice people...

    Mayas are portrayed as Aztecs, only they're more sympathetic (largely due to guilt over their Real Life situation) and more likely to be in touch with the Ancient Astronauts.

    The poor, poor Incas are usually just "the people who, as well as the Aztecs, also exist." As in "there are Incas and Aztecs." The only Inca-specific portrayals I can think of are '"The Emperors New Groove (which is strictly Rule Of Cool), the old computer game Inca'' (which I've never played, only heard of) and the vengeful Incas from Tintin (who are almost generic vengeful Native Americans).
  • February 13, 2009
    Some Guy
    This is actually very unusual. Typically someone derails the topic within ten posts of Aztecs being mentioned.
  • February 13, 2009
    VampireBuddha
  • February 13, 2009
    MetaFour
    • The film Apocalypto, which portrays the Mayans as the Evil Empire and a small village in the jungle as pure, innocent victims. Which basically just serves as the backdrop for Braveheart and/or The Patriot in THE JUNGLE. Then at the end, historical accuracy gets put out of its misery when the Conquistadors show up.
  • February 13, 2009
    Goldfritha
    Probably need to mention that they are very prone to Historical Villain Upgrade
  • February 13, 2009
    Camacan
    @Vampire Buddha The trope is that we mix all historical South American cultures into one big ball of interesting bits and then label it at random. A work will include 'Atzecs' but you are as likely to find Inca or Maya etc culture turn up . Or vice versa: Maya with Inca/Aztec etc bits. See the above classic example of Apocalypto (!). You also get totally made up stuff.

    The trope has a life of its own -- this bundle of cool bits makes for exciting, exotic stories. As a writer using this trope you can depend on the audience already having a basic fictional world in mind for you to build your story in.

    I'm not just asking for historical inaccuracies -- I want to gather the images that have fired up so many creators' imaginations over the years and get examples of their fictional works.
  • February 13, 2009
    ccoa
    The Road To El Dorado features a sort of generic South American native culture that has a lot of aspects of this trope.
  • February 13, 2009
    Wyvernil
    Maybe call it Mayincatec, since it's pretty much a fusion of all Mesoamerican/South American native cultures.
  • February 13, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The Tezuman Empire in Disc World
  • February 13, 2009
    arekuru
    Rise of Nations features the Mayans, Inca, and Aztec all separately, but the Aztecs do get the "Power of Sacrifice" as their starting power.
  • February 13, 2009
    Madrugada
    The world of Tekumel, built by MAR Barker for the same reason that Tolkien built Middle Earth to have a world that he could use as a linguistic playground. In Barker's case. The languages were Indo-Asian and Meso-American, and the result was published in 1975 by TSR as Empire of the Petal Throne.
  • February 13, 2009
    Lee M
    Web Comics: Wapsi Square establishes a link between Mayan and Egyptian culture via Atlantis. Quite surprising for what started out looking like a Friends-style webcomic sitcom.
  • February 13, 2009
    Karalora
    The Mexico pavilion at Epcot is built to look like an Aztec pyramid.
  • February 13, 2009
    Earnest
    My memory is fuzzy, but the latest Indiana Jones movie had these sort of vaguely Inca/Aztec natives guarding the pyramid/Spaceship. I remember thinking the murals and pyramid looked out of place for South America, but I'm not familiar enough with Inca culture and architecture to be definitive.
  • February 13, 2009
    superluser
    Does this cover Olmecs?

    If so, can we add the head of Xtapolapocetl?
  • February 13, 2009
    Madrugada
    Olmecs are good, particularly because they so rarely get the spotlight themselves.
  • February 13, 2009
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Kolchak The Night Stalker episode "Legacy of Terror". An Aztec cult is trying to resurrect the mummy of their god. They sacrifice perfect people by cutting out their hearts.
  • February 13, 2009
    Known Unknown
    Also note that the Mayans and the Aztec are constantly being confused with one another, as well as the Inca (who get that treatment a bit less, but are still confused).
  • February 14, 2009
    Nomic
    • The Lizardmen from Warhammer have a Mayan/Aztec theme to them. Culturally they're closer to the Mayans, with the interest in astronomy and prophecies and the like (altho one of their gods is based off Quatzalcoatl), but the jewelry they often carry is more Aztec-inspired.
    • The trolls from Warcraft seem to have a little Aztec wibe on them. They have ziggurats (altho they lack the typical Aztec stonework), often partake in blood rituals and the evil troll god Hakkar is essentially an expy of Quetzalcoatl.
  • February 14, 2009
    Plan Pony
    Buffy episode "Inca Mummy Girl" where the titular mummy was a victim of human sacrifice.

    Also the Aztec Zone from The Crystal Maze - full of sand and temples and Bamboo Technology
  • February 14, 2009
    JChance
    I like "Mayincatec", by the way.
  • February 14, 2009
    Some Guy
    I do, too, but it will need Maya Inca Aztec as a redirect just to make sure people can actually search for it.
  • February 14, 2009
    VampireBuddha
    Mayincatec gets my vote.
  • February 14, 2009
    Tzintzuntzan
    Seconding Mayaincatec, and noting that as much as the Incas get shafted in fiction, at least writers know their names. Toltecs, Purepecha, and other Mexican Indians are usually outside the Small Reference Pools, and the Inca Empire's subject peoples (like the Chimu) are usually even more obscure than that.
  • February 14, 2009
    Camacan
    @Some Guy Yep, well have redirects a-go-go. @superluser: Certainly this trope covers Olmecs: all pre-Columbian peoples are covered.

    I'm surprised we don't have more videogame examples: Mayincatec visual styling is in several games, I'm sure.
  • February 14, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    <badjoke>

    ^I guess you could call it Mayincatech.

    </badjoke>
  • February 14, 2009
    MetaFour
    • The Aztecs and the fall of Tenochtitlan figure big in the backstory of Hellboy: The Island. The Aztec priests had gold tablets inscribed with the true history of the Ogdru Jahad and the creation of the world.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=el5y9qiuo6dn4kma4xrg33cx&trope=Mayincatec