History Of The Western

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Brief introduction to the western genre

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History Of The Western

  1. 1. The Western
  2. 2. History of USA and the Mid-West <ul><li>Established independence from Britain and the British Empire following the War of Independence (1775-1782) and began to look for their own new lands to colonize. </li></ul><ul><li>By 1820 land as far as the Mississippi was occupied and states established. </li></ul><ul><li>By 1860 California and Oregon were established as states on the west coast – only the mid-west to fill in order to span the continent. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Establishing the Mid-West <ul><li>By 1869 the transcontinental railroad was complete </li></ul><ul><li>From 1860 to around 1900 the mid-west states were established </li></ul>
  4. 4. American Civil War 1861-1865 <ul><li>War between the eleven southern slave states and US Federal Government (the Union) came about when Abraham Lincoln (Republican) declared he did not wish to see the spread of slavery. </li></ul><ul><li>South felt if it did not spread then slavery would die and it relied upon slavery for the cotton trade which accounted for 2/3 of the value of American exports. </li></ul><ul><li>The North won and African Americans were freed from slavery shortly after the end of the Civil War. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Declaration of Independence <ul><li>The Declaration of Independence was used again in the Gettysburg address of 1863… </li></ul><ul><li>‘ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal , that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness .’ </li></ul><ul><li>The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, 1776 </li></ul>
  6. 6. Melting-Pot <ul><li>The Declaration and Civil War and put forward the image of America as the land of opportunity, ‘the Land of the Free’. This attracted immigrants from Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, Poland, Russia and other European countries as well as marginal cultural strands such as African, Asian and Hispanic cultures. </li></ul><ul><li>It was a period in history of a huge inland migratory expansion of people from different ethnic groups into a ‘melting-pot’. </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Western - roots <ul><li>It is said the westerns are a way of interpreting the social complexities and conflicts, as result of immigration and migration, to give a coherent sense of the ‘American past’. </li></ul><ul><li>This is the period of formation that has been assessed, reassessed, mythologized and re-mythologized on celluloid to the point that the western has become central to how Americans see themselves and how the rest of the world sees America. </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Western <ul><li>The westerns are popular histories mythologizing the heroic pioneering spirit involved in establishing this recently created country. In narrative thematic terms the western genre has been used by science fiction film such as Star Wars. </li></ul><ul><li>The iconography of westerns (handguns, rifles, horses, saddles, bedrolls, Stetsons, spittoons, rugged landscapes) are easily recognisable. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Myth and Binary Oppositions <ul><li>‘ The purpose of myth is to provide a logical model capable of overcoming a contradiction.’ (Lévi-Strauss) </li></ul><ul><li>Myths are stories we tell ourselves as a culture in order to banish contradictions and make the world understandable and therefore habitable; they attempt to put us at peace with our existence. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Binary Oppositions <ul><li>According to Lévi-Strauss, myths are structured in terms of ‘binary oppositions’ and meaning is produced by dividing the world into mutually exclusive categories: </li></ul><ul><li>culture/nature, </li></ul><ul><li>man/woman, </li></ul><ul><li>black/white, </li></ul><ul><li>good/bad, </li></ul><ul><li>us/them. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Binary Oppositions <ul><li>The narrative power of the western is derived from its structure of binary oppositions: </li></ul><ul><li>Inside society Outside society </li></ul><ul><li>Good Bad </li></ul><ul><li>Strong Weak </li></ul><ul><li>Civilization Wilderness </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>According to Will Wright - the western has evolved through 3 stages: classic (including the ‘ vengeance’ variation), transition theme and professional . </li></ul>
  13. 13. Classic <ul><li>Inside society Outside society </li></ul><ul><li>Good Bad </li></ul><ul><li>Strong Weak </li></ul><ul><li>Civilization Wilderness </li></ul><ul><li>In the classic western the hero and society are aligned in opposition to the villains who remain outside society </li></ul>
  14. 14. Vengeance <ul><li>The path to respect and love is to separate yourself from others, struggling individually against your many and strong enemies but striving to remember to return to the softer values of marriage and humility. (The Searchers, John Ford, 1956) </li></ul><ul><li>Protagonists are on a vengeance mission – seeking to reek revenge </li></ul>
  15. 15. Transition <ul><li>Hero Society </li></ul><ul><li>Outside Society Inside Society </li></ul><ul><li>Good Bad </li></ul><ul><li>Weak Strong </li></ul><ul><li>Wilderness Civilization </li></ul><ul><li>Bridged the gap between the classic and professional western. Anticipates new social values – the individual stands righteously against the intolerance and ignorance of society. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Professional <ul><li>Companionship and respect are to be achieved only be becoming a skilled technician, who joins an elite group of professional, accepts any job that is offered, and has loyalty only to the integrity of the team, not to any competing social or community values. </li></ul><ul><li>Paid </li></ul>
  17. 17. Themes <ul><li>Because of its widespread appeal some critics claim the western is used and viewed for reworking older and more universal themes that were already in existence, for example: </li></ul><ul><li>individualism/community </li></ul><ul><li>agrarian/industrialisation </li></ul>
  18. 18. Messages and Values <ul><li>The western is crucial to sustaining an American identity that in repeatedly under attack. </li></ul><ul><li>Ever since the closing of the frontier, American audiences need the western to provide them with a mythical, quasi-utopian past in which they are empowered as individuals and become members of a society whose values and beliefs are rooted in the stable realities of the land itself </li></ul>

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