Useful Notes / Davy Crockett

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Davy Crockett was a man born in 1786, and went on to live a full life in both war and politics. He served in the Creek Indian War, then was elected to the Tennessee state legislature, and eventually to the House of Representatives. There, he opposed many of the bills by Andrew Jackson, particularly the Indian Removal Act, resulting in the end of his political career. As a result he left for Texas, where he died in the battle of the Alamo in 1836.

That's more or less the Cliff Notes version of his life, and it was embedded in American popular culture. His exploits became exaggerated beyond what he did, including claims that he killed a bear at age three.

The most famous interpretation of him probably came from a five-part serial on the Disneyland television program, featuring Fess Parker in the lead role, which created quite the fad when it aired. In fact, the original serial was only in three parts, the success convinced them to make the remaining two parts. The serial was rereleased as two Compilation Movies, Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates. The two movies have been released on DVD, and the serial was released unedited as part of the Walt Disney Treasures line. The Disney version proved insanely popular in the early 1950s USA, with Davy Crockett merchandise greatly in demand among kids, and is arguably the first modern children's media cultural phenomenon of its type. In terms of crazes it and other westerns would only succumb to science fiction media derived from the Space Race, a fact that became a major plot point in Toy Story 2's backstory.

The Disney version contains the following tropes:

  • Badass: Crockett, naturally.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Many of the speeches and sayings attributed to Crockett, including his "Not Yours To Give" speech and his claim about his father licking every man in Kentucky, are now considered apocryphal at best.
  • Bears Are Bad News
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Or at least that is the most popular version of the story, although there is a fair amount of witness testimony indicating that Crockett (and a few other defenders of the Alamo) were captured alive only to be murdered on the orders of the Mexican commander; Disney played with this when they revisited Crockett in 2004's The Alamo.
  • Brandishment Bluff: Crockett and Russell scare off an entire Creek war party by making enough noise to convince them they're a much larger force. It helps that the scene takes place in heavily wooded areas and that they're both crack shots.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: By the time Crockett becomes a congressman, his reputation as a larger-than-life hero with many comically unlikely accomplishments to his name is already well established. He's happy to play to the stereotype.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Crockett has this in spades. After the Creek War is over, he and Russell move to a new territory and just want to settle down. However, when he finds that a local posse of Politically Incorrect Villains has been running Indians off their land, he makes it his business to stand up to them and get them locked up. Then, he's convinced to run for Congress to prevent a lawyer sympathetic to said posse from becoming the next representative. Then, after leaving Congress and having nothing left to do, he finds the nearest worthy cause (the Texas Revolution), joins it, and ultimately dies for it.
  • Compilation Movie: As noted above.
  • Cool, Clear Water
  • Cowardly Lion: Thimblerig, the riverboat gambler who signs on with Davy and Georgie to go to Texas. He's given a chance to escape the Alamo before the final battle, but ultimately chooses to stay.
  • Dawn of the Wild West
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": He usually preferred to be called "David".
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Mike Fink becomes friends with Crockett after he beats them in a river race.
    • Also between Davy and Red Stick during the Indian Wars.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Davy's is killing a bear with a knife.
    • This deserves elaboration: he's actually introduced trying to grin down a bear, as per the legend. When Major Norton angers the bear, Davy has no choice but to kill it with a knife. Since the entire scene is concealed by bushes, there's no way to know whether he actually tried to grin him down or whether he and Russel are just messing with Norton... but that's their story and they're sticking to it.
  • Foregone Conclusion: When you find out he's going to the Alamo, you know what's going to happen.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: As history dictates.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: A toned down version when Davy gets a letter telling him that his wife is dead.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Davy and Georgie.
  • I Call It "Vera": Davy calls his gun Bessie.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Red Stick's "promises no good. White government lie" is tragically borne out by the Indian Removal Act, much to Davy's disgust.
  • Large Ham: How Mike Fink is portrayed in the series.
  • Memetic Badass: Crockett
  • Mildly Military: Crockett, Russell, and all the Tennessean militia in the Creek Indian War, have a very loose relationship with the chain of command. Somewhat justified in that they're volunteers, not regular military.
  • Mountain Man
  • Nice Hat: Davy's coonskin cap, of course.
  • Noble Savage: The series' portrayal of Native Americans.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Plenty of examples. But eloquently summed up when Davy suggests going to Texas, which is in the middle of a revolution:
    Russel: "Texas? Why we've got the whole damn country to choose from, and you've got to pick... Well there's nothing there but a heap of trouble!"
    Crockett: "... Americans in trouble."
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Major Norton.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Crockett and his friends when they get to the Alamo. A former Congressman and Indian fighter, his best friend, a disgraced riverboat gambler, and an exiled Comanche warrior.
  • The Red Stapler: Davy's Coonskin Cap.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The alligators.
  • Shirtless Scene: Georgie gets one.
  • Sleazy Politician: Norton, after becoming Andrew Jackson's political adviser.
  • Tall Tale: Davy Crockett has become accrued with legends that sometimes stray into Tall Tale territory.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Depending on your view of the U.S. government, Crockett's incendiary speech opposing the Indian Removal Act is either this or a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    • He occasionally gets these from Russell, most especially at the Alamo when Russel discovers that Crockett knew about the ammunition shortage all along and declined to tell him.

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