The western

This case study was originally used in the second edition and updated in 2006 for use with genre approaches. Though fewer film westerns, in the classic sense of the term, are made now, the imagery of 'the Wild West', of the North American frontier and its narratives are still strong, especially in the US but also in its globally distributed media, fashions, political discourses and so on. This was especially true of the George W. Bush years.

This case study mentions Brokeback Mountain and A History of Violence to suggest the current slipperiness of generic categories – you might add There Will Be Blood (US 2007) with its astonishing mixing of histories of the US oil industry and the western. But the main focus is  a) the 'classic' John Ford western The Searchers (US 1956) in its social and ideological context; b) the 'spaghetti' western The Good the Bad and the Ugly (US 1966) and the issues of hybridity and shifting industrial models it raises.

Issues of representation (especially of gender and ethnicity) in the western are touched on. Speculation is also made on the relationship to environmental discourses and imaginings of its enjoyable fantasies: expansive movement across grand or abundant landscapes, related to male violence, weaponry, and often 'conquest'.


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