The End of History and America First


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The End of History and America First 1990s Hollywood Westerns and Post-Cold War America
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Rinne, Craig T Phd
University of Florida
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Gainesville, Fla.
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Doctorate ( Ph.D.)
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University of Florida
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Wegner, Phillip E
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Turim, Maureen C
Hegeman, Susan E
Wise, Benjamin Evan


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1990s -- cinema -- clint -- cold -- cooper -- dead -- deadman -- depp -- eastwood -- film -- frontier -- genre -- hollywood -- jarmusch -- mann -- means -- mohicans -- nineties -- quick -- raimi -- rinne -- stone -- tombstone -- unforgiven -- war -- western -- westerns
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
English thesis, Ph.D.
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In the early to mid-1990s, a substantial stream of Hollywood Westerns again nourished American audiences. My dissertation explains why the Western cycle of the 1990s occurred. Chapter 1 surveys the critical literature on the genre in the ‘90s, which usually asserts genre revisionism as the cause. While revisionism is crucial, I assert that the larger national, even global, events of the ‘90s equally influence these films. Following Phillip Wegner’s cultural analysis of the era as a period of openness and uncertainty, prior to the restrictive tragedy of 9/11, I argue that the reopening of the frontier and representations of mythic history in the Western support Wegner’s analysis of the 1990s as an open, experimental space. Chapter 2 closely examines numerous ‘90s Westerns and offers an overview of how these films changed some generic conventions to adapt to the post-Cold War political climate by branching into liberal and conservative modes. In Chapter 3, I turn to Clint Eastwood and the development of his senior persona, which reflects an aging American population recalling its violent 20th century past. Unforgiven (1993) most obviously incorporates his senior persona and addresses a violent past in frontier narratives. Traditional in terms of style, it subverts generic frameworks but ultimately affirms them within a new ideological balance. Chapter 4 examines The Last of the Mohicans (1992), which returns to the literary roots of the Western. It includes revisionism, like positive Native American portrayals and a sense of communal hope. This idyllic commune trying to survive a global struggle suggests the American populace during the Cold War, as the codes of racial struggle suggest the hidden costs of a brighter future. Chapter 5 addresses The Quick and the Dead (1995), a postmodern piece that references Sergio Leone’s films. The film is a pastiche that touches upon multiple critiques of Cold War American society, but that ultimately can only suggest a violent fantasy of revolution that results in the transition of power to a slightly more benign heroic individual. Chapter 6 summarizes the Western cycle and concludes by examining its end, focusing on Dead Man (1995).
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2 2012 Craig Thomas Rinne


3 To my two Andreas : my Mom, who w as there when I started, and my wife Andrea, without whom I never would have finished


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Fir st and foremost, I heartily thank my parents, Thomas and Andrea and my brother Eric Equally important has been m y wife Andrea who made sure that I finished this project ; I wish I had met her earlier I extend much gr atitude to my friend, advisor, and e xemplary mentor Phillip Wegner My committee has been extremely helpful, and patient : Susan Hegeman, Maureen Turim, and Ben Wise Much t hanks to Kathy Williams and Carla Blount for keeping me on track over the years I owe thank s to many in the D epartment of English past and present for their help in all aspects of a graduate career Bob T homson, Sid Dobrin, Pamela Gilbert, Melissa Davis, John Leavey, Jack Perlette, Carl Bredahl, Scott Nygren, Jim Paxson, Kenneth Kidd, Jeri White, Jan Moore, Da vid Leverenz ( and Anne Rutledge) Don Ault, Ira Clark, Robert Ray, Greg Ulmer, and Carolyn Smith As for my amazing graduate colleagues, there have been far too many to list. Leonard Engel and Denise Cummings provided invaluable comments for versions o f two of my chapters my colleagues in Graduate Assistants United for their support over the years and at my current company, US Biomedical Information Systems, Inc. Finally I have often depended on the longest


5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: CRITICISM OF THE 1990S WESTERN ................................ ...... 9 2 GENRE POL ITICS: THE WESTERN FILM AND THE 1990S ................................ 24 3 HOW THE 1990S REVITALIZED CLINT EASTWOOD ................................ .......... 46 Heartbreak Ridge (1986) ................................ ................................ ........................ 48 M isfire: The Rookie (1990) ................................ ................................ ...................... 52 The 1990s and the Western ................................ ................................ .................... 53 Unforgiven (1992) ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 53 In the Line of Fire (1993) ................................ ................................ ......................... 58 A Perfect World (1993) ................................ ................................ ........................... 62 4 THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS : FILM ADAPTATIONS, RACIAL CONFLICT, AND AMERICAN INDIAN RESPONSES ................................ ................................ 66 5 THE QUICK AND THE DEAD ................................ .............. 107 Explanation ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 109 The USA and Westerns in 1994 95 ................................ ................................ ...... 111 Hollywood and Westerns in the 1990s ................................ ................................ .. 111 Sharon Stone ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 112 Sam Raimi and the Everyman Hero ................................ ................................ ..... 115 Ideological Undertaking ................................ ................................ ........................ 117 Methodology ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 118 The Leone Style ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 118 Misogynist Speech ................................ ................................ ................................ 121 The Telescope, the Gaze, the Patriarch ................................ ............................... 123 The Day of the Dead, the Hire ................................ ................................ .............. 125 The Murder in Flashback ................................ ................................ ...................... 128 The Lynching ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 128 The Clock Tower ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 130 The Contest over Narrative ................................ ................................ ................... 132 The Oedipal Conflict ................................ ................................ ............................. 135 The Innocent Victim ................................ ................................ .............................. 138 The Dinner Invitation ................................ ................................ ............................. 139 Religion, Higher Law, and the Feminine Masculine ................................ .............. 142 Trial of the Soul ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 145


6 Before the Dawn ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 145 Victory ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 146 Towards Her and His Destinies ................................ ................................ ............ 149 Attempt of the Film ................................ ................................ ................................ 151 Violence and Law ................................ ................................ ................................ 151 6 CONCLUSIONS: DEAD MAN DEAD END ................................ .......................... 155 Depp, Johnny ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 158 Europe ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 158 Art ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 159 Death ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 159 Blank Space ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 160 Machine ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 160 Anti Western ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 160 Nineties ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 161 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 165 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 170


7 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy THE END OF HISTORY AND AMERICA FIR ST : 1990S HOLLYWOOD WESTERNS AND POST COLD WAR AMERICA By Craig Thomas Rinne August 2012 Chair : Phillip Wegner Major : English I n the early to mid 1990s, a substantial stream of Hollywood Westerns again nourished American audiences My dissertation expla ins why the Western cycle of the 1990s occurred Chapter 1 usually asserts genre revisionism as the cause While revisionism is crucial, I assert that the larger national, even global, events uncertainty, prior to the restrictive tragedy of 9/11, I argue that t he reopening of the frontier and representations of mythic h istory in the Western support analysis of the 1990s as an open, experimental space Chapter 2 an overview of how these films changed some g eneric conventions to adapt to the post Cold War politica l clim ate by branching into liberal and conservative modes In Chapter 3 I turn to Clint Eastwood and the development of his senior persona which reflects an aging American population recalling its violent 20 th century past Unforgiven (1993) most obviou sly incorporates his senior persona and addresses a


8 violent past in frontier narratives Traditional in terms of style, it subverts generic frameworks but ultimately affirms them within a new ideological balance Chapter 4 examines The Last of the Mohican s (1992), w hich returns to the literary roots of the Western It includes revisionism like positive Native A merican portrayals and a sense of communal hope This idyllic commune trying to survive a global struggle suggests the Americ an populace during the Cold War, as the code s of racial struggle suggest the hidden costs of a brighter future Chapter 5 address es The Quick and the Dead (1995), a postmodern piece that The film is a pastiche that touches upon multiple critiques of Cold War American society, but that ultimately can only suggest a violent fantasy of revolution that results in the transition of power to a slightly more benign heroic individual Chapter 6 summarizes the Western cycle and concludes by examining its e nd, focusing on Dead Man (1995)


9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION : CRITICISM OF THE 199 0S W ESTERN In a famous scene from the first great film mythologization of the Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday story, John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946), Doc takes over for an inebriated Shakespearean actor and finishes Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy As Doc is dying from tuberculosis, the speech reflects his own existential dilemma of having to choose between selfishness and communal responsibility, which in turn sugge sts the existential dilemmas the United States and the world faced after World War II Nearly fifty years later, the Wyatt/Doc story is retold again in Tombstone (1993), but, in this version, the Shakespearean soliloquy is the St Crispin's Day speech from Henry V This speech's emphasis on camaraderie and a call to duty reflects Doc and Wyatt's friendship and eventual commitment to law and order and cleaning up the town (as well as the villainous Cowboys' gang mentality) an appropriate thematic set for the United States post Cold War, as the frontier narratives of the Weste rn film genre were called upon to guide a nation looking for direction in the uncertain after math of the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall 0s, but as Cold War resistance to Soviet communism and cast the U.S.A. expansion in doubt, so too was questioned the anachronistic casual violenc e, racism, and sexism of the classic Western After 1969, production of Westerns rapidly dwindled through the 1970s, and although television Westerns were still popular their numbers also declined The low point was 1984, as no Western series aired on tel evision, and the genre had a feature film market share of zero (Neale 29) T


10 California of the Hollywood Western, the end of the frontier, as the Western as a major Hollywood franchise seemed all but dead Currently, in 2012, and for the last decade or so, the output of Hollywood Westerns has returned to a trickle similar to the 1980s : one or two feature films a year that turn a profit if of high quality, an occasional television series, and a number of straight to video releases that sati sfy niche markets But not so long ago, in the early to mid 1990s, a substantial stream of Westerns again nourished American audiences, highlighted by two very popular Westerns, Dances with Wolves (1990) and Unforgiven (1993), each winning the Academy Awar d for Best Picture all the more shocking when considering that no Western had won that award since Cimarron in 1931 This dissertation attempts to explain why the Western cycle of the 1990s occurred One important reason is often cited : following Dances W ith Wolves which the genre formula was revitalized by new levels of diverse characters and their stories Westerns starrin g American Indians, women, African Americans, Chinese Americans, and others Of course, this was not wholly new with Westerns with thousands of Westerns produced into the 1970s, almost every permutation of the formula can be found, from gun toting Joan Cra wford in Johnny Guitar (1954) to sympathetic Indians and a bumbling Custer in Little Big Man (1970) the genre to reflect contemporary notions of the roles of women, American Indi ans, and non as women and


11 were also re discovered and inserted into the mythologies of the frontier Ev en a conservative, traditional Western like Tombstone still had a neutral portrayal of a Mexican family wedding and a modernized, near feminist love interest for Wyatt Earp although balanced by a villainous Mexican stereotyped gang member and a former pros titute addicted to laudanum The post Western cycle, and the focus of my arguments Viewed from an American, always already frontier influenced perspective, the fall of the Berlin Wall, beginning on November 9 th 1989, was the equivalent of the 1865 end of the Civil War and the opening of a new frontier Berlin, surrounded by the Iron Curtain, was analogous to every besieged frontier outpost and circled wagon train surrounded by savage Indians With the savage Soviet empire defeated, or at least on the run, the United States was now able stalemated conflict of the Cold War k at the classic Cold War Western and imagines the future after it revealing coincidence that editor Jim Kitses finds the first of the great post WWII Westerns, My Darling Cle mentine to recur as a unifying thread in the 1998 collection of essays, The Western Reader one of the first books to substantially Western cycle Kitses is one of the foundational analysts of the Western film, with his 1969 study, Horizo ns West H is introduction to The Western Reader Western as post the core of the genre, always reacting to the classical, foundational past


12 to Clementine and his admittedly retroactive ideological reading of the fil m, positing that film as the ur text of the genre while still locating post modern readings within it, indicates a nascent Cold War bookend to Clement ine beginnings a capitalist, cattle driving Wyatt Earp and his brothers riding into the foreign territory of Tombstone, eliminating the threatening element, and establishing a safe haven for communal democracy Kitses further suggests, in his o revisionism, particularly of race and gender elements, is the defining characteristic of the postmodern Western : Blending mythology and demythology, revisionism and nostalgia, many of these films rework ancient co nventions with panache and imagination, to incarnate the post modern Western An increasingly code savvy image culture persistently fine tunes the Western now to define its frontier in racial and gender terms (16) s until, Kitses argues, it has become the dominant mode of the genre : If the Western is no longer the grand narrative, central, totalizing, hegemonic, it has already shown its resiliency and value as a set of codes the can speak with authority to a new mil lennium The totality of remarkable works corrective of America stretching back to the 60s has not eroded or diminished or killed off the Western, it now is the Western ( 21) : for decades, the anti Western has produced the finest, most interesting example s of the genre The classical Western, however defined, now serves as a starting point from which the contemporary anti Western departs The primary essay for understanding the role of historic and genre revisionism in tern was also published in 1998, with Rick Worland and Edward New American Western Worland and Countryman begin by comparing the two modes


13 of Western history, the academic his tories derived primarily from Frederick Jackson Turner, and the popular culture histories (primarily narratives) derived from Buffalo Bill : consist of ad vancing stages of civilization, from trappers and traders through farmers until it culminated in city folk st was not essentially Whatever else might be said about the handling of India ns by Cody and his many successors, they at least possess enormous vitality In Turner and the work that he inspired they figure hardly at all (183) While Richard Slotkin ( to who m I shall return later) traces t he narrative histories of ct muc h farther back using the Wild West Show as an analytic starting point is justifiable because its visual, motion based performance is an obvious precursor to the Western film their ga udy showmans They summarize these opposing histories : Turner both had stories to tell Each story had and still has its truth loss (in terms of both money and cultural influence) if their version of the Western story They then turn their attention to more recent histories of the West, a movement that unsuccessfully tried to break with the ter (184) The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976 and Dances with Wolves in 1990, and then discuss the new movement in historicism : In the late 20 th century, it is no longer possible to writ e American history in terms of simple triumph or pressure from interest groups with White, Limerick and a growing number of others, is part of a larger enterprise t


14 Newer historiography is more complex, both socially and morally So are newer Westerns, and that is where intersection between the two streams of understanding finally appears to be possible One of the central themes in that Indians were simply and inexorably pushed back What historians have which empires, European colonies and Indian republics inte rsected, mingled and co existed (184 5) primary characters also intersects with the revisionist Western, similar to how Kitses argues for the current primacy of revisionist Westerns They write : Refusing the by now well worn paths of embittered revisionism or callow that attempts to balance a rang e of issue both historic and generic Among these are attempts to assimilate the past (primarily the Vietnam War period and the acute racial consciousness fostered and reinforced by the civil mplex heritage in the films of Ford, Peckinpah and Leone especially Combined, these two sub texts suggest new efforts to move forward without ignoring or simply inverting the formal and ideological styles of earlier films (187 8) As with Kitses, Worland and Countryman heavily emphasize the revisionist aspect, but with a stronger link to the revisionist movement in academic histories of the West And what exactly that means for American during the 1990s remai ns unstated perhaps because it was as yet unknown, still a period of uncertainty in 1998, before the tragic events of 9/11/2001 defined the decade Genre historian Steve Neale then examines Westerns since the 1970s in 2002, run dry like a tapped out gold rush vein This greater historical distance is perhaps why Neale is able to move towards more recognition of the conservative strain of Western films, along with a bit more acknowledgment of the importance of the end of the Cold War


