Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pop Culture: Where Have All The Westerns Gone?

I'm a big fan of Westerns. I like the raw manliness of the Clint Eastwoods and John Waynes of the world, I like the idea that the only thing standing up against evil is a man with a six-shooter, and I especially like how freakin' cool it all is.

The Wild West: where annunciation isn't nearly as important and stoicism.
But where have all the Westerns gone? Have people stopped liking movies about manly men doing manly man things? Can people somehow be brought back into the realm of sanity, or are we destined to live without gunslingers for all eternity? Back in the day, there were so many Westerns that there were fifteen subgenres, each with different characteristics of ass-kickery. But now-a-days we've substituted the dystopias of the Wild West with post-apocalyptic zombie romances. Gone are the heroes who drink, smoke, and dip, only to be replaced by Ryan Gosling, whose only redeeming quality is his smoldering, smoldering gaze.

If I stare silently long enough, they'll forget about the Mickey Mouse Club
But our move away from Westerns doesn't make sense, because they're actually exactly what we want to watch, we just think they're not. Sound confusing? I'll elaborate. It seems like these days we don't want protagonists who are entirely good (like John Wayne), but are instead looking for morally ambiguous antiheroes looking for redemption (like Don Draper, Tony Soprano, and Walter White). So what would be better to bring back than Clint Eastwood's character in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly?

Similarly, we don't want cut and dry plots, but prefer shocking twists, ambiguous villains, and uncertain odds. While it's true that there are a number of Westerns that do not fit this description, Two Mules for Sister Sara, Tombstone, and The Outlaw Josey Wales all offer intricate, entertaining plots. So it's not that we don't want Westerns anymore, it's that the ones we want have become more specific.

Now, it's very important to note that a lot of the recent attempts to reinvigorate the Western genre have fallen flat because they don't focus on the crap I just mentioned. So if our goal is to jump-start the resurgence of Westerns (and you'd better believe it is), what needs to happen is a director comes along and gives us the kind of movie that focuses on the qualities that people want today, which were always present in the old ones. We don't need a gritty reboot or an homage, we need a back to basics Western.

Now that I've come up with the idea, someone get out there and make it happen!

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