Masculinity, Race, and the (Re?)Imagined American Frontier

  • Barbara Gurr


The Old West provides a much-beloved and often-used framework for American popular culture. Consider the TV classic Gunsmoke (1955–1975) or one of the many Westerns that defined Hollywood cinema for so long, probably something by John Ford, preferably starring John Wayne (you could substitute Clint Eastwood). Or … maybe it’s the far, far away galaxy of the original Star Wars trilogy (1977, 1980, and 1983). It could be the post-apocalyptic setting of Joss Whedon’s cult classic Firefly (2002–2003), which was not subtle in its reliance on the Western genre (see Sumerau and Jirek, Chapter Five, this volume). It could easily be the USS Enterprise hurtling through space, “the final frontier”; the original Star Trek series (1966–1969), The Next Generation (1987–1994), and Enterprise (2001–2005) all featured episodes which specifically recreated the Old West—The Specter of the Gun (Season 3, episode 6), A Fistful of Datas (Season 6, episode 8), and North Star (Season 3, episode 9) respectively—and other Star Trek spin-offs followed similar character and narrative recipes. Wherever and whenever the Old West shows up, however, it is a masculine space, and the triumphalism of that masculinity is primarily racialized as white.


Native People Master Narrative Nuclear Bomb Star Trek American Revolution 
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  1. 1.
    David Mogen, Wilderness Visions: The Western Theme in Science Fiction Literature (San Bernadino: Borgo Press, 1993): 17.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a discussion on masculinity in American popular culture see Michael Kimmel, “The Cult of Masculinity: American Social Character and the Legacy of the Cowboy,” in Beyond Patriarchy, ed. Michael Kaufman, 235–249 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist Vegetarian Critical Theory (New York: Continuum International Publishing, 1990).Google Scholar

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© Barbara Gurr 2015

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  • Barbara Gurr

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