Social Darwinism – A Trend in Social Science in the XIX – XX Centuries

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Social Darwinism

Social Darwinism involves the concept whereby some traits of the species are bred out while the strongest characters are retained in the species. To a believer of social Darwinism, one group of the population is above the other groups because it is superior (Bouse 98). This kind of thinking is extremely risky because it glorifies some group of people who are better than others. Besides, such sort of thinking rationalizes genocide (a fictional one) where one group of people deserves to live while another does not. Social Darwinism is a term referring to the phenomena of trying to applying survival for the fittest and natural selection to the human society. The theory of Social Darwinism is depicted in many films and viewers should be wary of what they are watching lest they are converted to the views of Social Darwinism. This paper reviews some of the films that have highlighted the theory of Social Darwinism.

Django Unchained

Django Unchained is an informative movie directed by Quentin Tarantino and is about a Calvin Candie, who is a slave owner from the southern region. Calvin Practices Phrenology, which is a specialty that entails measuring and learning about people based on the sections and bumps of the human skull. Calvin is of the opinion that the head of the citizens of the African descent have a defect of the skull and as such, they should not be permitted to live on they own (Tarantino 200). Also, Calvin believes that the individuals of the African descent need slavery to function and this type of thinking justifies his ownership of slaves. Through this film, Tarantino shows that the society at the time was still of the conviction that this theory of social Darwinism, which implies that people are only of the functioning effectively in the world as guided by the genetic makeup. Calvin also believes that the black people are submissive in nature because of the defects of their brains (Django Unchained, 2012).

The Sons of the Great Bear

The Sons of the Great Bear is a film directed by Josef Mach that portrays elements of Social Darwinism. In this movie, a Dakota tribesman known as Tokei-Ihto is attempting to keep the white men from taking over his land. His enemy known as Red Fox is a white scout that has partaken in some Indian initiation traditions, and therefore he deems himself to be part of Indian only when it profits his self-interests (The Sons of the Great Bear, 1966). When, however, the government discovers that there is gold in the land of the Dakota, the government decides to relocate the tribe to another location. In this case, Tokei-Ihto attempts to convince the chief of the land that the white people cannot be trusted, but his words fall on deaf ears, and the betrayal of the white men become evident later just as Tokei-Ihto had predicted.

The theory of social Darwinism is depicted as the Whites are considered to be more superior to the local people of Dakota. This is shown when the natives of Dakota are forced to relocate to accommodate the desires of the White men. The protestations of the natives of the land do not matter to the whites who are only after their self-interests. When gold is discovered in the lands that had been promised to the Indians by contract, the Red Fox demands the chief Mattotaupa to reveal this location, and when he refuses, he is stabbed in front of his son Tokei-Ihto. Also, Tokei-Ihto is then ordered by Lieutenant Roach to go Fort Smith for negotiations. Tokei-Ihto suspects that the whites are planning an attack and refuses to relocate. His fears of the white attack are confirmed, and when the whites defeat the Indians of Dakota, they are resettled by force (The Sons of the Great Bear, 1966).

The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven is an American film directed by John Sturges and was produced in 1960. This movie regards a village that is constantly being attacked by bandits led by Calvera. In the latest looting spree, while taking the little food supply from the villagers, Calvera, and his bandit promise to come back for another raiding. The villagers decide that enough is enough and opt to do something about it. They ride searching for weapons to defend themselves. While in their pursuit, the encounter a veteran gunslinger who advises them to hire gunfighters to help them defend their village against the bandits. The village finally hires Chris Adams and six other men to help to protect the village against the bandits (The Magnificent Seven, 1960). The theory of Social Darwinism is featured here because the villagers believe the strongest survive and as such, they hire shooters to help boost their chances of survival because only the strongest survive.

Upon arrival in the village, the gunmen begin training the villagers to defend themselves while befriending them at the same time. When they see that the food is not enough, they share their belongings with the villagers. Chico also finds himself being attracted to one of the village woman called Petra. Bernardo also befriends three little boys of the village. Besides, Lee bonds with the villagers when upon having nightmares and bad dreams; he is comforted by the villagers. Soon the Calvera and his bandits arrive, and they incur heavy losses given that the villagers manage to defend themselves with the help of the gunmen. The insurgents manage to run them out of the village. Chico follows Calvera and learns that he is also desperate for food (The Magnificent Seven, 1960).