15 He first lists about forty Western feat ure films and television series released or aired between 1990 Silverado (1985), Pale Rider (1985), War Party (1988), Glory (1989), and Powwow Highway (1989), grouping these films i nto t : neo traditional and new revisionist Unlike the parodies and bitter anti Westerns of the 1970s, the neo traditional films restored both the Westerner male hero as the defender of the nuclear family and pioneer communities and t he viability of an open frontier of opportunity, using standard generic elements and p lotlines in a respectful manner W riting of the reuse of these however, these films mobil ized and recycled them with reverent solemnity, in the case of Pale Rider and with enthusiastic exuberance, in the case of Silverado He sees Lonesome Dove (1989) as clearly fitting in this category On the other hand, new revisionist films began t o emerge and include other, repressed voices within Western like films : Glory War Party and Powwow Highway story 1) These new elements relate primarily to the prominence of African American and American Indian characters, characters that Westerns usually presented as stereotypical and in minor supporting roles rn : However, neo traditionalism and new revisionism now consolidated themselves as two consistent cyclic threads, as two distinct but sometimes overlapping centers around which the cycle as a whole took shape Feeding into and out of an equally expanding a culture, a culture that included novels, paintings, vacations, lifestyles and a revitalized country music scene, as well as a new wave of revisionist


16 academic histories, Westerns were able, in what was now a new post Cold Wa national mythology (32) Neale further defines the common ground between the two threads : What I would want to add is that both threads found themselves using or alluding to such fund amental conventi ons as the shoot and that both threads found themselves using or alluding to the trope of the frontier as a space in which personal or communal realization is, was, or might once have been a possibility (33) We have here the seeds for a more comprehensive socio political analysis of the Western in the 1990s : frontier space of possibi lities for the individual and the community (as opposed to the Previous and many of its aspects but with his comprehensive survey importance of the cycle. While production of Westerns has never ceased (except for the nadir of 1984 that Neale notes), and production is very unlikely to return to the levels of of the Cold War. This increase in the popularity of the feature Western marks my starting point, and t o sufficiently explain the importance of the post 90s to the must move outside of analyses of the Western genre and frontier history In America Between the Wars : The Misunderstood Years Between the Fall of the Berlin Wall an d the Start of the War on Terror Derek Chollet and James Goldgeier detail the political climate of the U.S.A. after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and the end


17 of the Cold War They argue that while America had a sense of relief and cautious optimism aft and purpose should be without the defining opposition of the communist Soviet bloc In this context, Chollet and Goldgeier examine two influential thinkers of the moment, Francis Fuk uyama and Patrick Buchanan, whose ideas suggested to many the possibility that America could retire, to a degree, from the international scene and turn more towards a self examination of domestic issues In 1989, Fukuyama proposed that the end of history, in terms of the now inevitable ideological triumph of liberal democracy and equality over forms of totalitaria nism and communism, had arrived challenges were over and that th e United States could move on to other things, Similarly, although from a much more conservative viewpoint, Buchanan argued and, not only first but second and third as well" (23) percent of the vote in the 1992 Republican primaries against the incumbent President Bush) exemplified a persistent American conservatism and nationalism that reacted to impending globalization And although it would be a gross oversimplification to claim that America h ad become isolationist 1990s, President Clinton, certainly focused on domestic issues in his 1992 campaign, but he also argued that foreign and domestic policy were intimately tied there was a


18 certain sense in international interventions were no longer of utmost importance and internal issues were now more of a priority Oddly enough, the events surrounding the invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War seemed to confirm this, as President Bush saw America as part of international coalition, not the heavyweight leader in the fight against communism (as described by Chollet and Goldgeier) : "No longer can a dictator count on East West confrontation to stymie concerted United Nations action against aggression," Bush told a joint session of Congress in September 1990, just a month after Saddam invaded Kuwait A new partnership of nations has begun He added, "We're now in sight of a United Nations that performs as envisioned by its founders (7) With most of the leading nations in seeming agreement, the United States would partner with many nations, as equals, in addressing foreign affairs, enabling America to focus on domestic issues This turn inward as noted, Clinton addressed foreign affairs, but he also realized he could not match Thus, Clinton stressed that the conflicts of the Cold War were over and instead looked forw ard to a more open future ; as he said in a 1991 speech : "Having won the Cold War, w e must not now lose what we need to elect in 1992 is not the last president of the twentieth century, but the first president of t he twenty first century" (qtd in Chollet, 38) subsequent victory indicated that American voters, for the moment, agreed Similarly examining the 1990s, but from a cultural studies and theoretical perspective, Phillip Wegner views the era as ha unted by its Cold War past but also as a


19 insecurity a place, in other words, wherein history might move in a number of very Wegner could very well be describing the resurrection of the American frontier myth, the traditional history limitless possibilities of the future Almost simultaneously with the beginning of what returned in force to Hollywood In 1989, Lonesome Dove about two aging Texas Rangers on one last adventure, became a t elevision mini series sensation T hen, in 1990, Dances with Wolves about a Civil War veteran heading to the closing frontier and interacting with the Lakota Sioux, was released and became an award winning box office success, and the film Western enjoy ed a boom not seen since the 1970s The return to the Western, ostensibly the most American of film genres, and its popular, mythic examination of ideological conflicts from both American history and contemporary culture and politics reflect both and his emphasis on renewing nationalism and patriotism Concurrently, the revisionist aspects of these new Westerns, which included relatively more complex representations of groups previously marginalized in Westerns, b America needed a revised, inclusive history and relatively liberal ideo logy of equality to replace the paranoid and polarizing tendencies of the Cold War Together, these approaches to the Western suggest some of the ideological hopes and self image of the post Cold War United States through the Clinton era; the nation had su rvived decades of strife and war and


20 now seemed ready to move i nto new frontiers and away from t he memories of a troubled past While Wegner touches on a wide range of both literary and film genres, and gives particular attention to science fiction, one g enre that lies largely outside of his purview is that of the Western, despite its prominence in the period I want to argue that the Western re emerges so significantly in this moment precisely because of this quintessentially American film genre s capacit y to address and deal with the problems of the moment Wegner identifies As Michael McKeon argues of genres more generally, Genres provide a conceptual framework for the mediation (if not the "solution") of intractable problems, a method for rendering such problems intelligible The ideological status of genre, like that of all conceptual categories, lies in its explanatory and problem "solving" capacities And generic form itself, the dense network of conventionality that is both elastic and profoundly reg ulative, is the prior and most tacitly powerful mechanism of the explanatory method of genre Genres fill a need for which no adequate alternative method exists And when they change, it is as part of a change both in the need they exist to fill and in the means that ex is t for its fulfillment (20) The Western, then, attempts to solve the problems related to ideas of new frontiers in post Cold War America The reopening of the frontier in the Western n, experimental space where representation of history via the frontier myth, fills part of that open space and suggests revisions of American history by re writing the Western, a nd thus American history, with frontier narratives that emphasize American Indians, women, African Americans, and other under represented groups and their stories The history of the frontier is revised, not forgotten, e


21 The 1990s Western reappeared in response to the end of the Cold War but it also had to address a daunting century of Westerns consisting of thousands of films Dances with Wolves and Lonesome Dove t he originary this re Chapter 2 offers an overview of how the many films in the 1990s cycle changed some generic conventions, and retained others, to ada pt to the new political climate In Chapter 3 instead of focusing on one specific film, I turn to a singular icon, Clint Eastwood, and the development of his senior persona, a changing star image that perfectly reflects an aging American population looking back on its violent, and sometimes heroic, 20 th century past My primary text is Unforgiven the film which most obviously incorporates his senior persona and also most obviously address es a past of violence in frontier narratives Arguably the most traditional of the new anti westerns in terms of style, it subverts ge neric frameworks but ultimately affirms them within a new ideological balance that includes a sense of victory after the Cold War Chapter 4 examines the 1992 version of The Last of the Mohicans a return to the literary roots of the genre, rather than an a nti Western It includes some minor updates, like positive American Indian portrayals and reactions, and an indication of communal hope often lacking elsewhere The idyllic commune of Indians and settlers caught in a global struggle they can only hope to s urvive reflects the American populace during the Cold War, as the codes of racial struggle suggests an allegorical extinction of some but a hopeful future for others In Chapter 5 I address The Quick and the Dead a postmodern piece that updates the gener ic code through referencing the plot of Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)


22 and integrating the stylistics of its director, Sergio Leone, arguably considered the greatest Western director to contemporary audiences However, the film ultimately feels flat a nd recycled, lacking an innovative spark, and in that regards, reflects the confusion and uncertainty of the nineties In Chapter 6 By focus ing on Dead M an (1995), the brilliant capstone to the cycle I indicate the overall critique of the Western and the frontier in the nineties Before I proceed however, I have two notes on methodology. The first concerns the experimental approach of this dissertation as I use different methods of analysis in each of the remaining chapters. Chapter 2 uses a capsule approach, briefly examining contains longer capsules, but each is f ocused on a particular star, Clint Eastwood, and one of his films. The core of Chapte r 4 is a The Las t of the Mohicans and the changes in its presentation in two film versions. The analysis of the 1992 film version also depends on an experimental approach based on a classic film studies essay by Charles Eckert. Chapter 5, broken into twenty five short sections, is based on another classic film studies essay, from Cahiers du Cin ma Similarly, part of Chapter 6 also is broken into short segments, but this time each with a title beginning with one of the letters of the film studied, Dead Man The use of fragmented segments for cultural analysis can be traced back to at least Walter Benjamin, and it seems a parti Western s have little to do with the i nternet, they are a parallel product of that period,


23 hope is that a fragmente d a pproach to these films reveal s some of the contradictory ideologies at work within them, derived from the more fragmented socio political context that the Western attempts to unify. The second methodological debt is to Richard Slotkin Anyone who has read recognize his influence on my work, particularly that of Gunfighter Nation : The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America which focuses on film Westerns in his analys Gunfighter Nation was first published in 1992 and ends with the 1980s ; I like to think that this dissertation, in a small way, could serve as an epilogue


24 CHAPTE R 2 G ENRE PO LITICS : THE WESTERN FILM AND THE 1990S Narratives of the American frontier date back to at least the arrivals of the early European explorers to North America and arguably to even earlier, when considering our current understanding of the instability of t narratives of the many American Indian tribes Journals, captivity narratives, sermons, contributed to the frontier mythos, and in the dynamic images of the former frontier landscapes, combined with the narrative style and genre production of the classical Hollywood cinema, has resulted in the exemplary form of the mythological frontier narrati ve, the Hollywood Western film The Western film is as old as Hollywood of course with the birth of Hollywood located in southern California in the early 1900s, frontier life was still relatively fresh and scholarship on the many Westerns produced during the silent era and throughout the 19 30s has thrived in recent years. Westerns, which followed the feature d double features, flourished in the 1930s, with stars like Tom Mix and a young John Wayne. H owever, when discussing t he modern feature film form of the genre, John Stagecoach released in 1939, is usual ly considered the first great exemplar of the modern Western film World War II temporarily delayed the full flowering of the genre ( some feature West erns were produced during the war, but war films and even film noirs better matched the temper of the times), but after the war, the golden era of the Western film commenced, with regular production of feature Westerns, and with most of the classical maste rpieces of the genre released between


25 1946 ( My Darling Clementine ) and 1969 ( The Wild Bunch ) 1969 often considered the symbolic ending year of the Western (although, of course, production continued) As this period matched the U.S.A. superpower during the era of the Cold War, the popularity of the Western genre can be attributed to the fact that the genre reflects on national destiny and expansion in a time of relative global hegemony Perhaps not so coincidentally, Westerns are most commonly set between Civil War expansion across the continent until the closing of the frontier (according to the U.S. Census of 1890) The following John Wayne (playing Tom Dunson) dialogue uttered prior to out drawing the nameless Red River (1948) summarizes the ruthless, expansionist ideology of the time : Dunson : Tell Don Diego, tell him that all the land north of that river's mine Tell him to stay off of it Mexican : O h, but the land is his Dunson : Where did he get it ? Mexican : Oh many years ago by grant and patent, inscribed by the King of all of Spain Dunson : You mean he took it away from whomever was here before Indians maybe Mexican : Maybe so Dunson : Well, I'm takin' it away from him Mexican : Others have thought as you, seor Others have tried Dunson : And you've always been good enough to stop 'em ? Mexican : Amigo, it is my work Dunson : Pretty unhealthy job (He backs up and warns Matt ) Get away, Matt (Dir ks) Dunson wins the gunfight is the Rio Grande somewhere along the current Texas/Mexico border, the scene territ


26 While the Western genre as a whole seems linked through the frontier my th to dominant American ideologies, individual films within the genre vary widely in both their formal elements and their sociopolitical subtexts Rick Altman writes of genres : Whenever a lasting fit is obtained which it is whenever a semantic genre becomes a syntactic one it is because a common ground has been found, a region where the audience's ritual values coincid e with Hollywood's ideological ones (99) Altman views a genre that endures, that is agreed upon by both audiences and While these terms are clo sely related and often debated they can be used to differentiate two methods of constructin g genre definitions. As Altman views them "s emantic" genre definitions favor a listing of the more basic elements of a genre, such as a frontier town or a cowboy with a six gun without necessarily st ressing the connections between the elements Syntactic to emphasize the meaning giving structure s (for example, narrative) which connect semantic elements, such as a motive of revenge resulting in a shoot out in the town (which incorpo rates the semantic elements of the frontier town and the gun of the cowboy) The changing inter relati ons between the sem antic elements and syntactic structures reveal changes in both audience s and Hollywood producers By isolating and analyzing these chang es, numerous histories of the Western that interpret changes in American ideo logies have been written, and after briefly discussing the changes in the post World War II Western, I will examine the changing elements and ideologies of the post Cold War Weste rn The American Western film genre is usually viewed as achieving a level of formal perfection in the 1940s and early 50s Such films as My Darling Clementine (1946), Red River (1948), and Shane (1953) are hailed as the archetypes of the form, the purest of


27 Westerns From my perspective, those are the films which most closely match dominant American ideology of the Cold War period Western scholars also note the presence of critical Westerns, which examine the contradictions of the Western, in the 1950s, films such as High Noon (1952) and Johnny Guitar (1954) Although usually viewed as examples of a genre locomotive that is running out of steam, I argue these genre critical works indicate the eventual collapse of the ideology that underpins the genre The 1950s, the decade after the American triumph over fascism, is the decade where a unified national ideology has achieved its greatest appeal, homogenizing the nation to an unprecedented (and heretofore unduplicated) extent The doctrine of liberal individu alism, positing a community of individuals who are completely independent of social forces but are still able to operate as a culture under the net of rationality, has been present throughout American history; but in the Cold War era, it had a heightened a pplicability As the celebration of "the individual" was at its high point, "the individual" became meaningless as all individuals were supposed to be the same perfect American, allied against Communism and homosexuality and fighting for th e nuclear family and the suburbs America was in danger of slipping into the very fascist, conformist type of society that it had just defeated in the war The Western responded to the challenge The ideology of the lone white male against the Other whic h had seemed to serve America so well for so long began to be questioned Broken Arrow (1950) address ed centuries of discrimination against American Indians; The Searchers (1956) exposed the irrational racist hatred of such a figure; High Noon perpetuated the loner myth, but exposed the society surrounding the individual as corrupt, consisting of self interested and easily peer pressured cowards


28 The hero was no longer a cowboy that fought to establish a family and a society, but rather a self aware gunfig hter struggling merely to survive ( The Gunfighter 1950) Nostalgic Westerns ran rampant, as the myth of American individuality was replaced by corporate conformity Will Wright argues that the corporate Western ( Rio Bravo in 1959, The Magnificent Seven in 1960) quickly became an alternative new model for the Western in the late 1950s and early 1960s, consisting of a small team of professional gunfighters working together to succeed, similar to a sports team, instead of t he lone cowboy with a sidekick In the 1960s, the critique and demythologization of the l one Westerner hero proliferated The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Ride the High Country (1962) both retained a bit of nostalgia for the Western hero while focusing on his passing; however, Se rgio Leone violently severed most of the ligaments which still connected the Westerner ideal to modern America society Along with star Clint Eastwoo d, Leone's Man with No Name "S paghetti Western" trilogy bared the arbitrariness and ruthlessness of the W estern hero, reducing his motivations to simple greed Extremely popular, the films struck a chord with the anti establishment culture of the 1960s in its combination of self destructive nihilism and social critique However, not all Westerns were team ori ented or complete critiques of the hero; what subtly endured the transition was the stress on the individual male hero opposed to society Earlier Westerns had fluctuated between the communal and individual hero, but what survived was the emphasis on the l oner, the Even though Leone, and later Peckinpah, irreparably criticized the specific syntax of the Western hero enabling the establishme nt of a community, the element of the lone hero endured This


29 transition is most clear ly seen in the career of Clint Eastwood; with films such as Coogan's Bluff (1968) and Dirty Harry (1971), Eastwood shifted the loner Western hero from the frontier to the city, from Westerns to action thrillers Similar movements occurred in science fictio n : Star Trek television series (beginning in 1966 note that the series mostly shows the corporate team of heroes, but individual episodes would often isolate the Captain Kirk character as a lone pioneer figure, sometimes Charlton Heston mediating between devolved humans and intelligent apes in Planet of the Apes (1968), the science fiction /Western hybrid Westworld (1973) But following the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the Westerner type hero was irrevocably changed Gone was much of the social responsibility, replaced by twisted self interest, racial hatred, and psychoses often more somber or bitter than happy The Western only survived as dark self critiques ( McCabe and Mrs Miller in 1971 High Plains Drifter in 1973 ) or self parodies ( Little Big Man in 1970, Blazing Saddles in 1974), both forms allowing the viewer simultaneously to enjoy the lynchpins of the Western myth while laughing at its absurd limitations The fight for civil rights was perhaps the predominant factor in this generic revolution Alongside the struggle for African American civil rights, American Indians began to speak out and act against hundreds of years of genocide and discrimination Hollywood joined the fig ht, to a degree (perhaps most famously by Marlon Brando boycotting his 1973 Academy Award for The Godfather and having Sacheen Little feather, an American Indian woma n, speak in his place in protest of the U.S.A.


