The new Old West
0 comment Friday, August 8, 2014 |
Mike Tuggle at Rebellion points us to this interesting piece, with the rather ponderous title How the West Was Changed: Degradation of the Townspeople After World War II in the American Western.
The obvious change in Western movies was that the townspeople were portrayed in a less and less sympathetic light, and in some cases, white American townspeople were no longer part of the storyline, as in 'The Magnificent Seven', in which the townspeople were Mexican.
The reason, per Mike Tuggle:
Simple, says the author -- the Hollywood elite, angered by Middle America's rallying around Joe McCarthy -- had declared war on the white middle class...''
The Nous American blog had an interesting series of pieces on Hollywood Westerns and the way in which they reflected the social revolution of the late 50s and early 60s. (Unfortunately the pieces are not all linked to each other, so one has to navigate through the archives to find the pieces in question.)
The blogger, GMason, describes some of the reasons why the Westerns shifted. Up until the mid-20th century the Westerns, particularly 'B Westerns' were 'morality plays', with positive values -- the chivalric code exemplified by the 'good guy' hero, and the triumph of the good and decent people, including the honest townsfolk.
B westerns operated as though they were under some special ethical directives. In fact, Bs have often been called "morality plays," and they were. Some made better use of their moral situations and portrayal than others, but none blurred the distinction between good and bad, or good and evil.
Typically in a B western, there are men who want something that is not theirs and intend to get it from the honorable persons who own what the bad guys covet. This may involve cattle, land, water, oil, gold, bearer bonds, stagecoach contracts, and so on. The baddies violate the sovreign rights of those who possess what they covet. To achieve their nefarious ends, they initiate all sorts of physical force, including fraud.
The defenders of the good must discover, then uncover, and deal with the issue and its instigators. Adding to the plot complexity are mistakes of knowledge, bad assumptions, and ignorance, which delay rectification. Invariable, however, retaliatory force, in the name of the law, of rights, of property ownership, of the good, etc., must be used to correct the situation. There are fist fights, brawls, major and minor shootouts, right on up to the cavalry arriving to restore right from might. Good always triumphs. That was standard moral fare in Bs.''
On the subject of Westerns and European culture, Cambria Will Not Yield also had a good piece, which I referenced here before. Those who missed that piece might like to read it here.
But returning to Aaron Barlow's above-linked 'How the West Was Changed', we find that he indicates that the most obvious change was in the way the townspeople were regarded. In the old 'poverty row' B Westerns, pre-1950s, the ordinary people were presented as deserving of protection from the 'bad guys' who threatened their way of life and their peace and safety. And it was such people, mostly white 'average' people, who were the audience for these Westerns. It would seem odd to present them with movies which showed their ancestors in an unfriendly light, but that is what happened after the end of the B-movie era, and as only 'A' Westerns were made.
'The movie Western had moved from "poverty row" (abetting the demise of these poor-cousin studios) and firmly into the mainstream. Along with a changing social and political climate, better production values, actors, writers, and distribution led to a Western quite different from what had been presented before. Yet, though many of the Westerns of the 1950s are among the best the genre has ever seen, something is lost whenever a change of this magnitude occurs.
In this case, it was the people. Their protection once having been the rationale behind the Western, they now played�at best�the role of oppressor in scenarios where attention is turned to other problems, or had disappeared completely from consideration while questions of individualism and personal morality began to dominate the genre.
After World War II, however, the "good" population began to disappear from sight in the Western.
Why, for example, was a cultural split added to The Magnificent Seven (John Sturgis, 1960), the Hollywood remake of Shichinin no samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)? In the original, the townspeople are simply poor and oppressed; they share a cultural background with the samurai they hire to protect them as well as with the people who are expected to see the film. In the remake the townspeople are alien�to their protectors and to most of their intended audience. Why? Why make it a Mexican town in need of protection by Americans?''
The essay ties together a number of things: the changing portrayal of the average small-town American in the 1950s and 60s, the Cold War, the McCarthy era, and the increasing media hostility to rural white America.
The Hollywood elites probably had always felt that they were outsiders in Anglo-American culture, and they, being mostly urban people, of more recent immigrant roots in many cases, were distrustful or even disdainful of the rural or small-town white culture of America. In the 50s and thereafter, in the divisive atmosphere of the 'Red Scare', small-town Americans increasingly became depicted in movies as sinister or at least as ignorant and crude and unfriendly. We saw this trend culminate in the 70s and thereafter, with many Western movies depicting bigoted whites persecuting Indians, and in the old 1970s TV series 'Kung Fu', the ''Chinese'' character Caine. Each and every episode of that series had scenes of leering, slavering bigots attacking Caine while calling him racial epithets.
Dances With Wolves, in the 90s was another movie whose depiction of whites was relentlessly disparaging, with the only exceptions being the hero, who turned his back on white civilization and went native, and his love interest, another white-gone-native.
Another way in which this manifests itself is in the negative image of Confederate soldiers or former confederate soldiers in recent movies; in the past, portrayals of Confederates or ex-Confederates were often sympathetic.
This is just one more front in the war on our past and on our ancestors. Can't Hollywood just let our forefathers rest in peace, or must they repeatedly exhume them for a posthumous flogging?
Although Barlow generally makes good points in the essay linked above, One quibble that I have with 'How the West Was Changed' is that the writer seems to presume that McCarthyism, so-called, was some kind of political witch hunt; he does not seem to credit the idea that there was substance to McCarthy's allegations, despite his personal flaws. And there is no hint that the writer believes that Communism was a real threat which should have been confronted and dealt with. The fact that some people in Hollywood were 'blacklisted' and could not find work in the industry for a while (many of them were back in the industry later) seems to be considered 'persecution' Soviet-style by many Americans. As if 'blacklisting' were morally equivalent to gulags or mass purges.
But it's an interesting piece overall. It is obvious to most people, except the most willfully blind, that Hollywood and the media in general have an ideological agenda, and that they subtly -- and sometimes not-so-subtly -- shape our ideas about the past, and about the present and about ourselves. In this sense they have enormous power, and we really ought to scrutinize the 'entertainment' media (and the news media) as much or more as we scrutinize elected officials. Politics takes many forms. 'Entertainment' these days is all too often another form of indoctrination, but it's presented to us in a shiny, attractive package rather than in the form of lectures and polemics. It's the spoonful of sugar; we watch a Hollywood movie or a TV program or a music video or even a commercial these days, and we have images and subtle messages implanted in our consciousness. And when you try to point out to someone the messages in the media, often the response is: ''it's just a movie'' or 'it's just a TV show; lighten up.' Yet it does have an effect; sometimes it's a gradual, subtle effect, but in some cases, especially among the more impressionable young, a movie or a TV program (or less frequently, a book) will profoundly affect the thinking and beliefs of the target. If my readers remember I posted a link to a thread from a liberal blog where the subject of discussion was 'what movies have changed your life?' Many of the people claimed that a movie did in fact change their lives. Sometimes, especially in this present subjective age, people are more susceptible to manipulation via visual images, especially when their emotions are aroused by the images. A picture is worth a thousand words, as the trite (but true) old saying has it.
It's been said before, but I think we need to look at our entertainment with a critical eye and point out the ways in which it is destructive to us. The politically correct, anti-white left absolutely dominates the media, including the entertainment media, and they are challenged far too infrequently on the heavy-handed propaganda they peddle. We need more voices on our side to provide some perspective on this, and to try to counteract it.

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