Tombstone is an action adventure movie, directed by George Cosmatos, centering about a man called Wyatt Earp who desires to retire from law enforcement. Together with his brothers Virgil and Morgan, they set out for Tombstone upon arrival; Wyatt finds that his long-time friend Doc Holliday is living in Tombstone. He also gets to learn that the town is run by Cowboy, a group which entails brutal outlaws who are taking advantage of the residents. The theory of Social Darwinism is emergent here since the bandits believe themselves to be superior that the citizens and as such, they run Tombstone by force and take advantage of the resources at the expense of the villagers, as well as infringe upon their human rights by brutalizing them. Upon the death of the marshal by the hand of a Cowboy, Virgil is chosen to take up the vacant position. Virgil leads the residents in getting rid of the Cowboys (Tombstone, 1993).

The Wild Bunch

This is a movie is directed by Sam Peckinpah and is about an aging group of outlaws, branded the ‘wild bunch’ are bound by a code of friendship, honor, and camaraderie. However, this friendship puts them at odd with the 1993 society. Led by their friend called Pike Bishop, they come to the end of the society, and they find themselves no longer present in the presence of the laws of the Old West (The Wild Bunch, 1969). They are chased by the bounty hunters who are after their lives. One of the bounty hunters is even a former friend of Pike Bishop, the leader of the Wild Bunch. The old friend of Pike, known as Deke Thorton would rather side with the bounty hunter rather than being taken to the Yuma prison. This highlights the theory of Social Darwinism because the Wild Bunch must learn to survive the threat of the bounty hunters who are chasing them. In this theory of natural selection and the survival of the fittest, only the strongest of the species survive. This group of the Wild Bunch must be stronger, faster and more tactful to survive the threat of the bounty hunters who are stalking them. This film has an elevated level violence as the gang is first attacked at the opening ambush after a failed bank robbery (Prince 190). However, at the conclusion of the film, the group is destroyed brutally by a vengeful Mexican Warlord. In Social Darwinism, the weak do not survive as portrayed in the movie where the innocent bystanders are slaughtered, and the women are used as shields because they cannot defend themselves. This is an all-male film where the major characters are the males since they are deemed to be the strongest and the fastest. Due to violence involving the slaying of the weak individuals, this film was given an R-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

The Searchers

The Searchers is an American Movie that was directed by John Ford. It is based incredibly on a novel written by Alan Le May. It centers on Ethan Edwards, who is a former soldier who fought in the Indian wars (The Searchers, 1956). Upon returning home, he finds that his family has been butchered and the only surviving family member, who is his niece, has been kidnapped. The theory of Social Darwinism is emergent because the weakest, the relatives of Ethan Edwards, are massacred and the strongest, the Comanche, survive (Frankel 350). Edwards promises to bring back his niece and kill the individuals who committed the heinous acts of his family members. He sets on a journey that lasts for five years only to find that she has become one of the members of the Comanche.


In conclusion, this paper has analyzed how the theory of Social Darwinism is shown in various films. The proponents of social Darwinism believe that the process of natural selection will result in the survival of the strongest and the best competitors in the species, and as such improving on the population that survives the natural selection process. This has been demonstrated in various films including Django Unchained, Tombstone, The Wild Bunch, The Searchers and The Sons of the Great Bear and The Magnificent Seven. In these films, the best competitors of the natural selection process survive, and the weakest are either robbed of their rights and they are killed in the process.

Works Cited

Bouse, Derek. Wildlife Films. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000. Internet resource.
Django Unchained. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. 2012.

Frankel, G. The Searchers: the making of an American Legend. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. Print.

Prince, S. Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch. CambridgeUK: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Print.

Tarantino, Q. Django Unchained. DC Comics, 2014. Print.

The Magnificent Eight. Dir. John Sturges. 1960.

The Searchers. Dir. John Ford. 1956.
The Sons of Great Bear. Dir. Josef Mach. 1966.

The Wild Bunch. Dir. Sam Peckinpah. 1969.

Tombstone. Dir. George Cosmatos. 1993.

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Social Darwinism – A Trend in Social Science in the XIX – XX Centuries. (2022, Feb 21). Retrieved from

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