Thanksgiving has a special interest for me, or I might not have watched "The Thanksgiving House," which is an exceptionally well made chick flick. In it, the romance at the center also serves as metaphor, because it has a weighty theme: about sitting down to dinner with someone who might, or might not, be your enemy.
My regret is that more parallels weren't drawn between our modern Thanksgivings and the legendary first one, because more interesting similarities were there to be drawn, and the movie would have been richer for suggesting them-- and I do mean suggesting, very lightly suggesting, because this isn't a documentary.
Briefly, the plot revolves around the land occupied by a house at 825 Mayflower Road in Plymouth, Mass. (fictional address, of course), which a local historian/archaeologist named Mather suspects was the site of the legendary first Thanksgiving. The house now belongs to a lawyer named Mary, and the movie opens with a scene in her law office, where she exposes a man in his attempt at insurance fraud. So she's in the business of finding the truth, which is good, but as a lawyer, her real motives are serving her client, keeping the firm profitable, and climbing the corporate ladder. Right there we have a parallel: are the hard truths about early American history something we want exposed, at the expense of our more immediate day-to-day motives and beliefs? After all, to many Native Americans in New England and around the country, Thanksgiving is considered a "Day of Mourning."
After that scene, I expected a connection to a larger theme: exposing the myth that has been built up around that original Thanksgiving, a myth that buries the truth about colonists and pilgrims who, after that one-time feast in 1621, were less likely to dine together than to scalp each other. (Yes, Europeans scalped Indians. In fact, colonial leaders placed a bounty on scalps, which encouraged the practice so much that even Native children were scalped for the money. Indians used scalping as proof of a kill in battle.)
Little true history is revealed, which is fair enough: little is known about the first Thanksgiving. (Indeed, there are competing "first" claims from Virginia and Florida, among others.) There is a classroom scene, in which a teacher talks about the Wampanoag sitting down with pilgrims to give thanks, and a student asks "How'd that work out for the Wampanoag?" The teacher somberly, evasively replies, "In the long run, not so well."
Not so well... that's putting it mildly. But the truth is not chick- flick material, and I therefore appreciate that such a scene was included at all. I only wish there had been more such references, necessarily oblique, to America's "aboriginal sin," as it is called. The film could also, for example, have had a passing remark about the fact there was only ever that one Thanksgiving, in 1621. Indians and pilgrims became enemies. Another missed opportunity, an important one given the house which is at the center of the plot: Indians did not hold private land, so a point could have been made about how Mary comes from the European heritage of land-owning, so she does not even want an archaeological examination of her property. How she comes to share her property would have made a useful food-for-thought parallel.
And speaking of food, here, for what it is worth, is my special interest in Thanksgiving. I am a part of an initiative called Thanksgiving Table, which encourages all North Americans to add a Native American element to their Thanksgiving feast.