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Old June 26 2010, 06:52 PM   #46
J.T.B.
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

stj wrote: View Post
A "Western" that treated cowboys and Indians in a non-stereotypical or non-racist way probably would be considered a period drama, not a "Western."
I don't know what you are taking about. There are many "Westerns" that don't even deal with "cowboys and indians." What is "racist" about High Noon, Shane, The Ox-Bow Incident, My Darling Clementine, Wagon Master, 3:10 to Yuma, Winchester 73, The Magnificent Seven, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, True Grit, The Professionals, Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Shootist or the Man With No Name movies (just of the top of my head)?

This may be a path already started by Deadwood, but I haven't seen any of that. The thing about period dramas is that there's lots of periods to pick from.
"Started" by Deadwood?

Fort Apache (1948) not only presented Native Americans as honorable and unfairly treated, but questioned the whole myth of the "taming" of the continent. It also included a Mexican-American character as probably the sharpest and most professional soldier in the picture.

Red River (1948) doesn't deal much with Indians, but does include the Indian character Quo, who is not "savage" but too sharp to be simple comic relief as he trades barbs with Walter Brennan. It's a precursor of the role Chief Dan George plays in The Outlaw Josey Wales.

The Searchers has already been commented on above. It may damn Ethan Edwards' obsessiveness more than it does his racism, but it clearly shows that Ethan's distrust of the mixed-race Martin Pawley is misguided. It also shows the Indians sympathetically in their winter dependence on the reservation for food and the helpful character of Look, not as simple family-killing objects of revenge.

I will not even comment on '60s and later Westerns, as the revision of Hollywood's depiction of Native Americans was so firmly in place by then it doesn't really need reviewing by me.

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Old June 27 2010, 01:12 AM   #47
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

The outlaw motif in Westerns has its own development, but the great fountain of this whole stream is the myth of Jesse James.

Jesse James rode with Quantrill in the Civil War. Race is deeply involved with the outlaw myth, from the beginning to the modern incarnations like Firefly/Serenity.

The partial exceptions are there of course. But it is not an accident that the exceptions to the classic Western as revealed in hundreds of movies are no longer exceptional. The classic Western died, starting with integrations struggles in the Fifties. The TV Western died with television's usual lag behind the times.
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Old June 27 2010, 06:31 AM   #48
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

The Outlaw myth is almost as old as storytelling. All they did was transfer it to the American West and drop in a few names "torn from the headlines".
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Old June 27 2010, 12:47 PM   #49
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

Well, I think a thorough analysis of movies would show that Jesse James mythology was by itself a large portion of the Western outlaw trope, and lots of the others just Jesse James with the names changed.

And I think that Jesse James was possibly the earliest outlaw promoted by the press (for racist reasons,) and set the template for the pulps. Dick Turpin's ride just didn't resonate here, I think.

But this is a bbs, not a scholarly journal. Just think about it.
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Old June 27 2010, 06:48 PM   #50
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

The outlaw is a old concept legally and culturally. Those tropes and myths predate the Western, Jesse James and the Civil War. I'd have to see more imformation be for I could call the motivations racist. Jesse James fought the Confedrates, the Confederates were racists there fore the motivations behind the promotion of the Jesse James mythology ( and all Westerns) is racially motivated seems specious.
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Old June 28 2010, 02:43 AM   #51
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

It appears that Jesse James went to Northfield Minnesota because a Civil War general who became a prominent Reconstruction politician favoring Black suffrage (in Alabama, I think,) was rumored to be a major depositor in the bank they tried to rob. That's racist politics.

Cited in James McPherson's highly approving review of a Jesse James biography that examined the politics of the James mythology. James McPherson is the current preeminent authority on the Civil War, so his opinion is quite reliable. If you're really interested, you can ask for details and I'll dig the book out the attic.
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Old June 28 2010, 07:44 AM   #52
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

James' real world politics and his mythology arent exactly te same thing. Did folks writing books and movies about him dwell on his pro-Confederacy or pro-Slavery stances? The image they promoted was as a Western Robin Hood. McPherson's review seems focused on the way the book scraped away the myths and exposed the real Jesse James.