30 treatment of Indians), by producing Westerns which ridiculed the racial politics of earlier Westerns, those of the "faceless savage" ( Little Big Man Blazing Saddles The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976) Feminism also emerged, demanding a revision of the Western, although progressive Western roles for women were still relatively limited ( McCabe and Mrs Miller being one interesting counter example) Ultimately, the Western could not accommodate such extensive revision to both i ts syntactic structures frontier narratives and stereotypes Sporadic attempts at revisionism occurred, like 100 Rifles (1969), which includes relatively complex African American, Mexican, women, and American Indian characters Some Westerns included American Indians, but only in a comedic setting ( Little Big Man ) Conventional Westerns endured for a time on television, where classic shows such as Rawhide Gunsmoke and Bonanza could play out sta ndard Western conflicts and changes for traditional audiences But eventually, the changes in the semantics of the Western were too great The popularity of the Western had been built on a racial opposition of white heroes and stereotypical "red/Indian/sav age" villains, with women, African Americans, Chinese Americans, and Mexicans/Mexican Americans relegated to stereotypical supporting roles The semantic shift to these under represented groups destroyed the appeal of the genre to its traditional audience, and younger audiences seemed interested only in self mocking Westerns that parodied the genre In the 1980s, sporadic attempts at Western feature films and television series appeared, only to fail at the votes of Nielsen ratings and weekly box office figu res The cultural turmoil of the 1970s suggests that perhaps the


31 Western requires a stable, unified, and affluent society to thrive (simi larly, the feature Western was less popular during much of The Great Depression and World War II) Still, some element s of the Western survived The figure of the lone individual on the fringes of society, whose mission is to defeat and kill his symbolic Other counterpart in a final bloody shoot out, endured in other genres In science fiction, the Other became monstrous aliens In horror, the Other was a multitude of non human supernatural creatures In action/adventure, the Other reappeared as a twisted product of mass society The white male hero of these genres braved a symbolic frontier (outer space, the subconscious, the degraded city), killed its version of the Other, and made it his own (men of other races, and some women, did emerge as the protagonists of these films, such as in the action "Blaxploitation" films of the '70s, but white male heroes still dominated th e genres) However, none of these genres had the privileged status of the Western because they had no claim of history of the (imagined) reality of the foundations of America The Western always had a footing in historical reality, but these modern replac ements could only claim fantasy status in horror and sci fi or gritty, contemporary existentialism in action Arguably, all fiction moves on a continuum between representing historical reality and pure fantasy This range of options is for two reasons of particular importance for the Western First, the Western attempts to represent an actual period of American history, most often the development of the frontier after the Civil War Second, the enormous numbers of Westerns creates a space where the history of the American West becomes transformed into the history of the Western film Many later Westerns were based on the fictions of the film genre rather than the historical reality of the West


32 All history is a form of fiction, and all fiction borrows from history the absolute objectivity dreamt of by history is impossible, the belief that there is a representable reality outside of human intervention being one of the most abstract and important tenets of modern ideology However, this conflict is of special interest in the Western because even its most mythic and fantastical manifestations have often been believed to be located in history America, a country with relatively little history, has seized upon myth in the form of the Western to supplement the sca nty past it does possess Moreov er in the Western, the semantic elements of the genre have often been assigned the role of history while the syntactic structures have absorbed the mythic archetypes The chase and pursuit narrative, the coming of age of "T he Kid" character, and the climactic duel all resonate with narrative patterns present at least since the Greeks; far more accurate shootings and killings occurred in Western movies than ever took place in the historical West The combination of semantic e lements, such as the Western landscapes, the cowboy's practical "uniform," the stagecoach, and Billy the Kid, link the Western to America's unique history (of course, individual elements such as the landscapes can be replaced by mountains and deserts in Sp ain and Italy) The semantic and syntactic fields blur together in their links to history and fiction For example, the semantic six gun, a common enough occurrence in the West, unrealistically becomes transformed from a clumsy and inaccurate weapon into a compact and deadly firearm so that it better fits the syntax of the quick draw shoot out Clint Eastwood's Westerns often take pains to display the awkward nature of early revolvers, yet in the hands of his mythical figures they become as accurate and rap id automatic pistols Despite this overlap, I argue that in a very


33 general sense the syntactic elements of the Western, its recurring narrative patterns, lean towards the constructed nature of American ideology while the semantic ele ments better retain the real history of the West, and the conflicts of historicity between these elements are fundamental to the genesis of the modern Western Many of the manifestations of the modern Western, following the pattern of Dances with Wolves ( 1990), attempt to re historicize the West In Dances with Wolves the primary semantic elements reversed : the American Indians, the Lakota Sioux, become the democratic society that needs defense against the savage, destructive U.S. army soldiers The U.S. army is portrayed as insane and murderous, both in the Civil War opening sequences and as the villains, opposed to the Lakota Sioux, in the final third of film The film exhibits some degree of regression, however, as the lead hero, Dunbar (played by Kevin Costner), begins as a Union officer who eventually sides with and lives like the Sioux; also, there are still the standard, faceless, and murderous savage stereotypes present in the figure of the Pawnees The film also lapses into a standard Western syntax, with the roles reversed : the Indians ride to the rescue of Dunbar, wreaking bloody vengeance on the white soldiers who torture him That said, however, the film was praised for depicting American Indian s on the frontier as real people with a complex culture Many aspects of Lakota culture, both extraordinary and mundane, were presented in detail; actual American Indian actors played the Indian roles instead of white actors in makeup; and the Lakota langu age was spoken by the actors and translated through the use of subtitles This change in some of the basic elements of the Western had its precedents in such revisionist 1970s


34 parodies as Little Big Man The Dances With Wolves revolution was one of degree, as the film was more serious, accorded more respect to American Indian culture, and was more historically accurate in depicting that culture These changes regarding the depictions of American Indians seem to have become permanently established in the ge nre Geronimo (1993) tends towards exoticism of American Indians and their culture, but adheres to the new standards of American Indian actors, subtitles for American Indian languages, and accurate depictions of American Indian culture Maverick (1994) als o follows these norms; this film is a Western comedy, but the comedy is usually at the expense of bigoted whites, exposing the stupidity of their stereotypical constructions of "Injuns The comedy Wagons East (1995) plays on the clichd fear of Indians, w ho turn out to be just as human as the settler characters Family/children's films have also absorbed this semantic transformation, as shown by Savage Land (1994), which has a group of American Indians saving settlers and their children from some white vil lains Ted Turner's made for cable television movies, including another version of Geronimo also participate in this revision And the changes resonate in one shot roles in television series; in Lonesome Dove : The Series "The Kid" figure of Newt Call lea rns lessons in manhood from a different Western character/mentor in each episode, including several positively portrayed American Indians and their tribes As with the much maligned "political correctness," the revised depiction of American Indians in s Westerns is a popularized manifestation of the socio cultural changes in race and gender relations over the decades The r acist stereotypes and prejudices inherent in earlier American ideology, and films, have been modified by more


35 historically accurate depictions These historical revisions have become socially standardized to the extent that Westerns must include these new "historical truths" in order to reanimate the genre's claim of truthfully presenting aspects of actual American history, and thus be able to project contemporary ideology under the guise of natural, historical truth Through a more complex narrative mechanism, the aspects of contemporary American society seen as positive are projected into the past through the reformulation of the West ern frontier myth Historical atrocities are revised in order to be forgotten; racial problems and stereotypes are located in the distant past and overcome in that fantasy setting, suggesting that Ame rica is socially progressive in the present cultural con text The bigoted frontier of the traditional Western and the evil racists of the America before the 1960s Cultural Revolution; those heroic humane individuals in that lawless land have created a better community out of the racist wil derness Their efforts have been properly e ulogized and recognized, and the America of the present can continue its business of expanding freedom for all The counter aspect of this historical thrust is to foreground historical findings and revisionism in order to preserve Other voices and as a vehicle for social change Although the presentation of American Indians in Westerns remains in many ways the most problematic, given the damage to American Indians caused by the genre over the decades, other groups have begun to assert their historical positions in the West through revising Westerns A significant percentage of early cowboys, settlers, and soldiers in the West were African American, and Posse (1993) focuses on their experiences Posse tells the stor y of an African American gunfighter, Jesse Lee, and his "posse," who flee from murderous prejudice as soldiers at war with Cuba to the all


36 African American town of Freemanville on the Western frontier There, Jesse Lee finds revenge for his father's murder and his exploitation by the U.S. army while saving the settlement from being destroyed by the incoming railroad and its economic interests Director and star Mario Van Peebles admits that the film is primarily meant as entertainment, but justifies its ove r the top violence and pastiche of stock Western plots by its historical presentation of African American Westerners on the frontier and the racism they encountered (Travers 76) Posse uses typical Western structure but alters the semantic character roles presenting most of the white settlers as villains and African Americans as heroes Posse not only presents new historical truths, but actively works against decades of the near absence of African Americans from the genre This absence is emphasized by the montage of rare instances of African Americans in Westerns, from Harlem Rides the Range (1939) to Woody Strode, accompanying the film's closing credits to the modern rap song, "It's the Posse, shoot 'em up, shoot 'em up While the style and politics of v iolence and sexism in the film are closely mode led after the nihilistic Leone S paghetti Westerns, Posse does revive a forgotten history Although the changed semantic element of the African American cowboy has not yet become standardized in the genre in th e way the American Indian presence has, it does occasionally surface For example, in Unforgiven Morgan Freeman won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance of Ned Logan, William Munny's (Clint Eastwood) longtime partner Rio Diablo (1992 ) presents elderly Black and Mexican men as sources of frontier wisdom The straight to video Western Good Day to Die (1994), starring Sydney Poitier, also presents an interesting variation on the African American cowboy theme, suggesting a union of Africa n Americans and Indians to fight


37 racial oppression on the frontier The heroes die in a final bloodbath, but attain a hopeful future for their children with the elimination of the primary racist characters 1000 Pieces of Gold (1991) revises the Western t hrough the story of Lalu (played by Rosalind Chao), a Chinese female protagonist During a period of severe economic hardship in 1880s China, her father thinks he is selling Lalu into marriage in the American West, but instead the arrangement turns out to be into slavery, as a frontier saloon prostitute She eventually wins her freedom and starts her own life married to a sympathetic white man (Charlie, played by Chris Cooper) in a historically realistic portrayal of Western life and its racism that does no t slip back into conventional Western plot lines In fact, this film can only be called a Western through its semantic elements, being set in the appropriate time period on th e Western frontier; it lacks the syntactic structures of shoot outs or chases, th us helping to avoid the clichd stereotypes of other Westerns Although Chinese major characters remain a rarity in Westerns, the genre has slowly begun to feature their presence For example, The Ballad of Little Jo (1993) has the title character saving a Chinese vagrant from a lynching by hiring him as a servant The Ballad of Little Jo is also an example of the increase of feminist role reversal Westerns Jo, a woman seeking her fortune in the West, masquerades as a man in order to avoid harassment Gri ttily realistic, this film als o avoids formulaic Western plot structures The CBS mini series Buffalo Girls (1995) centers more romantically around two women friends one an accepted female cowboy, Anjelica Huston playing Calamity Jane, and one a prostitute Melanie Griffith as Dora and the changes in their lives as the frontier begins to close Based upon a Larry McMurtry novel, the series exalts


38 feminine alternatives to the masculine Western showdown It also eliminates the dark side of Sitting Bull reveal ed in the novel in order to present a more idealized American Indian for television audiences (perhaps due to Russell Means playin g Sitting Bull; see Chapter 4 Furthermore, the series also lation of Calamity Jane as a hermaphrodite in order to present a normalized female protagonist In the 1990s, suggestions of sexual ambiguity seem to be the one area which the ostensibly heterosexual Western genre cannot yet accommodate (one exception is a minor comedic male homosexual role in Wagons East ) The weekly television series Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993 98) displays the importance of women in the West as educators and healers, as the title character single handedly introduces mainstream femini sm to the West every Saturday night Its success s pawned a similar cable series, Christy (1994 95) although it was short lived and set in early 1900s Tenn essee, the series did parallel Dr Quinn The Quick and the Dead (1995), which I e xamine at length in Chapter 5 provides an opportunity for Sharon Stone to play a deadly gunslinger out to avenge her father's death; with the help of an outlaw turned preacher, Stone frees the town of Redemption from the evil patriarchal tyrant, Herod Stone's status as a wo man gunfighter is briefly addressed at the beginning of the film, but once she proves her skill with a gun, the issue is dropped; this suggests that feminism in the Western has advanced to the point where a woman may play with the boys Bad Girls (1994) al so contains a role reversal, when a group of outlaw women adopt the lead Westerner roles of The Wild Bunch and eliminate deadly sexism in a climactic bloodbath They begin as prostitutes, but quickly evolve into gunfighters Savage Land also includes a fem ale gunslinger


39 Ranging from historical realism to fantastic gunslinging all of these films overturn schoolmarms or Mexican prostitutes Historical accuracy seems l inked to a rejection of Western structure but even those feminist Westerns which indulge in traditional plots continually modify the genre throug h the revision of the semantic elements regarding women For American Indians, African Americans, Chinese Amer icans, and women, all the films described above to some degree participate in a revision of the Western's semantic elements, pushing the genre towards a closer fit with 1990s American ideologies With the goals of promoting diversity and reaping a profit f rom its fairly recent acceptance, Westerns in the Dances With Wolves vein reflect the activism of previously excluded groups However, beyond Hollywood producers tapping into a then current hot cycle of films, the question remains of why some of thes e filmmakers chose the Western as a site of political intervention Previously, I argued for the use of the Western as a means of avoiding still relevant social problems by presenting them as resolved in a fictional past Still, that argument begs the ques tion : why the Western, the emphasis on the frontier, instead of, for example, films set in 1880s New York ? Yes, frontier narratives, exemplified by Westerns, are perhaps the richest and most unique of American genres, and concurrently, the one most in need of reform; but that evades the question by focusing on a closed textual circle of genre and eliding other social determinants To begin to answer the question of why the Western, I will examine the other, more traditional, direction the modern Western too k in the 1990s the Lonesome Dove (1989) direction


