Cowboys, Myths, and Audiences
Classic Westerns are America’s most enduring mythical genre. They show us “a heroically decent America” (Marcus 211), a world whose heroes—cowboys, gunslingers, sheriffs, prospectors, trappers, ranchers, buffalo hunters, bullwhackers, mountain men, rodeo riders, and homesteaders—are white American Protestant males, “a masculine world where men were men and women—on the rare occasions they appeared—seemed to like it that way” (Frayling xiv). All cowboy literature and films refer to and, on occasion, deviate from this blueprint. Not all fictional cowboys are Protestant white males. There are black cowboys,1 Jewish cowboys (see Raboy; Rischin and Livingston), Native American cowboys (Savage 94–95), and queer cowboys (Packard), even—although considerably more rare—the occasional woman making her way across the Plains.2 And of course, not all Westerns are American. There are, most famously, Spaghetti Westerns (defiantly called “Macaroni Westerns” in Italy), but also Sauerkraut Westerns from Germany, Paella Westerns from Spain, Camembert Westerns from France, Chop Suey Westerns from Hong Kong, Curry Westerns from India, and “Borscht Westerns” from Russia (Frayling xix). In spite of such foreign interlopers, the American Western still enjoys pride of place as the Western. Rare is the critic who, like Christopher Frayling, attempts to integrate it into the international scene (as the “Hamburger Western,” with “John Wayne representing the pure beef variety,” Frayling xix). The myth of the Western does not lend itself to such diversification.
KeywordsLove Story Racial Division Academy Award Bounty Hunt Deep Shadow
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