The Gunfighter and Society

“The Gunfighter and Society”
Host: GoatHollow

Ross_Martin_Robert_Conrad_Wild_Wild_West_1965“The Gunfighter and Society”, is the title of an article to be read by GoatHollow on this broadcast of “They Were Preppers“. Following is an excerpt from that article written some 50 years ago. The changes in society’s perception seen then can be seen now in today’s media. However the influence and changes that media makes is not always easily seen until comparisons are made.

Take a few moments to read the excerpt below then join us for live reading of the entire article. This reading is sure to give you pause, reflecting on the good old days and the changes that have led us to the moral compass most seem to follow now.

gunfighterOf course, not everyone is enthusiastic about the new trend in Westerns. Recently I clipped an ad for the new film Rough Night in Jericho, which makes the pitch that here at last is a film which is not one of the “adult” Westerns. Under the heading “Who says they don’t make Westerns like they used to?” the ad exclaims: Remember what was so great about the Westerns you used to see as a kid? It was the action wasn’t it? Plenty of action. And entertainment you didn’t need an analyst along to explain. You were given a Good Guy, a Bad Guy and a Pretty Girl, And Action.

This ad suggests three things that differentiate the new Western from the good old rootin’-tootin’ shoot’em-up: the new Westerns have less physical action; they are more complex; and they lack clear moral oppositions. None of these complaints are true without qualification, but properly understood they point out important features of the adult Western style.

gunfighterAction is a notoriously vague dramatic criterion because one man’s action can be another man’s lullaby. Judging from the ad-writer’s nostalgia for the Western he saw “as a kid,” we can infer that “action” here means flight and pursuit, capture and escape, events that req2uire the maximum amount of movement across the landscape, and that emerge from the confrontation of good guys and bad guys, “Action” in this sense eventuates in a particular kind of suspense: we are continuously fearful that the hero will not capture (or escape from) the villain or that he will be killed by other dangers, such as the cliffs over which the Lone Ranger used to dangle so precariously. The standard dime novel or B Western embodies just this rhythm. Villain pursues hero, who escapes and turns the tables. Then hero pursues villain and captures him.

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