40 Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove aired in 1989 and quickly became one of the most watched mini series ever The plot centers around two aging Texas Rangers, Augus tus McCrae and Woodrow Call, who decide to take their outfit on a cattle drive from their home in Texas to the last open frontier, Montana The series offers a fabulous story, filled with great dialogue, interesting characters, and unexpected plot turns (n o small feat for a Western) At the same time, it is as traditional a Western as any ever made As Steve Fore points out, Lonesome Dove assumes an air of modernity by utilizing the trope of random, unavoidable death, and adds some elements of the revisioni st Western : the women are f eisty and independent, a supporting character (Deets, played by Danny Glover) is an African American member of the outfit, and McCrae talks a lot about how th ey wronged the Indians However, the leading men are whites who made th eir fortune killing Indians, the main villain is a "Cherokee half breed," and the women are prostitutes or settler's wives (59 62) Critically acclaimed, re run several times, and spawning a number of sequels and prequels, and a spin off weekly series, Lo nesome Dove 's enormous success suggests that something about the traditional Western frontier mythos became eminently applicable to American society in the very late 1980s and early 1990s and is partially behind the outburst of the 1990s Westerns One of t hose meaningful Hollywood coincidences, the almost simultaneous production and release of two feature films based on the Wyatt Earp at the O K Corral legend, sheds further light on this development


41 Wyatt Earp (1994), starring Kevin Costner, is an ambit ious attempt at an epic Western which failed both critically and at the box office The film is an overlong, pretentious biopic, following Earp from his childhood to his "retirement" hunting gold in Alaska Gene Hackman, playing Wyatt's father, constantly lectures his children on the importance of family, and is the one who finally transforms Wyatt from an irresponsible child into a mature leader and marshal Constantly moving west to seek their fortunes, Wyatt and his brothers eventually realize that the f rontier will soon close Instead, they become lawmen to make a living, and for legal justification in their feud with the Clantons Like the emphasis on family, the bond of friendship shared by Wyatt and Doc Holliday is heavily stressed; civil responsibili ty is never an issue Tombstone (released in December of 1993) is a far more successful retelling of the Earp legend Focusing on the Earps' and Doc Holliday's arrivals in Tombstone (a silver mining boom town), the film initially portrays the brothers as having retired from their duties as lawmen in order to make their fortune Content to remain in town and make their living off of organized gambling, they do not seem to have any illusions regarding the romance of the frontier However, the villainous Cowb oys, an outlaw gang of murderers and opium users identifiable by the red sashes they wear, soon begin to disrupt daily public life in Tombstone As we might suppose, the Cowboys are the Clantons, Johnny Ringo, Curly Bill and the other bad men of legend At first Wyatt (Kurt Russell) refuses to get involved with the Cowboys' crimes, but eventually his brothers, disgusted by the harm inflicted by the Cowboys, convince Wyatt to join them in cleaning up the town Doc friend and joins the fight This leads to "The Gunfight at the O K Corral" sequence, which in turn precipitates a series of vengeance battles until


42 Wyatt and Doc are victorious Val Kilmer effectively portrays Doc Holliday's excessive, conflicted nature; he is the virtual double of the primary Cowboy gunslinger, Johnny Ringo, but Doc's redeeming feature is his willingness to sacrifice his life for his friend Wyatt Doc kills Ringo and eventually dies of tuberculosis in a sanitarium, clearing the way for Wyatt to marry his wealthy dream w oman, Josephine, and travel the world, living on "room service" (a running motif of the Wyatt/Josephine romance) Considering the social context of the 1990s, Wyatt Earp failed because of its lack of concern with community and civic responsibility Althou gh it stresses family and friendship, it does so in an extremely self interested way, with the Earps' motivations primarily being vengeance and financial self interest (this depiction of the Earps is probably more historically accurate, but it is not gener ically accurate) In contrast, the themes of civic responsibility and morally justified violence are central to Tombstone The town of Tombstone represents contemporary 1990s American cities with their perceived growing crime problems The Cowboys seem a thinly veiled allegory of urban gang culture, with their gang "colors" of red sashes and their willingness to kill and abuse drugs marking them as equivalent to young gangs involved in drug wars Hollywood's regular retelling of the Wyatt/Doc story My Darl ing Clementine (1946), Gunfight at the O K Corral (1957), Hour of the Gun (1967) suggest an allegorical reading of the development of Tombstone 's Doc and the Earps as a microcosm of American history since World War II The Earps' early lives as lawmen gi ving way to their self indulgent pursuit of wealth suggest the patriotism of World War and Cold War America slowly ceding to the "me" decade of the 1980s Similarly, Doc's alcoholic gambling at the edge of the law roughly equates to the anti


43 establishment counter culture of the '60s and '70s, which also influences the self absorbed '80s Post Cold War, the union of Doc and Wyatt suggests a fantasy alliance of the right and the left in the 1990s to address pressing social concerns Tellingly enough, though, the anti establishment Doc passes away, but so to o does the Earp family separate, even to the extent of Wyatt abandoning his drug addicted wife in favor of the independent, exciting Josephine, suggesting not so much a return to traditional values but rathe r an updated merger of self interest that still wants to forgot the violent past Alongside the call to action in Tombstone are returns to traditional gender roles and typical Western stereotypes and violence The heroes are all white men Josephine is ad mittedly an interesting proto feminist character, being an independent traveling actress, but she functions in the narrative primarily as an object of desire for Wyatt and a means to awakening his consciousness (before Josephine, he seems set on establishe d paths of marriage and career) The other women are stereotypical homemaking wives or prostitutes In fact, the Cowboys suggest that Doc Holliday is a pimp for his lover, Big Nose Kate Wyatt's first wife, Maddie, is addicted to laudanum (which contains o pium, linking her with the Cowboys) his solution is to abandon her in favor of Josephine The criminal element is simply wiped out through bloody violence; the jail is used in the film only once And although a group of Mexicans at a wedding ceremony are s hown being slaughtered at the beginning of the film by the Cowboys (who have some Mexican members in minor roles), that is the only significant representation of non whites in the film The racial Other is invisible, helpless, or a component of the Cowboys


44 I find it telli ng that the Wyatt/Doc legend re emerges instead of other, more individual legends The Wyatt/Doc legend teamwork (Wyatt and Doc, Wyatt and his brothers) and community in a hostile symbolically urban environment ( Tombstone has to be cleaned up) I nstead of a wild frontier with "savage" Indians being conquered and a community settled, a decaying civilization has to be purged through guerrilla type violence True, Billy the Kid recei ved a resurrection in Young Guns (1988) and Young Guns II (1990), but the Kid legend was altered to make him the leader of an outlaw group of other young gunfighters banded against corporate interests An update of the Jesse James legend, Frank and Jesse ( 1995) also participated in this trend; a virtual remake of the 1939 Jesse James Frank and Jesse has the brothers and their gang working against the corporate tyranny of the railroad Although these last two instances have a corporate villain, they share w ith Tombstone an emphasis on the team of heroes, and Tombstone suggests a more traditional money making self interest reflects the interest through capitalism was part of the Cold War battle against the communist Soviets Thus, the Earps turn to wards community, towards making Tombstone a problems that had been pushed aside during the Cold War Although the Western may have seemed to fit perfectly the Cold W ar ethos of the slowly weakened due to a combination of the lingering disparity


45 of semantic elements and syntactic structures divided by the Cultural Revolution and the seemingly irrelevant cal l for civic (domestic) morality and engagement at the core of the Western genre But freed from Cold War responsibilities, and at a moment of optimism when new frontiers seemed possible, the Western re emerged A rmed with a new fit of semantic elements and syntactic structures (for example, w omen gunfighters defeating men) to match a less sexist and less racist contemporary ideology, the Western could again ride to the rescue Numerous obstacles, with Western like bases in both myth and reality, barred the way to progress crime, drugs, urban v iolence, racism, sexism and they were to be approached as Americans had always approached problems : speaking softly but carrying a big stick, attempting a peaceful resolution on one's own terms but having the firep ower to back up one's demands I f America couldn't fix the problem, it would eliminate it Government had its necessary role during the clash of global superpowers, but it seemed once again the time for individual s in small bands of family and friends, to improve the community and enact frontier justice on innumerable home fronts T his is also the appeal of Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (which I will examine in detail in Chapter 3 ) D espite its relentless self deconstruction Unforgiven ultimately affirms the necessary rightness of the Cold War era while exhibiting a willingness to move beyond it And perhaps for 90s, with a booming American economy and a saxophone playing urban cowboy in residence at the White House, it seemed that the Western's frontier was open


46 CHAPTER 3 HOW THE 1990S REVITA LIZED CLINT EASTWOOD Clint Eastwood is the last great Westerner 1 Born out of Rawhide and the Spaghetti Westerns he is inextricably joined with the very idea of the Western, more so than any other living figure And in th e 1990s, his changing star persona was once again able to tap directly into his serape covered core, not only with Unforgiven (1992) but also with his other films Most Clint Eastwood fans are familiar with this narrative related Unforgiven : as the 1990s began, despite a measure of critical acclaim for directing Bird and White Hunter Black Heart Eastwood had not had a significant film, both in terms of box office receipts and cultural influence, since his turn at directing himsel f as Dirty Harry in Sudden Impact (1983) (most famous, perhaps, for Pale Rider (1985 ) was supposed to revitalize the Western, but, though it was moderately successful at the box off ice it received mixed reviews, and failed to strike the popular chord that may have reinvigorated the Western However, once Dances With Wolves kicked off the Western mini boom of the early 1990s, Eastwood soon followed with Unforgiven, his masterpiece th at established him as the most significant Western filmmaker and one of the most respected American directors There is nothing wrong with this narrative, but I would like to suggest a slightly different one : that the socio political climate of the early 1990s is what made Eastwood, his changed star persona, and his films once again relevant Paul Smith has suggested this direction with Clint Eastwood : A Cultural Production wherein he attempts to read 1 A version of this chapter appear s in a forthcoming collection, New Essays on Clint Eastwood The title of The End of History and Ame rica First: How the 1990s Revitalized Clint Eastwood


47 Eastwood and his films as more than functions of a cha rismatic star and accomplished director eer inexorably move him like production company, Malpaso, and a carefully protected family man image ular genre cinema, culminating in Unforgiven as art status This development is partially characters tha t differ from his youthful Man with No Name and Dirty Harry r oles, and leading to a reworked persona associated with redemption; as Walter Metz notes in his Fol product of both his films and the discourses surrounding them, I argue that political and social developments in America during the 1990s meshed with the gradual reforming of Eas atoning for his sins This new persona needed the post Cold War zeitgeist of the 1990s to truly resonate with American film audiences, and I will trace the development of Ea primarily as a director and producer, to a popular star persona that incorporates his This new persona, which I will term h is senior persona consists of an aging, single, flawed, heroic character grappling with the


48 sins of his youth and hoping to redeem them through a second opportunity, the winning of a violent, cathartic encounter Additionally, the personal history of this character is explicitly tied to historical American events or period settings, suggesting that the film narratives with these characters serve as allegories for 1990s America aud iences, I will examine five of his mainstream, commercial films, plus the Western genre in 1990s America six long shooters, whether Colt or Smith & Wesson I will begin each of these six sections with a key image that serves as an entry point into each film (or America the films represent From the formation of his senior persona in the Cold War infl uenced Heartbreak Ridge and the revealing misfire The Rookie to the changes in America that led to the 1990s western boom and Unforgiven In the Line of Fire and A Perfect World I intend to display that Clint Eastwood is, indeed, a socio political produc tion Heartbreak Ridge (1986) Key Image : Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway (Eastwood) has his marine under him One of them puts on a pair of designer sunglasses and yawns Highwa Close up : clad feet By 1986, Nike was already a billion dollar corporation and had Michael Jordan under contract, well on their way to becoming one of the most recognizable brands in the world Eastwood, of course, can be considered a brand in his own right, and many


49 enjoyed the irony when ch oosing the name for a company that would eventually become renowned for its small, efficient, under budget ethos Considering Malpaso and American work ethic and frugality Malpaso represents stands before the excessive advertising of consumer products, the Nikes or Ray bans of modern corporate America the discipline of the father figure to the recruits, informing them that his traditional Marine Corps values still trump those of modern America For Highway, those values grow out of a lifetime of service, begin ning in the Korean War, and a title sequence, consisting of Korean War documentary footage, introduces Heartbreak Ridge The sequence begins with a military drum score and shows intensive, mechanized, warfare large cannons firing, machine guns, and so fort h Eventually, images become more personalized, including wounded soldiers and war orphans This contrast neatly encapsulates the film, as its plot of Korean/Vietnam War veteran Highway finding redemption in Grenada is balanced by his attempts to reunite with his estranged ex Johnson, divorced in 1978) In both his husbandly and military roles, Gunny Highway is o ld fashioned He is nearing mandatory retirement from the Marine Corps, and his traditional, gung ho style does not fit with the other two options the film presents : the lax, self absorbed soldier using the Corps as a job, symbolized by a supply sergeant o ffering bribes of Cuban cigars and other benefits that Highway flatly refuses, or the


50 commanding officer, Major Powers, a strait laced Annapolis graduate who began his service in s upply and logistics opens with him in jail after a drunken fight, and he clearly has no place in mainstream society Highway calls in a f division to train Recon Platoon for war and whose career has been marked by failures in Korea and Vietnam The raw recruits of Recon seem uninterested in the Marines, epitomized by their leader, Stitch Jone s (played by Mario Van Peebles), and his obsession with a music career as the self n rolla As Highway trains them and eventually gains their respect and admiration, he also attempts to win back his ex wife, Aggie, through his humorously As the renewed relationship with Aggie reaches a crucial point, Highway and the rest of the division are called away, to the invasion of Grenada With the help of the platoon he inspired, most notably Jone strike can be called in, Highway successfully guides his platoon through several engagements as the U.S. forces take the island (emphasizing the relev battles occur in an ancient fort complete with relic cannons) Highway returns to his role as warrior and achieves a measure of redemption for past failures in Korea and Vietnam Though somewhat ambigu success in Grenada, Highway can now retire from the Corps and devote his life to


51 who is enjoying the celebration of his ascension to true Marine status) Though a modest box office success, Heartbreak Ridge seemed out of place during the muscular 1980s, ruled at the box office by Schwarzenegger and Stallone Perhaps tired of the interm example, the fantasy of re Rambo : First Blood Part II even the title is more exciting, and overblown) With Eastwood in his fifties, however, the film did prefigure the redemptive senior persona that perfectly meshed with his sixties and the 1990s : Highway is older, about to retire, estranged from his wife, and prone to drunkennes s, a military hero who is haunted by overall failures in Korea and Vietnam, but ultimately he is able to justify and redeem his past via training and leading a new generation of marine heroes to violent victory in Grenada Certainly, the redemptive narrati ve is nothing new to Eastwood's characters (think of The Outlaw Josey Wales ), or the Westerner in general, reflecting what Richard Slotkin calls "regeneration through violence," but the aged character played by Eastwood literally adds a new wrinkle to the story And the incorporation of the Grenada invasion adds an allegorical layer; as Paul Smith notes, the film suggests that the U.S.A. has, at least on a superficial level, regained a measure of post Vietnam military might through Grenada and other 1980s m ilitary actions, such as Libya and Panama (200) Thus, as regaining its public self image as a military power, albeit with tentative steps against


52 much smaller nations While that militaristic message works for Tom Cruise in Top Gun (also 1986) and the aforementioned Rambo : First Blood Part II character remains outdated; America was still locked in the lingering Cold War, and the socio political climate had t senior persona could resonate Misfire : The Rookie (1990) Key Image : Long shot : At the end of the film, Nick Pulovski (Eastwood) sits behind the desk in his own office, now a lieutenant, assigning a new partner to his former part ner, David Ackerman (Charlie Sheen), the former rookie Dirty Harry has become the authority figure The Rookie tries to be a bit of Dirty Harry, a bit of Lethal Weapon a bit of a 1980s action blockbuster instream film of the new decade fizzles, despite many loud action scenes Aspects of the Eastwood senior persona are present : Pulovski is not an invincible Dirty Harry, as he continually needs his partner to save him, and his motivation stems from his regr et at always finishing second in his career, whether as an automobile racer or cop The exposition of further or strongly tied to the narrative, as the film focuses more on t he Sheen character, Ackerman, and his backstory (his brother died in a youthful accident, he became estranged from his rich parents, and he finally becomes his own man as a cop) And closing the film with Eastwood behind the desk as a mentor seems forced a nd out of character Thus, without a strongly developed Eastwood redemptive character or any ties to American history, the film misfires as an attempt to cash in on the 1980s action cycle without tapping into the Eastwood senior persona, in contrast to the upcoming Eastwood successes Tellingly, the climax of the film works a misfire into the plot, as