"Among all the myth and folklore as well as the serious studies of Jesse James, this book stands out as the best account of the meaning of his life and times. James was neither a Robin Hood figure nor a 'social bandit' nor a 'primitive rebel' nor an emblem of rural America's last stand against capitalist transformation. Rather, James and his associates were Confederate guerrillas who, in a Missouri torn by the Civil War, kept up their battle against the victors for a decade after. For the first time, thanks to T. J. Stiles, we see the real Jesse James."
--James M. McPherson, author, Battle Cry of Freedom
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Old June 28 2010, 02:50 PM   #53
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

Turning a Quantrill's raider into a Western Robin Hood is a political statement in itself. The insistence that the South was all about small government or such drivel is the same kind of thing. Demanding that people have to forthrightly state they are racist seems so excessive as to border on the disingenuous. The subtext of Jesse James is there. Nobody from New York or Massachusetts or even Ohio gets to be the Western Robin Hood and that's no accident.

One of the things McPherson praises Stiles for is going into detail about the politics of the editor primarily responsible for the Jesse James myth. Confederate racist of course.
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Old June 28 2010, 06:31 PM   #54
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

My problem is that you're tarring the entire genre with James' brush. Claiming Westerns are racist because of Jesse James' or an editor's real world politics. I'm no fan of the way the South has been romanticized in fiction, but the Western is far more than the exclusive realm of Southern Apologists.
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Old June 28 2010, 08:30 PM   #55
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

/\Correct.There is no other genre that has the flexibility of the western.
Historical
Comedy
Crime/mystery
Blaxploitation
Biopic
Psychological drama
Envoirnmentalist
Military
Allegorical
Courtroom drama
Race politics
Feminist
Horror
Hell,there have even been kung-fu westerns,and probably several categories that I'm forgetting.
So ,is the failure of the modern western a failing of the producers or of the audience?
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Old June 29 2010, 01:35 AM   #56
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

stj wrote: View Post
Turning a Quantrill's raider into a Western Robin Hood is a political statement in itself. The insistence that the South was all about small government or such drivel is the same kind of thing. Demanding that people have to forthrightly state they are racist seems so excessive as to border on the disingenuous.
Even so, that's a long way from supporting the earlier contentions that Westerns were doomed by their outmoded racial views.

The subtext of Jesse James is there. Nobody from New York or Massachusetts or even Ohio gets to be the Western Robin Hood and that's no accident.
A "Western Robin Hood" story accounts for only a small percentage of Western movies. The James gang has just as often been depicted as genuine "bad guys," often very charismatic, but clearly on the wrong side. Far more influential for Western movies were the examples of lawmen like Wyatt Earp and Pat Garrett, who promoted their stories tirelessly in their lifetimes, even in Hollywood in Earp's case. Usually the stories, even if based on real characters, were so fictionalized the the average moviegoer would have little or no idea of the politics originally involved.

Here are the top 15 most commercially successful Westerns according to George Lucas's Blockbusting, Alex B. Block, ed.

1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
2. Duel in the Sun (1947)
3. How the West Was Won (1963)
4. Dances with Wolves (1990)
5. Shane (1953)
6. The Outlaw (1943)
7. Unforgiven (1992)
8. Maverick (1994)
9. The Alamo (1960)
10. Jesse James (1939)
11. True Grit (1969)
12. The Covered Wagon (1923)
13. Red River (1948)
14. Little Big Man (1970)
15. Vera Cruz (1954)

I can find little "racist" content in that list. Numbers 3 and 12 have stereotypical Indian fighting, but even the silent Covered Wagon has scenes showing the Indians are fighting for their way of life. Numbers 4 and 14 are emphatically pro-Native American, and 7 and 8 have strongly positive black and Native American characters, respectively. The rest, race plays little or no part. As for Robin Hood stories, the 1939 Jesse James is indeed one example, but it is fictionalized and leaves James brothers' Civil War origins out completely. In the movie they are pushed into crime by corrupt land-grabbers.

