by Al Benson Jr.
I’ve noted for several years that Western movies seem to be dying out. You see one here and there, but in the main, no. This is not a new trend and I won’t go into all the reasons for it here, of which there seem to be several. I grew up in the 1950s watching Westerns both on tv and in the movies. When I got old enough, I traveled over much of the West. I was seldom disappointed–in the scenery, the people, or much of anything about the West.
Unfortunately, the world is changing. In recent years moviemakers have come to be concerned not only with domestic audiences but with the foreign market as well. Communist China has become a major consumer of American movies–and the Chinese don’t like American westerns. The free and independent attitude of the American West is something the Chinese can’t identify with, from the Communist government on down. Ordinary Chinese can’t identify with it, because for hundreds of years now, and maybe never, they have not experienced freedom and independence of thought. And their government is not about to let them see too much of that kind of thing on the silver screen! Communist regimes favor films that make communism look superior. Though with the current trends in Hollyweird, Communist regimes might learn to appreciate our movies because they tend to make our country look so negative.
It has been also observed that, as our country has grown more “diverse” and politically correct that Westerns with heroes with clean-cut images have become less popular. Nowadays if you want Western movies you better make sure your leading characters are anti-heroes with mixed motives. Can’t have people yearning for “truth, justice, and the American way.” So we’ve graduated from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood. And as much as I have enjoyed Eastwood’s movies over the years, most of the characters he has portrayed are far from pure as the driven snow! One Western movie he did, The Unforgiven, featured Gene Hackman as a psycopathic sheriff who got his kicks out of beating up on people. I never saw that picture again and don’t figure I’ve missed too much. Contrast that with what John Wayne said about a republic as a form of government in The Alamo and the difference is like night from day.
Then, there are Westerns and there are Westerns! Many over the years looked like they were filmed on a Hollywood back lot somewhere, or even worse, in some cases like they were filmed mostly in some studio building with a few outside shots taken of the hero on a horse to make it look outdoorsy. I’ve been to the locations of some of the Westerns Ive seen over the years, and believe me, indoor filming for Westerns doesn’t cut the mustard! If you have seen the country out there, you can spot fake, indoor “scenery” in less than a New York minute.
I suppose, were they to start making more Westerns they would have to conform to today’s twisted standards. The “heroes” would all have to be non-white, preferably trans-sexuals and the heroines would all have to be lesbians in order to reflect our “diversity” a diversity where no straight whites need apply for any roles. The traditional Western seems to have gone the way of the dodo bird and anything that reflects positively on either the South or the West is simply beyond the pale–to be avoided on pain of intellectual death!