53 the expected six, causing him to be shot by the villain Unforgiven of course, also works a misfire into the climactic shootout, but before examining Unforgiven a brief overview of the 1990s and the accompanying cycle of Westerns is needed, beginning with a historical climax, the fall of the Berlin Wall The 1990s and t he Western Key Image : The Berlin Wall falls ior person needed the openness and uncertainty of the post Cold War 1990s to truly resonate like description of the era as a entation and opportunity, of conflict and insecurity a place, in other words, wherein history might move in a number of very I previously noted how the resurgence of the Western tapped modifying the elements of the genre for a new era Similarly, Eastwood is able to modify his own persona to match this era; he and his film perform an act of self revision, a regeneration through violent films, and into this newly imagined frontier rides Eastwood with Unforgiven Unforgiven (1992) Key Image : Will Munny (Eastwood) has avenged Ned Logan (Freeman) by killing Little Bill Daggett (Hackman), his deputies, and Skinny Dubois, the owner of the bar and bordello where the narrative of the cut up pros titute began About to ride away into the pouring rain and the night, he stops in up body and admonishes the townspeople of Big Whiskey, Wyoming, sayin you better not cut Medium close up : bitches Munny on horseback is on the left half of the screen, shot from a slight low angle; an American flag in the background is clearly visible on the right half of the screen


54 Mun ny might come back, but Eastwood definitely has returned All three previous historical Westerns (set in the late 1800s) directed by Eastwood employ the Westerner as avenger : in both High Plains Drifter (1973) and Pale Rider ghos t like figure who returns, in part, to avenge attempts at murdering him (or perhaps actual murder, depending on how one interprets the films), and in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Eastwood/Wales first joins a band of post Civil War raiders to avenge the m urders of his wife and son, and then continues to seek vengeance for a murderous betrayal of him and his fallen comrades Unforgiven however, presents a slightly different scenario : a prostitute, Delilah, is cut up and scarred by two cowboys, the other pr ostitutes post a thousand dollar bounty on the cowboys, and Munny (with Ned Logan and the Schofield Kid) set out to collect the bounty In other words, they are motivated less by revenge than profit True, a certain avenging motive, to avenge the woman, do es exist, and by the end of the film Munny is avenging both the murder of Logan and his own savage beating from Little Bill, but the initial motivation differs from his other self directed Westerns In fact, the except that unlike the developed past, including being a widower with two children who gave up drinking gun fighting, and other vices through the influence of his late wife, Claudia I emphasize this seemingly minor difference because it distinguishes the Eastwood senior persona characters from previous roles Most well written film narratives will have we ll developed characters with a back story important to the


55 narrative; even in High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider like characters initially seem to have no past, the films eventually reveal that the Eastwood characters have returned for personal revenge In general, back story motivation is usually tied directly into the action and conflicts within the main plotlines of the film (revenge, in the Eastwood directed Westerns) Unforgiven however, by shifting the initial motivation from personal revenge to an impersonal bounty hunt, allows a more inner directed, psychological motivation and back story to dominate the narrative; Munny grapples with his past as a mean, drunken more The bounty on the his violent past, his personal history, but now he attempts to access it while controlling it, to use his capacity for violence for supposedly moral reasons (providing for his children and imposing justified punishment on the criminals, the cowboys who cut Delilah) Inexorably the release of his violence yields more violence and death This revious psychological state, No longer an invincible killer or flawed yet dominant hero, he now becomes a vulnerable, near elderly man wrestling with his past sins and denyi ng the motivations behind them while seeking an opportunity to redeem them, to return to defining experiences and either reaffirm or overturn them In Unforgiven despite his protests and all appearances to the contrary, Munny reaffirms that he still can b e a cold blooded killer Eastwood even looks and sounds younger in the climactic scenes when he returns as an avenging killer; despite its


56 deconstruction of gun fighting myths and critique of violence, the film ultimately reaffirms, and e ven glorifies in, the climactic heroic shoot up integral to the Western, wherein violent killing is legitimized Granted, Munny was a murderer of women and children, but this time his violence is used justifiably Which returns us to the key image and its over determin ed signifier of the The allegory with America in Unforgiven is slightly more complicated, as Munny was not involved in an actual historical event, like Highway in Vietnam, which needs cor recting However, the flags are raised in Big Whiskey because the 4 th of July was only a few days earlier the day when Little Bill savagely beat English Bob, who entered town discussing the July 2 nd 1881 shooting of President Garfield by Charles J Guitea u Furthermore, the film contains references to violent historical figures and settings glamorized in Thus, while the film is American politics, and representations of history in frontier narratives Particularly in the wake of the stunningly efficient American led military victory in Iraq (at with returning to his violent ways throughout the film and his final pronouncement form a warning to the rest of the world : the Cold War is over, America wants to put behind its violent, military past, but if we have to, we can return to violence by sending our armies around the globe (note that Munny and Logan travel far, for the 1880s, from their Kansas home to Wyoming for the bounty)


57 Skin ny, Little Bill, and the rest eliminate the immoral leaders of Big Whiskey while ve Recalling the misfire in The Rookie misfires during his showdown with Little Bill, but, unlike Pulovski, Munny easily overcomes that setback without aid and emerges victorious Not only is the ultimately media coverage of the film), but the Western and the frontier myth have also returned to help guide America and re establish historical myths through a period of post Co ld War uncertainty and self examination Unforgiven screenplay, one of the finest of all Western scripts, emphasizes reflexivity, irony, and genre deconstruction while sustaining contradictory ideological impulses, thus encouraging multiple interpretations and rich analysis No single reading can definitively encapsulate a film that spends nearly two hours critiquing violence and demythologizing the Westerner hero only to then present a climax that stunningly While the film and its sources can be which could lead to a comparison o f Unforgiven y reading focuses the popularity of the film exemplif ies the politic al moment of the early 1990s. T he critique of violence, the deconstruction of Western myths, and Munn examination mirror America reexamining its Cold War legacy and searching for a new national identity, while


58 justified (America won the Cold War) and is still accessible in times of crisis (to maintain the global peace), when self examination can be conveniently set aside With its community of organized, angry prostitutes and the casual inclusion of an African American cowboy as a primary character (who has an American Indian wife in a non speaking part), the film accepts the revisionist view of the frontier as a potential site of limited liberal equality (following Fukuyama), while stressing that the hero who ensures that equality is a conservative patri ot, a white male capitalist espousing traditional family values and notions of justice supported by violence (following Buchanan) Unforgiven cloaks its climax in rain and darkness, much as the narrative is permeated by ambiguity and deconstruction, but af ter Munny rides out of Big Whiskey, the film visually ends with the hero has ridden gloriously into the sunset of innumerable other Western finales, triumphant in his use of violence and protection of democratic values In the Line of Fire (1993) Key Image : Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan (Eastwood) speaks on the phone with Mitch Leary (Malkovich), the would be presidential assassin a documentary of the ev ents in Dallas in November of 1963 As Leary questions Horrigan about his role as an agent protecting President Kennedy on the day of his you looked so young and able, what did happe n to you that day, Frank ? Close up : superimposed over a montage of footage of the Kennedy assassination (several of which have been altered to include images of a young Horrigan/Eastwood) Th e camera slowly tracks in to an extreme close up of shot The Horrigan close up is a long take, over a minute, only interrupted by an extreme close


59 Although Eastwood did not direct or produce In the Line of Fire (Wolfgang Peterson directed, Jeff Apple and Bob Rosenthal produced), the script (by Jeff Maguire) seems tailor made for Eastwood, and his performance dominates the film, though balanced with a superb villainous turn by John Malkovich As the key image suggests, assassination, a failure he has been haunted by for thirty years Leary, an ex CIA assassin who wants to kill the current president as revenge against the government that he believes betrayed him, provides Horrigan with a chance at atonement if he can prevent Leary from killing the president ure permeates his life; after the assassination, he became an alcoholic and his wife and daughter left him, and now he lives alone and is considered a borderline burnout at the service While Eastwood cannot be an avenger here he cannot strike back at Kenn assassination attempt (although, by formula, some personal revenge motivation does And despite the efforts of hundred s of Secret Service agents, only the iconic, experienced Eastwood is a great enough figure to prevent another tragedy The film establishes that Eastwood is an American monument; the President is only a peripheral character, often in the far background whi le Eastwood/Horrigan looms in the foreground, and at one point might decide they're not worth taking a bullet for The Washington, D C setting of much of the film a llows Eastwood to be framed with various monuments, most notably


60 in close ... wish I could have been there for y ou, pal When fellow agent, and love interest, Lilly Raines argues that Horrigan cared more : Horri gan : That was different He [Kennedy] was different Raines : Maybe you were different Horrigan : I was different The whole damn country was different Everything would be different right now too if I'd been half as a paranoid as I am today, fuck While Ho rrigan cannot change history, the film suggests it can be revised through its altered documentary footage that inserts images of a young Eastwood, thus implying [Eastwood/Horrigan] Le ary, being a former CIA assassin presumably involved in Cold you anyway ? Run coke for the Contras ? Sell arms to Iran ), symbolizes the dark legacy of the Cold War Horrig an represents the protection of presidents, and by extension, the nation; his defeating Leary and taking the bullet for the current President suggests that America has learned from, and overcome, its mistakes, putting the dirty but necessary illegal acts o f the Cold War behind, even to the point of re writing the tragedy of the JFK assassination, which can finally be forgotten as the nation moves towards a new future and assassin, but, of course, the common link is that the true evil doers are punished, whether they be outlaws or leading citizens, at the hands


61 of the Eastwood senior version of the western hero, who has agonized over his own past, but is ultimately not limited by it In the Line of Fire is clearly not an explicit Western or frontier narrative, but it that many Hollywood films share with the Western more fully in Chapter 4) Horrigan is an in And, of course, Horrigan regenerates his life through violent conflict Overall, like Unforgiven In the Line of Fire looks back at and revises history but firmly moves into the symbolic frontier of an open future with of the Cold War, does linger, however, as Horrigan can only redeem himself by eli minating his doppelganger, a federal agent who decided to rebel, implying that America can only renew itself by purging itself of its checkered Cold War past When Horrigan and Raines return to his apartment, however, al message left on the answering machine before his death Horrigan seems to walk away from it and move on with Lily, but the voice plays on, haunting an otherwise happy Hollywood ending of Lily and Frank cuddling on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, shot of view, the Washington Monument rising in the background in front of the lovers, suggesting that


62 victorious status reaffirmed But the ti A Perfect World A Perfect World (1993) Key Image : Red (Eastwood) has finally tracked down the escaped convict/killer Butch (Costner) Ev en though neither has a gun at this point, each advances towards the other in a Texas field, Butch holding the hand Extreme long shot : Red on the very left of the screen, Butch a nd Phillip on the right, in the classic showdown shot of hundreds of Westerns The plot of A Perfect World revolves around a manhunt; Butch escapes from prison and takes a hostage (Phillip), and Red is the Texas Ranger leading the chase Although Butch kil ls two people (including his partner in the escape), he seems a sympathetic character whose goal is to find his long absent father, supposedly in Alaska figure to him As the hunt progresses, we discover that Red had convinced a judge friend of his to harshly sentence the young Butch, in effect causing him to become a career criminal At the climax, Phillip shoots and wounds Butch to prevent him from possibly killing a family that had taken th em in Meanwhile, Red and his crew finally catch up with them, so Phillip convinces Butch to surrender, and Red seems sympathetic to their plight However, a trigger happy FBI sniper fatally shoots Butch The key image, the western style shot, suggests tha t A Perfect World addresses the limitations of the return of the genre and the frontier myth in the 1990s When the film was released in 1993, Clint Eastwood was the consensus last great western star, but Kevin Costner, thanks to directing and starring in Dances With Wolves and an earlier, memorable supporting role in Silverado (1985), was perhaps the only other A list Hollywood star who could claim to be a Westerner This film also marked the first time


63 that Eastwood had directed a major star other than hi mself, resulting in a film that features Costner, with Eastwood only in a supporting role which, perhaps, is partly why the film was a box office flop in the U.S.A. grossing only $31 million, a very disappointing result for two major stars following up hi t movies ( Unforgiven and In the Line of Fire for Eastwood, The Bodyguard JFK Robin Hood : Prince of Thieve s, and Dances with Wolves for Costner) The film was well reviewed, though, and made over $100 million in the foreign market (more than Unforgiven or In the Line of Fire ), indicating that it was not the quality of the film as much as American audience expectations and preferences that caused its relative failure in the domestic market American audiences may have expected more interaction between the t wo stars (they only appear together onscreen at the very end of the film), or they may have been off performance as a father figure to Phillip gic ending, with Butch/Costner suddenly killed by a FBI sniper, may have left American audiences uneasy, with neither a clichd happy ending nor at least a cathartic sense of purpose or sacrifice at the end of Gran Torino to cite a recent, relevant example) I argue, however, that another significant factor, closely related to the tragic ending, in American audiences rejecting this film was that the optimistic expectations of a are not met in A Perfect World and the resulting tragedy fails to resonate with a nation uneasily excited about its present and future While Unforgiven and In the Line of Fire both contain aspects that undercut the successes of the Eastwood characters, A Perfect World has Red explicitly failing on multiple levels


64 without redemption : his unjustified punishment of the young Butch and his inability to atone by bringing in Butch alive, with the FBI agent out of his control Similarly, Butch is unable to esc ape his past by escaping to rejoin his father in the symbolic final frontier of Alaska By denying the possibility of righting past wrongs, and instead only bloodily At the allegorical level, this film also invokes the Kennedy assassination The film visit In this context, the FBI sniper who kills Butch invokes Oswald, and, without dipping into conspiracy theories, the film suggests that the inability to prevent either shooting arried out by a government agent or a lone gunman Therefore, in the 1990s, American legacy, but instead suggests that the wounds of past violence remain open While this message is partially mitigated by setting the film in the 1960s and having the young Phillip survive and be reunited with his family, audiences can only assume Phillip has been scarred by these events, as the nation was post JFK, without the possibility o f escape to a new frontier Heartbreak Ridge A Perfect World


65 senior persona films and characters of the early 1990s move beyond nostal gia, as those characters are able to revisit and redeem their past mistakes and continue forward into an uncertain, yet often hopeful, future, a trajectory that mirrors audience sensibilities and expectations in the United States after the Cold War While variations on the senior Space Cowboys in 2000 and Million Dollar Baby in 2004 ), those films lack the intertwined allusions to specific, grandiose historical events and frontier mythology that enabled an o bvious, allegorical connection to post Cold War America, a connection that makes the films of 1992 and 1993 among


66 CHAPTER 4 THE LAST OF THE MOHI CANS : FILM ADAPTATIONS, RA CIAL C ONFLICT, AND AMERICAN INDIAN RESP ONSES In the 1820s, James Fenimore Cooper heeded a general call to help create an American literature with his Leatherstocking novels, the most enduring of which has been The Last of the Mohicans first published in 1826 I n the 1990s, Patrick Buchanan and how better to respond than with a new version of The Last of the Mohicans (directed by Michael Mann) ? e 1920 film version, the first feature length adaptation, before turning to a close analysis of the 1992 film its relation to contemporary America, and its portrayal of American Indians in the context of the 1990s Western cycle 2 I will attempt to reconci le competing interpretations of the film through a form of structuralist analysis borrowed from Charles Eckert And I will put forth an alternate interpretation of the film that considers Chingachgook, played by Russell Means, as an important figure releg ated to the narrative periphery I intend to examine what space, if any, Hollywood films provide for the advancement of American Indian stories and characters in relation to more general questions of race owever, i s the 1992 The Last of the Mohicans actually ? A strict definition of the Western genre might argue against it Set in 1757 colonial New York, Mohicans Civil War setting of the American West (meaning west of t he Mississippi River, or thereabouts) genre as we now know it did not exist, although the frontier and stories about it 2 White Romance and America n Indian Action in Hollywood's The Last of the Mohicans (1992)