The reason that TV Westerns outlasted movie Westerns is simple: It was the same thing continued elsewhere. The B-picture Western, which could be produced on an industrial scale by Hollywood, shifted to television just as viewers switched from going to the pictures and seeing serials, newsreels, B- and A-features to getting most of their entertainment at home and only going to the movies for big features. The well-established system for mass-producing Westerns was a natural fit for TV and played a big part in shifting the center of the television industry from New York to California. There were still feature film Westerns made in Hollywood, but the genre was not nearly as dominant as on TV. And the reason they died out on TV was also simple: There were too many and people tired of them, and the new field of demographic research showed that younger viewers preferred sitcoms and detective shows.

--Justin
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Old June 29 2010, 04:00 PM   #57
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

Oh God, I could only hope that a new Western series was made. Hell, I'll settle for more Western movies.

I'd eat that up.
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Old June 29 2010, 04:23 PM   #58
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

Mr. Adventure wrote: View Post
I don't think you'd see an unadulterated Western but maybe one with some kind of other genre element.
I always thought a Western series with zombies would be kind of badass.
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Old June 29 2010, 10:53 PM   #59
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

I'm not quite sure that box office hits are representative of Westerns as a class. Certainly, since I said that since integration the classic Western is dead, citing post-integration Westerns (a mere handful compared to the torrent beforehand,) isn't even relevant. That said, Duel in the Sun is about "halfbreed" played by Jennifer Jones! Not seeing doesn't mean nothing's there.

Jesse James is done repeatedly, last time in American Outlaws, played by Colin Farrell. He has a black sidekick!
Turning Jesse James into a Western Robin Hood covers up his role as a Confederate guerrilla, who took part in massacres. Having a Southern rebel motivated by something other than racism is the same kind of falsification promoted by the NeoConfederate sympathizers who babble about economic oppression by Northern industrialists or dedication to states' rights.

In the classic Western there there are no significant numbers of African Americans or Chinese; the Indians are simply bloodthirsty marauders or noble savages doomed by the modern world or simply not part of the equation (none of which were true!); Manly Men heroically struggle with the lawless landscape, far removed from both the blessings and blights of civilization; noble settlers start anew in unpopulated territory. In various ways, this is a dream world where issues of race, from the annihilation of the American Indians to the nature of the Civil War, simply don't exist. After integration made race an issue, the mythology no longer bore conviction. Even on television, younger audiences would rather watch cop shows.
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Old June 29 2010, 11:23 PM   #60
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Re: a new Western as a TV episodic series? discuss

stj wrote: View Post
Jesse James is done repeatedly, last time in American Outlaws, played by Colin Farrell. He has a black sidekick!
Turning Jesse James into a Western Robin Hood covers up his role as a Confederate guerrilla, who took part in massacres. Having a Southern rebel motivated by something other than racism is the same kind of falsification promoted by the NeoConfederate sympathizers who babble about economic oppression by Northern industrialists or dedication to states' rights.
You're expecting Hollywood to stick to the facts? They're not making documentaries, they're making entertainments.
In the classic Western there there are no significant numbers of African Americans or Chinese; the Indians are simply bloodthirsty marauders or noble savages doomed by the modern world or simply not part of the equation (none of which were true!); Manly Men heroically struggle with the lawless landscape, far removed from both the blessings and blights of civilization; noble settlers start anew in unpopulated territory. In various ways, this is a dream world where issues of race, from the annihilation of the American Indians to the nature of the Civil War, simply don't exist. After integration made race an issue, the mythology no longer bore conviction. Even on television, younger audiences would rather watch cop shows.
Well the classic Westerns were made in a time when Blacks or Chinese were rarely seen in any type film produced by White Hollywood. Comic relief and on ocassional villian were about the only roles offerred. Black filmmakers made their own films, including Westerns starring black actors.
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