67 obviously did a strong connection to the twentieth century Western hero D H Lawrence famously identified the pairing of the white man and American Indian (subordinate) companion of Leatherstocking (or Hawkeye, or Natty Bumppo) and Chingachgook (or Indian John, or th e Great Serpent) : American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer Leslie Fiedler Love and Death in the American Novel further traces the prevalence of this homo social, sexless bond (which thereby avoids miscegenation) in American literature, Virgin Land connects Leatherstocking, Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, and others to the genesi s of the Western dime novels that precede film Westerns At the very least, then, we can say rontier myth, and the core of the film Western (15 16) John McWilliams asserts in his survey of To consider the 1992 Mohicans a Western film, I ask the reader to refer to Martin The Lasting of the Mohicans : History of an American Myth classics, movies (silents, sound features, serials), television (cartoon and live action), and comic books Mohicans became inextricably tangled up with the Western genre, an association that has not disappeared to th (29) Thus, Hollywood film versions, dependent on recognizable genres and appropriate


68 stars for marketing, adapt the story of The Last of the Mohicans to conform, at least in part, to Western generic conventions For example, the 1936 film version casts Randolph Scott, closely identified with Westerns, as Hawkeye, despite his star persona Barker and Sabin 90) The 1920 film has a more imagistic example : at the Glen Falls scene, a number of long shots locate the camera inside the cave, facing out, in such a manner as to frame the civilized characters within against the outside wilderness This type of shot is a staple of Western film composition, most famously employed by John Ford in The Searchers (19 56) seems to have reached something like consensus : the incoherency of the source text, at least on an ideological level Barker and Sabin conclude that one primary reason for the persistence of the Mohicans myth is that it remains indeterminate, presenting a number of contradictory impulses without resolving them : We are suggesting that The Last of the Mohicans because of the particular circumstances under which it was written balances with great precision on top of a nest of contradictions Born on the cusp of a contradiction in Indians and the wilderness, Mohicans holds within itself, in tension, a wealth of possibilities for subsequent use To be brutally paradoxical, it has a coherent incoherence But that does not mean it can be used for anything It retains, like a f If, as Alexander Sexton has ar gued, race is a deformed substitute for class, then wilderness is a beautified substitute for property (201 202) Following Barker and Sabin, who m she quotes several times, Jacquelyn Kilpatrick also


69 (71) which still exist in American society (6) H Daniel Pec k traces this trend in reading The Last of the Mohicans stands out from the other Leatherstocking tales in that it chaotically rejects meaning; thus, any does not exist (qtd in Peck 14) rushing, disordered waters of Glens Falls to symbolize the overall disorder of the novel I shall soon return to the Glens Falls sc ene for my own argument following periods of praise for his founding of an American literature, is a result of a lingering fascination with ambiguity or a poststructuralist affinity for deconstruction Mohicans does contain ideological and/or structural incoherence, or at least provokes such readings, then that incoherence not only allows multiple film adaptations, it exemplifies the type of ideological project that Hollywood prefers reluctant hero embodies both outlaw and approved normative characteristics, form the basis for the typical American story : derives from the national This ideology of avoiding hard choices manifests itself both in the plots of Hollywood films (the reluctant hero, caught between two opposing forces, finally makes the morally right decision, but only temporarily, before reasserting himself as an individual) and in the film style (the invisible, continuity editing preferred by Hollywood


70 always provides the ideal vantage poin t for the spectator while masking the fragmented decision making processes of film production) (Ray 32 33) Mohicans myth specifically for Hollywood film production : hey find in present difficult ideological dilemmas without choosing between them To test this, I will examine the aforementioned Glens Falls scene that Philbrick view s as central to Cooper and that also plays a key role in the 1920 and 1992 film versions 3 substantial, covering roughly forty pages and spanning all of Chapters 6 through 9 and the beginning of Chapter 10 The film versions, on the other hand, last for fewer than ten minutes While this is obviously a necessity for Hollywood feature films reducing the 350 plus pages of the novel to approximately two hours exactly how the novel s equence is condensed into a film scene is revealing These action oriented films obviously emphasize moments of conflict and other physical actions, but they also Wayne Franklin exam ines how Cooper, who visited the falls in 1824, when they were already stones and watercourses moved), had to visualize the falls as they would have appeared in the 1750s To 3 Interestingly enough, the 1936 film version does not include t his scene; while the 1936 film is often referenced by critics examining the 1992 film, as the 1936 Dunne screenplay is credited in the 1992 film and Mann has stated that he was influenced by the 1936 film, some key moments in the 1992 film seem heavi ly inf luenced by the 1920 film.


71 argues that Cooper had to erase the modern, civilized United States to achieve the imaginary foundations of the savage, violent wilderness of The Last of the Mohicans : In the case of the Glens Falls eye and, object by object, removed the accumulated burden of culture from the place until he got down to the rock that underpinned it all He found the wilderness, in other words, under the nation (33) C ooper himself suggests as much in one of the historical footnotes he occasionally inserts into the novel (following the lead of Walter Scott) : woods and other objects, which in an old country would be maintained at great cost, are This quotation reveals imagined unsoiled frontier landscape pt, my task is to reveal the rock of ideology beneath the narrative burdens of the various Glens Falls scenes characters that intersperse the narrative moments of suspense or ac tion One of these occurs after Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook have saved Cora, Alice, Heyward, hands of his Huron allies Hawkeye and the Mohicans decide to hide at thei r cave retreat, formed and hidden by Glens Falls, and located on a secure island Their relaxation over venison, with singing, is interrupted by hideous screams that Heyward eventually recognizes as a horse in terror, signaling that Magua and the Hurons ha ve found their horses and are on their trail A restless night follows, and, as they ready to leave at dawn, they are attacked by the Hurons A gunfight ensues Eventually, several Hurons land on the island, and tense hand to hand combat ensues with the cl imactic,


72 cliff edge battle between Heyward and a Huron, with Uncas coming to the rescue, immortalized by an N C Wyeth illustration that is subsequently adapted for numerous comic book covers ( Barker and Sabin 187) The Hurons are defeated; Uncas, Heyward and Hawkeye return to cover i n the rocks, and the gunfight continues The battle is punctuated by an image of a wounded Huron dangling from a tree before plunging to his death in the river Eventually, the Mohicans and company run out of powder (the Huro ns steal the canoe with the extra powder), and Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook prepare for the final onslaught until they decide instead to escape down the river in the hope that they will be able to return and eventually save the rest of the party They leap into the river, and the Munro sisters, Heyward, and Gamut hide in the cave, where Magua and the Hurons soon discover them and lead them away in captivity What this plot summary omits is the character development and interactions that most blatantly convey the ideological messages of the novel Cora, Alice, and Heyward This strongly suggests Uncas further displays his noble nature through his close att ention to the sisters, particularly Cora, his love interest Hawkeye, even when eating, remains ever vigilant, suggesting the American man of action, a trait And while talents, accompanied by the Munro sisters, seem for a moment to bring European harmony into the wilderness, the screams of the horse quickly remind the reader that frontier wilds are dangerous and savage After Uncas saves Heyward, their gestures of respe ct and friendship suggest the idealized harmony of the official hero with the noble Indian which nevertheless ends in the death of the Indian, at the


73 end of the novel Duncan and Heyward debate whether to shoot the dangling Huron Hawkeye ruthlessly refuse s because powder must be conserved, but as the Huron falls, Hawkeye shoots him out of unthinking pity, revealing the heart of gold in this not quite stoic killer a natural morality born out of the American frontier Finally, the sequence concludes with the Mohicans and Hawkeye stoically preparing for inevitable death, revealing their natural grandeur as epic warriors However, exemplifying Protestant self sacrifice, Cora beseeches them to save themselves Hawkeye realizes the Christian sin of de facto suici de, though it would be practicality of the act, to swim away Hawkeye soon follows Uncas remains, nobly and resolutely protecting his intended, until Cora convinces him to fly as the only means to save them, and he gloomily follows the others Heyward is unmoved and remains because he fears that most horrible of savage war outcomes, the rape of white women by savage Indians (the racist fear of miscegenation is central to the myt h of savage war) Perhaps most surprising to those who see one of the films before reading the novel is that Cora insists on the flight of Hawkeye and the Mohicans and is willing to possibly sacrifice herself and her sister, both for the survival of the me n and for a remote chance of later rescue This stance emblematic of the Puritan captivity interestingly shifts in the film versions According to Barker and Sabin, the 1920 silent film The Last of the Mohica ns at seventy Directed by Maurice Tourneur and Clarence Brown (although Brown supposedly directed the majority of the film due to Tourneur's illness), the film was shot on California n locations,


74 including the Yosemite Valley (66) Barker and Sabin interpret this film as a response to American racism prevalent in the 1910s, such as anti immigration and eugenics laws and a widespread belief in social Darwinism (75) They also argue that as Tourneur was the main rival of the legendary racist director D W Griffith, the 1920 Mohicans is a The Birth of a Nation (1915), the Civil War and Reconstruction film that most infamously depicts the racist attitudes of the peri od and which directly inspires the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan (73) Barker and Sabin note that this Mohicans achgook (named The film also introduces a new character, Randolf is clearly a cowardly, villainous character, who refuses to accompany the women in the wilderness and betrays Colonel Munro and the fort to the French (72 73) Uncas is remains unconsummated, consisting only of longing looks and a final, Romeo a nd Juliet style hand holding in death However, given the racially charged politics of the era, the decision to make the Indian character Uncas the clear protagonist and the obvious race blind attraction between Uncas and Cora makes a strong statement agai nst racism rather closely, and the Glens sequences is no exception At eight minutes i n length,


75 portion of the novel Cooper dedicates to it In the film, the sequence also appears in rd, and Gamut All the major plot action points remain, although the dialogue is heavily abridged (as in any film version of Cooper, but even more so, being a silent film depende nt on intertitles) In the novel, Hawkeye is the most talkative of the bunc h and the leader of the action although it can be argued that both the Mohicans and Hawkeye collectively decide on the course of action while conversing tog ether in the Mohican lang uage. H owever, Hawkeye is the one who translates those decisions into English for the benefit of the Bri tish characters and the reader. Moreover, Heyward, Alice, and Cora all admire Uncas Conversely, in the film, Hawkeye and Chingachgook sit to one side, silent for the most part, while Uncas speaks English and leads the action; and here, only Cora gazes at Uncas Those gazes are in fact somewhat unusual Laura Mulvey famously argues that Hollywood cinema restricted, and indeed often punished, independent female or gaze, that positioned women as sexual objects Before the institution of the Hays Code in 1930 and accompanying dominance of the studio system, Hollywood is considered to have a wider range of expression and artistic freedom Moreover, the 1920 film, though a major production, was financed by the independent Associate Producers Thus, the film was not subject to the restrictions most commonly associated with Hollywood films, and so the romance between Uncas and Cora is allowed (the


76 Hays Code later explicitly banned depictions of miscegenation), as is the depiction of Cora as a relatively strong woman character who gazes lustfully at Uncas The film initially presents Cora as very conventional An intertitle says that Soon after, Cora is introduced in close up, playing a harp for a dance at the fort, a typical Western film convention, with roots in The Grea t Train Robbery, domesticity and civilization Another intertitle, with a flower in the upper corner, states that Cora has mothered Alice from childhood, and the following shots indicate that Randolf is interes ted in Cora However, when Uncas makes his entrance, framed in a long shot standing in a doorway, Cora, framed in a medium two shot sitting next to Randolf, turns her head and surprised gaze from Randolf to Uncas She then exclaims (in an intertitle) Randolf, in the same medium two Chastened, though obviously bored, Cora turns back to Randolf before re signedly staring into space as Randolf talks At this point, still in the Randolf's words and by the film structure which presents her either at the side of the harp or wit h Randolf Within the fort, emblematic of the restrictions of British society, Cora cannot yet act on her impulsive attraction When the scene shifts to Glens Falls, however, these social restrictions are lifted, and replaced by the frontier mythos of limi tless possibilities Initially, hiding inside the cave, Cora is framed in a manner similar to at Ford Edward : a medium shot, Cora again on the right, with Heyward instead of Randolf on the left and Alice squeezed in the


77 middle But after Chingachgook annou up of Cora alone Similar to the Fort Edward shot, her eyes shift from screen left to screen right to look at Uncas, who is shown in a long shot, framed in silhouette, and shirtless, in the cave entrance, similar to the Fort Edward building doorway The film cuts back to an even tighter close up of Cora, who steadily gazes at Uncas for a relatively long take of seven seconds, her interest obvious Again in long shot, Uncas turns toward her, an intertitle announcin two, so widely separated by the mystery of birth The film returns to a close up of a smiling Cora, and Uncas joins her in a medium long shot to point out the rising moon outside the cave entrance Located in a wi ld, natural location, the framing has cut Cora off from civilized restrictions represented by her sister and Heyward, and her admiring sexual gaze can now attract Uncas to her, both in appreciation of the wild beauty outside Framed together in a medium cl ose up two shot, Cora cautiously turns towards Uncas Later in the scene, immediately prior to the attack by Magua and the Hurons, Uncas escorts the sisters to an inner chamber of the cave Cora and Uncas now exchange smoldering close ups, directly gazing at one another This further emphasizes their central roles I should note here that the close ups in the film are reserved for Uncas and Cora; while it is not surprising that a Hollywood film would reserve close ups for the male and female leads, the film ic strategy reinforces the elevation of Uncas to the lead role over Hawkeye and stresses the interracial romance of Cora and Uncas As the battle begins, with Uncas leading both the gunfire and hand to hand combat, Cora leads Alice out to help with filling the rifles, a marked increase over Cooper's novel in


78 the active roles of women The scene of the Huron hanging from a tree is included; side and Hawkeye at the very edg e, shoot the Huron with the last bit of powder, Once again, the film places Uncas at the Uncas again exhibits his primary leadership role as he directs Hawkeye and they will attempt to draw off Magua and the Hurons while the British hide in yet another hidden portion of the cave Hawkeye and Chingachgook escape; before Uncas leaves, Cora runs to him, and t hey share a medium close up two shot, in profile, staring at one another, seemingly about to kiss though, ultimately, they do not And lest we begin to think that this is a truly radical film, of the wonderful white maiden Uncas leaves them and dives off the cliff, over the falls, to try and draw away the Hurons; however, the ruse does not succeed, as Magua locates them and leads them away as captives The change in the film to Uncas devising the diversionary escape plan weakens Cooper's stronger portrayal of Cora in the novel, Cora thinks of their escape and selflessly exhorts them to flee but it does add to the portrayal of Uncas as the central, goal oriented action hero As Barker and Sabin argue, the 1920 film endorses a stronger portrayal of race relations (for the time) I would also suggest that it adds a more positive portrayal of women particularly the Glens Falls sequence, to move an Indian m an and white woman into leading roles, while minimizing the dominant mediator role of Hawkeye This makes for


79 an interesting and unconventional leap in racial and gender roles, suggesting that the essive racial depictions on celluloid The 1992 version, on the other hand, seems rather conservative, excepting its updated portrayal of American Indians In this version, Nathaniel (the exclusive name Although Nathaniel is presented as more Indian than white, an adopted Mohican who closely works as a team with Uncas and Chingachgook, the film clearly elevates him to the central protagonist with an intense love affair with Cora (who once again has no discernible African ancestry) Steve Neale has referred to the Westerns of the 1990s as the poles are not mutually exclusive (32) The 1992 Mohicans is one film that has aspects of both Following example, it is revisionist in its portrayal of American Indians : subtitles, American Indian actors play the leading India n roles (Uncas, Chingachgook, most of the Indian characters, along with Nathaniel, are environmentalists who respect nature The neo conservative streak in this film is more difficult to explain One aspect is i ts extremely violent nature, including gory stabbing, bludgeoning, chopping, scalping, A hostage burned alive is thrown in for g ood measure Another aspect lies in the problematic portrayals of Indians : the Hurons are depicted as excessively violent; and


80 Uncas and Chingachgook usually float around following the white Nathaniel (who is of European descent, despite his integration in to Mohican culture), in clearly supporting roles Ultimately, the neo conservative aspect of this film seems to lie in its withdrawal, its emphasis on survival outside of the surrounding political contexts a withdrawal that the 1920 version does not endo rse Barker and Sabin world gone mad, out of control, and people are digging into their inner resources to On one level, this is a variation of site that tests and strengthens the peoples and cu ltures that encounter it At the same time, the traditional sense of purpose, of Manifest Destiny, seems lacking novel, again fol the events are definitely portrayed as in the past, as precursors to the realization of United States democracy Thus, the second half of the novel, the interaction amongst the Indian tribes, resonates as part of the foundational histo the new American empire to rise The 1992 film never presents a historical framework suggesting that the rise of the United States is inevitable The film does contain substa ntial dialogue about the corruptness of the European powers versus the pluck of the frontier settlers, but that message always seems secondary, pro forma for a colonial period narrative, and is never conveyed with any conviction In the last third of the f ilm, political struggles disappear, replaced by struggles for survival Magua and the Hurons massacre the British vacating Fort William Henry, and the filmic world remains chaotic


81 afterwards, with the only goal being Nathaniel and the Mohicans' quest to sa ve Cora and Alice from Magua and the Hurons oeuvre his attempt at a humanist, anti the American political moment in which it w as produced to speak for the yeoman farmers/settlers and for natural conservation against economic exploitation in general, they write : The idyll, therefore, is still the American idyll : a nation of small farmers honoring th This is the hollow idyll Bill Clinton rode to power (also in 1992) as he shouldered aside Its hollowness has been painfully exposed in the short and b eleaguered presidency Clinton has enjoyed The Last of the Mohicans we would argue, is the fragile middle American dream/nightmare Partly, that is surely due to the progr essive decline in American radical politics in the last thirty Mohicans taken as the vehicle for (117) While this is an interesting interpretation, it remains overly gen e ral and vague As with the 1920 film, a closer analysis of the film through its Glens Falls sequence will provide further specificity to their claims In the 1992 film, the Glens Falls setting and action is moved to after the Fort Will iam Henry massacre, and instead the film substitutes a partially equivalent scene This substitute scene is a night spent at an Indian burial site, where Nathaniel and Cora first begi n to be drawn to one another, as Cora is thrilled by the excitement and danger of the frontier that Nathaniel embodies Their mutual attraction grows over the course of the film :


82 initially bound up and under a proper hat at afternoon tea, it gradually becomes and is consummated at the besieged Fort William Henry, where Nathaniel is soon imprisoned for sedition Sepa it Surely a memorable line for multiple reasons, it does suggest that their inten se love affair is, in the finest Hollywood escapist style, a refuge from the larger social problems of the war between France and England Colonel Munro soon surrenders the fort, as the French commander Montcalm agrees to let him leave in honorable fashio n, colors and weapons intact Magua, however, has other plans (tacitly agreed to by Montcalm), and he and his Hurons ambush the retreating British, resulting in a bloody massacre, wherein Magua kills ghters) Nathaniel, Uncas, and Chingachgook rescue Cora and Alice and flee the scene in canoes They soon encounter Heyward, who has also escaped with some soldiers via canoe The equivalent of the Glens Falls sequence now occurs, as they ditch the canoes over a waterfall and hide in a cave behind it The most striking aspect of this scene is its abundance of rushing water This is not an inanimate cave of stone; rather, the openings of the caves face into the waterfall, a continuously falling sheet of wat er that Mann lights in various ways to cast across the actors flickering patterns of light and shadow Thus, when Nathaniel closely embraces ups and long shots, the viewer sees either the translucent rushing waters behind the characters or the flickering


83 shadows and lights upon the bodies of the actors, with the darkness of the cave behind them While such a universal symbol as falling water can have many meanings (mourning, washing away sins, and so on), I believe the primary meaning of the visual play caused by the falls is a return to the chaotic indeterminacy that Philbrick sees in between French and English invo lving Indian and colonials, and against the madness rushing past them, Nathaniel and Cora can only grasp one another That is, until Magua returns and Nathaniel and the Mohicans must leap into that chaos, if they hope to survive His voice straining with e survive You stay alive no matter what occurs life has been reduced to simple survival, subsisting only on hope Thus the 1992 Mohicans (filming dates : 17 June 1991 to 10 October 1991) reflects an isolationist, survivalist trend But exactly what survivalist trend ? National politics, as the First Gulf War had ended in 1991, and the U.S.A. now wanted to isolate itself from involvement overseas ? The surge of the militia movement, as the R uby Ridge confrontation occurred in 1992 ? Fear of and endurance through the 1992 Los Angeles Riots following the 1991 Rodney King beating and subsequent investigation and trial ? The ties to 1990s racial conflict seem the best place to start, as racial con flict lies at the A closer examination its predecessors, the Glen Falls sequence To further unravel these messages, I will reading of the structuring racial conflicts in the film text


84 Any film adaptation of Mohicans must address the filmic depiction of American Indians and racial conflict with whites This is an issue of primary importance because Hollywood has rarely portrayed complex, fully developed Native American characters actors and accurately depicting American Indian culture as both unimportant and unprofitable Not until the revisionist Westerns of the 1970s did Hollywood begin to offer more compl ex and accurate American Indian characters; however, Hollywood representations of American Indians remain problematic at best The 1992 film Mohicans arguably continues the Hollywood tradition of underdeveloped American Indian characters Although Mohican s was a financial success and often praised in the mainstream press, many critics have censured the film for its stereotypical representation of American Indians Nevertheless, a few American Indian voices have praised the film and its portrayal of America n Indians These paradoxical stances towards the film are what most intrigue me, and I will begin this section by surveying the critical and popular reception of the film in order to compare various readings of the film Much of the scholarly criticism of the 1992 film derives from the differences One effect of these changes is to slight the American Indian characters in favor of the white characters Critics argue that because the film emphasizes t he individual hero Nathaniel and the white romantic triangle of Nathaniel, Cora, and Duncan, the film fails to develop fully the American Indian characters or their relationships, romantic or otherwise As Jeffrey Walker states


85 in his examination of Hollyw : "Of all the many revisions of Cooper's novel that appear in the 1992 version, Mann's decision to turn The Last of the Mohicans primarily into a love story and to ignore the essence of the American Indian theme is the st rangest and most damaging plot twist of all" (173) : "Aside from rendering the film's title meaningless, the switch perpetuates a racist interpre tation of acceptable When Mann kills off Uncas and Alice, it's just a way of avoiding racial complications" (46) can Indian presences and sidestep issues of race, racial conflict, and miscegenation Discussing another modification from the novel to the film, Martin Barker (in an article separate from his book with Sabin) son of Chingachgook : This shift in perspective is linked in Mann's version with an overall tendency to make Nathaniel the most Indian character of all Nathaniel/Day Lewis is interracial, therefore all political issues about race are 'resolved' in and throu gh him Thus does multiculturalism find a myth to bear it Mann has made a clever, beautiful, but in the end hollow film, celebrating cultural pluralism but depoliticising racial politics (29) issue through t appropriation of American Indian characteristics this film an old device the white man as a mediator, presented as the one who best With the emphasis o n the white protagonist Nathaniel, the film pushes the American Indian characters into the background Jacquelyn Kilpatrick asserts that :


86 This film is about the English, French, and white Americans, with the Indians as colorful backdrops and sidekicks for the hero, and in the end, as the white Bump p o and his adoptive Indian father stand on a mountain and look over the wilderness, we hear only that he is the "last of the Mohicans It would be a poignant scene, except that it seems a fitting ending for some other film (142 143) Kilpatrick concludes that Uncas and Chingachgook are relegated to supporting roles integration : The film marks its supposed 'sensitivity' to the Native community by hiring Native actors and acknowledging the American Indian Movement in the credits at the end of the movie (it would be very interesting to hear how that went down) and having some of the characters speak Mohawk But the narrative s hamelessly reproduces old stereotypes, which clearly demonstrates that hiring Native actors is not enough (46) Root and other critics recognize that the film depends on the stereotypical dichotomy of Gary Edgerton perh aps best summarizes this : In terms of plot structure, Chingachgook and Uncas remain the evidence throughout this film that Michael Mann's formal stylistic decisions actually undercut his stated int entions to revise the negative stereotyping of American Indians in The Last of the Mohicans from Cooper through Hollywood's many versions (13) can Indian images continue to be used in this newest version, intentionally or unintentionally, to present the viewpoint of the historically privileged Mohicans only minimally at tends to the American Indian characters and instead accentuates the white lead characters of Nathaniel and Cora This film is a mainstream, big budget, Hollywood star vehicle, and unfortunately, such a film usually has white lead stars and a heterosexual r omance


87 driven narrative In his historical examination of classical Hollywood cinematic style, David Bordwell identifies the most commonly recurring motifs and elements of Hollywood narrative structure Regarding the inevitable inclusion of a love story, h e points out that : The classical film has at least two lines of action, both causally linking the same group of characters Almost invariably, one of these lines of action involves heterosexual romantic love This is, of course, not startling news The tigh t binding of the second line of action to the love interest is one of the most unusual qualities of the classical cinema (16 17) Writing for a more popular audience, Janet Maslin similarly notes the seeming necessity for a romantic story with popular star s : It took a lot more than tomahawks to make a box office success of What it took was the inclusion of heartthrob elements, plus a strain of modern day silliness, in a story not previously known for its sex appe al Now Mr Day Lewis, teamed smolderingly with the beautiful Madeleine Stowe, brings serious chemistry to a role that seemingly had no romantic potential at all (Maslin 13) box office appeal What remains unsaid, however, is that most big budget Hollywood films also feature white lead stars At some fundamental level, big budget, profit driven Hollywood filmmaking is racist Such films must reach the largest possible audienc e in order to maximize profit, and Hollywood tacitly assumes that a romance plot with a white star and a white love interest most appeals to the largest possible audience Hence, non white characters are usually relegated to supporting roles and rarely are involved in the romantic line of action Occasional exceptions occur, of course (and the exceptions are slowly becoming more frequent), but the majority of Hollywood films follow this pattern Thus, it would be surprising if Mohicans given its status as a big budget Hollywood production, had become anything than the white star vehicle it is I


88 am not attempting to somehow excuse the filmmakers of Mohicans for the problematic depictions of American Indians within the film even a film with white leads can o ffer complex Native American supporting roles Rather, I am suggesting that emphasis on white stars and subordination of American Indian supporting characters is more of a problem with the institutions of Hollywood film production than of the individual fi lm or its creators Therefore, supporting Native American characters should be examined very closely, and not easily dismissed as subordinate roles, because the supporting roles are the most prevalent depictions of American Indians The construction and re ception of these roles illuminates the assumptions and preferences of the larger social constructs that both produce and consume these films Big budget Hollywood films will not radically change by departing from white lead actors and instead presenting tr uly progressive, American Indian centered stories any time soon; the question is, rather, whether or not a specific Hollywood film like Mohicans improves, in any way, Some American Indians think it do es Given the stereotypical depictions of Indians in The Last of the Mohicans and in Hollywood films in general, I was surprised to find a few Native American sources that endorsed the film Two of these voices belong to actors Russell Means (Oglala Lakot a) and Wes Studi (Cherokee), who play Chingachgook and Magua in the film Both actors view Magua as a complex, fully developed American Indian character than just In They'll see that he has reasons, that it makes him feel better to act ruthless" (qtd in Arnold D1) Also referring to Magua, Means says, "For the first time in cinematic history, the so called 'bad' Indian has character


89 development and is portrayed as intellectually superior to his non Indian counterpart, a French general It's fantastic, and it's revolutionary" (qtd in Arnold D1) Both actors regard Magua as more than just a "bloodthirsty savage" stereotype Instead, Magua is intelligent and motivated Magua often a cts savagely, but he acts in response to the savagery of the English : the remarriage of Magua's wife when she thought he was dead, and Magua's enslavement to the Mohawks As John Christian Hopki ns, who identifies himself as "an the English commander led an attack that killed his family Magua is driven by a lust for power but Fur ther praising the film, Means comments on the characterization of Chingachgook and the progressive depiction of American Indians in the film : The aging Indian patriarch "is what I aspire to be," Means says, drawing a parallel between his own life and that of the movie's Chingachgook He has a presence of dignity, of courage and integrity; integrity for his way of life and integrity for his family This movie is the movie that, from now on, pictures about American Indians are going to be measured against," M eans adds It sets a standard for Indian actors and the role of Indians as human beings Hollywood is starting to reach its potential for eradicating racism (Hackett 1G) Means argues that Mohicans contains well developed American Indian characters that work to counter Indian stereotypes Other American Indians agree with Means; Bob students to Indian center officials who prev ( 1C) Two of the respo ndents are concerned with stereotypes in the film, but on the whole the comments are positive have assembled the following excerpts from his article :


90 Betty Nixon, chairman of the board of the Mid America All Indian Center in downtown Wichita I thought it was well put It's different than the cowboys and Indians most people think about It s howed how everybody survived The scenery looked right for the movie So did the costumes sophomore at North High School Many of the Indian characters are portrayed as intelligent, quick witted and pr actical whether as hero or villain They are well rounded characters, said Indian Center director [Jerry] Aday accurate I respect them for that There are so many details that you can im] Mendenhall said ( 1C) Some American Indians, at least, applaud the portrayal of Indian characters in Mohicans Hopkins similarly approves of the film : The characters were Indian, but more importantly they were real T hey were humans, displaying emotions that any person regardless of race would feel in similar circumstances This movie gives New England tribes their rightful due And they offer something for all Indians It is good to see Hollywood letting real Indians play themselves I, for one, was tired of always seeing olive skinned Italians running around with feathers in their hair in those old John Wayne flicks Hooray for Hollywood (Hopkins) Mohicans urn decades Hollywood film stereotypes But the fact that some American Indians do sanction the film suggests that it contains some redeeming aspects How, then, to account for these disparate readings of The Last of the Mohicans ? How to reconcile the scho larly condemnations with the assertions of complex ity for the American Indian characters ? Perhaps a reading of the film exists that simultaneously critiques the film for its conventional plot and stereotypical characters while acknowledging a potential vie w


91 of the film as progressively depicting American Indians The remainder of this chapter is my attempt at such a reading, and I will begin with a methodology borrowed from a work of film studies by Charles Eckert : War Marked Woman Marxist, Freudian, and structuralist methods to analyze the title film Eckert first notes a striking contrast in emotional levels between the scenes that develop the standard melodramatic plot and other scenes interspersed throughout Marked Woman (1937) Then, beginning with Lvi myth and is expressed through layered pairs of oppositions that transform a primary opposition, Eckert argues that the oppositions of th transformations and displacements of underlying class conflict In other words, the latent class tension is resolved through displacement into the manifest content of the reassuring, myth like melodrama Eckert discovers this displacement by examining micro structures within the film He first outlines the essential pairs of oppositions from one of the thematic laden songs in the film and discovers that the pairs are variations on opposition that runs throughout He then a similar analysis of another song in the film to opposition of class conflict The class conflict is defused through its displacement into Ultimately, the gangster figure that serves as the prime mover of the plot in Marked Woman is an overdetermined


92 condensation of class conflict because he represents both the wealth of the upper class and the street wise sensibility of the urban lower class his methodology for an analysis of Mohicans I begin with the white romance story, which stands out because it so forcefully overlays the rest of the plot The romance reaches an emotional crescendo at the Glens Falls scene, the surrender of Fort William Henry and the subsequent Huron massacre, that I previously began to analyze Now, using Eckert as a model, I can more thoroughly dissect the ideological currents of the film, related to racial conflict, isolationism, and survivalism Previously, I partiall at Glens Falls Here is the complete quotation : You stay alive If they don't kill you they'll take you north up to Huron land Submit, do you hear Be strong You survive You stay alive no matter what occu rs I will find you No matter how long it takes No matter how far, I will find you Marked Woman I will now extract to Cora on the left and their implied opposites on the right : stay alive : become dead submit : struggle be strong : be weak survive : perish : immediately suggests : differences make


93 coexistence between primitive natives and civilized Europeans i mpossible on any basis other than that of subjugation Native resistance to European settlement therefore takes the form of a fight for survival; and because of attempts to destroy its enemy root and branch (12) narratives from the colonial era to the present day, including film Westerns The film situates the waterfall romance dialogue in the context of racial survival or extinction : remember, Nathaniel has just informed Cora that Magua killed her father when the Huron attacked the English, and Magua now pursues Cora and Alice in orde r to eliminate all of the Munro family While ending a family lineage is not the same as racial extinction, of course, the two parallel types of extermination do symbolically reinforce one another in relation to the overa These tropes of familial and racial conflict, survival, and possi ble extinction also reverberate throughout the remainder of the film : the Mohicans are the last survivors of their race, niel was orphaned but survived through bloodline is eliminated; Duncan urges a fight to th e death with the French rather than surrender the fort; the English General Webb considers the French an inferior race; the Huron led by Magua massacre the defeated English; Magua became Mohawk in order to escape slavery; a marauding war party kills all of the Cameron family in their frontier cabin; and the colonial militia at Fort William Henry passionately argue for leave from the battle to defend their frontier homes and families


94 ble with the others : : struggle Stereotypical gender roles partially explain the linking of sub mission and survival Nathaniel directs Cora to assume the passive, enduring feminine role of the Nevertheless, even the hyper He allows the English to arrest him at Fort William Henry for encouraging sedition among the colonial militia And most strikingly, Nathaniel passively endures being pushed, cut, and cl ubbed on the This important scene involves Magua and Nathaniel debating before an elder Cora, Alice, an d Duncan Magua declares that the Huron will become traders as powerful as the whites, and Nathaniel responds as follows : Would the Huron make his Algonquin brothers foolish with brandy and steal his lands to sell them for gold to the white man ? Would Huro n have greed for more land than a man can use ? Would Huron fool Senecans to take in all the furs of all the animals in the forest for beads and strong whiskey ? Would the Huron kill every man, woman, and child of their enemy ? Those are the ways of the Yange es and the Franais traders and their masters in Europe infected with the sickness of greed Magua's heart is twisted He would make himself into what twisted him colonial traditio I agree with the indictment of colonialism, but believe the notions of


9 5 assimilatio n are more complicated After all, even the heroic Mohicans trap for pelts to trade with the Dutch for silver, Chingachgook adopts the white orphan Nathaniel, and he sends both of his sons, Uncas and Nathaniel, to an English school method t o analyze the oppositions in this dialogue, based on the potential actions in assimilation : make foolish : make wise steal/take : give have greed : have generosity fool : inform/educate kill all : spare all second suggest some anti colonial ideal of interchange and convergence between cultures : : racial convergence : make wi : Magua physical conflict between Europeans and American Indians Themes of ed ucation, dialogue, and discovery surface occasionally in the film : Chingachgook sent Uncas and Nathaniel to a white school as children so they could learn English and the culture of the Europeans; the three Mohicans often hunker down together to discuss th eir options; Cora speaks of her thrilling discovery of America and the wilderness; the colonials


96 debate among themselves whether to join the English against the French; Nathaniel and the colonial militia hold council concerning whether to desert the fort o r not; and Magua learned the ways of the Mohawk in order to survive and wants to learn and master the ways of the Europeans The most important dialogic scene in the film is the debate between Magua and Nathaniel conducted before the Huron Sachem a scene I will closely examine later in the chapter the waterfall romance scene and the Nathaniel and Magua debate scene yields the following : submit : struggle (racial) survival : (racial) extinction (racial) convergence : (racial) conflict inform/educate : fool explained : Mohicans In Only all In the winners of the struggle or conflict survive, and the losers perish Mohicans in contrast race relations The film is fundamentally concerned with a modern mythic version of extinction


97 to interchange between races United States Mainstream America views any violent conflict between race s, whether it be white hate crimes or the Rodney King inspired Los Angeles riots, as threatening and destructive to all involved where all races work together to overcome racist ignorance with to lerance, understanding, and education While the ideal of a society without racism is a real goal that people believe in and work towards in modern America, violent racial conflict is equally real This real, immediate opposition surfaces in Mohicans onvergence The film, viewed as a popular myth, has a certain cultural sensitivity for current American ideological dilemmas regarding race, but the immediacy of these issues are weakened through displac ement into the romantic and action plot lines of the film Nathaniel, the adopted son of Chingachgook, is a displaced Mohican, in part, and Cora represents the English Thus, the union between Nathaniel and Cora stands for the convergence of the Mohican and the English, or, metaphorically, American Indian culture and white Euro American culture clearly more aligned with the Mohicans than the Europeans he acts as Uncas and Chingachgook do, speaks Munsee Delaware with them, and is similar to them in


98 physical appearance and dress Nathaniel also has strong links with the American colonials and interacts with them; Nathaniel himself is a cond ensed symbol of cultural convergence between American Indians and Euro Americans due to his adoption by Chingachgook and education in a white school The Nathaniel character suggests that : in this film treat the American colonials and the American Indians equally badly While Nathaniel and Cora represent Indian and white convergence, Magua r epresents divergence, or racial conflict Huron by blood, into first becoming Mohawk and then adopting the colonizing methods of the Europeans Having become as greedy and ruthless as the white European coloniz between Indian Americans and white Europeans Magua learns from the whites in order to better fight and remain separate from them; as Magua says to Duncan early in the rstand the English very well The struggle between racial conflict and divergence reaches a climax in the scene at the Huron village Nathaniel and Magua engage in a multicultural, multilingual debate before the Huron Sachem with the lives of Alice, Cora, and Duncan literally at stake Magua wants to burn them as trophies of war Mohican, Huron, Mohawk, French, English, and Euro American cultures intersect in this debate : set in the Huron village, spoken in French and English, with Magua representing the Mo hawk, Huron, and French; Nathaniel, the Mohican and Euro Americans; and Duncan, Alice, and Cora, the English As the Sachem and Huron listen, Magua boasts how the Huron will become as


99 powerful as the whites, and Nathaniel rebuts him by pointing out that Ma gua wishes to adopt the colonial methods of the Europeans masters in Europe infected with the sickness of greed The Sachem orders a com promise : Magua will wed Alice to heal his heart and preserve the Munro lineage, Duncan will be returned to the English as a goodwill gesture, and Cora will burn as Vexed by the decision, Magua leaves angrily with Alice Duncan saves Cora by trading his life for hers (Nathaniel also offers his life, but the traditional European must be sacrificed within this The importance of t his scene lies in its adherence to convergence instead of conflict Multiple cultures interact without physical conflict, and settle their differences through dialogue The Sachem carefully considers both arguments and mediates a compromise that does not a ward complete victory to one side or the other Also, the compromise does its best to promote racial survival by proposing union between Magua Although Nathaniel does not receive fully Cora safely away Cora accounts for scholarly censuring of the film : his hatred for Colonel Munro and desire for revenge most obviously displays ungovernable racial conflict Except for an early, brief scene where

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100 Uncas, Chingachgook, a nd Nathaniel visit and peacefully interact with the Cameron character and his romance with Cora Since Nathaniel and Cora are white characters, and Nathaniel only indirect that the film lacks any indications of racial convergence The Nathaniel/Cora conflict and the second ary status suggest that the film portrays American Indians as noble or savage stereotypes As I have attempted to demonstrate, however, The Last of the Mohicans does contain a complex, though transformed and displaced, treatment of relations between Ameri can Indians and whites How, then, do some audiences, like the American Indians depiction of American Indians ? I have already provided some possibilities : the film explai settings, and costumes seems authentic; Magua, Uncas, and Chingachgook, though supporting characters, are intelligent, multilingual, and very capable Additionally, Amer ican Indian activist Russell Means plays Chingachgook Means became nationally famous as a leader of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s He is even more well known among audiences with a knowledge of American Indian history and issues, so he functio recognizable celebrity figure Moreover, his casting in the film lends it a certain credibility for authentic portrayals of Indian characters As one viewer of the film states : If he went along with this movie, then they did it

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101 for American Indian Education (Curtright 1C) Because Me ans plays Chingachgook, his role in the film assumes much more importance for a viewer like Mendenhall than it does for most filmgoers oriented audiences, works to overcome the limitati ons of his supporting role, and such audiences will likely mainstream audiences Considering Russell Means as a major star for certain audiences suggests another way to interpre t Mohicans as an American Indian centered film In this interpretation, Chingachgook dominates the beginning and end of the film, and his actions and dialogue produce a lasting impression In the first scene of the film, Chingachgook, Uncas, and Nathaniel work together to hunt and kill an elk Nathaniel shoots the animal, but only Chingachgook speaks in the scene as they stand over the slain creature In two close up shots that are intercut with close ups of Nathaniel and Uncas, Chingachgook speaks in Muns ee Delaware that is translated in subtitles as, We do honor to your courage and speed, your strength This opening scene establishes Chingachgook as the elder to and leader of Uncas and Nathaniel Throughout the film, as Nathaniel becomes the central protagonist, these three characters still consult one another and fight together, and both Chinga chgook and Uncas are indispensable Chingachgook again becomes the prime agent of action in the climactic sequence of the film, after Nathaniel debates Magua in the Huron village This approximately eight minute long sequence is intensely affecting The sequence is silent

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102 verbal sound effects (shrieks, t huds, and so forth), but the crisp editing, painterly visual compositions, and emotionally stirring score enhance the impact of the life or death actions and emotions presented Set upon a high mountain path amidst breathtaking scenery, the sequence resolv es the conflict between M agua and the Mohicans and the Munro sisters in a burst of action Magua and a group of Huron leave with Alice; Uncas, Chingachgook, Nathaniel, and Cora pursue Uncas first reaches Magua, but Magua defeats him in hand to hand combat and shoves his body off a cliff Alice then leaps off the cliff rather than remain with Magua Right before Magua kills Uncas, the viewer sees a close up of Magua holding his This sets up what I consider the most important shot of the film, a slow motion shot that tracks forward into a close up of Chingachgook as he moves towards the camera The viewer sees Chingachgook scream as he recognizes his son is about to be killed and he cannot prevent it but his scream is silent, the only audio the viewer hears being the relentlessly droning background music Nathaniel soon follows up with an audible cry of "Uncas!" and Cora sobs aloud at her sister's death, but Chingachgook remains unheard an temporarily) the way Finally he confronts Magua like Uncas did, but Chingachgook quickl y disables Magua As Chingachgook stares at the stunned and injured Magua, Chingachgook shakes his head with a conflicted look on his face, hate and pity simultaneously at play

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103 He seems to realize that he, Uncas, and Magua are all trapped within the death ly structures of racial conflict, and he has no other option but extermination He deals Magua the death blow, and the sequence concludes Chingachgook is the action hero of this climactic sequence, the Westerner who displays remarkable fighting ability in the service of blood vengeance As the epilogue of the film reveals, however, this hero's day is done Surveying the landscape and looking into the sunset (like riding into the sunset in many Westerns), he says a funeral prayer for Uncas, much as he did o ver the elk at the start of the film This time, however, he speaks in English, not Munsee Delaware : Great Spirit and the maker of all life, a warrior goes to you swift and straight as an arrow shot into the sun Welcome him and let him take his place at t he council fire of my people He is Uncas, my son, tell him to be patient for they are all there but one, I, Chingachgook, the last of the Mohicans The message here is clear : conflict results in extinction avage Remembering that white colonialism and its influence on both whites and Indians are displaced onto Magua, the racial conflict of colonialism has eradicated American Ind ians, represented by the Mohicans, and destroyed itself as well and thus disappearing, savage : the American Indian only exists in history and has no place in a culture domin ated by whites But closely studying Chingachgook implies an alternate reading : it is the stereotype of the noble, disappearing savage that has become extinct extinct Chingachgook, however, survives, and he now speaks his prayer in English; he

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104 has made contact with white culture while retaining his Mohican culture Also, Nathaniel stands beside him with Cora; as previously noted, Nathaniel represents American Indians and racial convergence with whites through his relationship with Cora interchange between Indians and whites Magua and racial conflict have perished, but Nathaniel, Cora, Chingachgook, and racial convergence survive ment towards convergence rather than extinction activist and entertainer The move from conflict with Magua to wistfully speaking in m fighting against white American culture to trying to educate it about Native culture In other This shift is indicated by the following quotations from Means : Wittstock's comm ents suggest an even deeper criticism of Means that he has turned his back on the struggle to secure equality for Indians I haven't abandoned the movement," he said, "I've just taken it to Hollywood The Great Mystery [or Great Spirit] has opened another door The movies and television are a powerful way to reach a huge audience, and I intend to take advantage of that (Parsons 1E) The movies, he writes, offer him "a better way to get messages about my people to the world Ours i s a celebrity driven soci ety ... After my decades of devotion to my people, the Great Mystery had led me to a place where what I had to say would have more credibility (McCombs D01) Instead of martial conflict with white culture, Means has decided to use his celebrity status to te ach other races about American Indians The ideological work of Mohicans is done : attempts at racial convergence have finally superseded the traps of racial conflict While

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105 this is probably a back Mohicans as he fights to change the filmic portrayal of American Indians through the gradual Such modification nec essitates American Indian convergence with the white culture that created the stereotypes identities Whil e a reading of the film centered around Means does provide some progressive aspects to the depictions of American Indians, considering the global political context alongside the racial context provoke s other readings Within the film, t he battle of Europea n powers, the French and English, over colonial America symbolizes the conflicts of the post Cold War world; they are out there, they exist, they may even want to entice American participation, but America has already accomplished its goal in the global co ntext It is now time for America to leave attempt at isolation from th e global context complex, for it points towards the uneasy state of race relations that must remain at the core of any Mohicans adaptation, and that is ever present in American society The aforementioned Rodney King beating in 1991 and the subsequent 1992 Los Angeles Riots were concurrent with the production and release of this film; in that context, the just get along Eventuall At best, the

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106 1992 Mohicans with an assertion of American Indian presence and identity through an ancient stereotypical tr ope of the vanishing Indian, uneasily reflects the slow, incremental progression and regression of American race relations

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107 CHAPTER 5 S HARON S THE QUICK AND THE DE AD The Quick and the Dead ], and I was so pr was a big deal to me Sharon Stone Above the Line (Grobel 313) Herod ( Gene Hackman ), The Quick and the Dead To the contemporary movie fan, The Quick and the Dead a Western released in 1995, is most interesting for the supporting roles of two emerging mega stars, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio transition i nto mainstream Hollywood filmmaking Aficionados of Westerns will note that Gene Hackman played a role similar to his Oscar winning performance in Unforgiven (1992) But some may recall that the film starred Sharon Stone at the height of her career as a st ar actress and sex symbol, still flush from her breakthrough in Basic Instinct (1992) Moreover, departing from sex thrillers and starring in a Western was a radical move (despite the trailers that featured the only shot in the film of a partially dressed and prostrate Stone) was a box office bust, and contemporary reviews of the film were ambivalent, largely viewing it as caught between a Raimi type parody of the genre (as in his Evil Dead movies) a nd an attempt at serious horse opera Most critics also recognized the film's very similar to Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name in Leone's Spaghetti W esterns and East

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108 denigrated as emotionless and wooden (which is, of course, the point) Although The Quick a nd the Dead does not fully succeed as an entertainment, due in large part to a rather predictable and extended second act, I find it interesting for its attempt to create a political film towards the end of the 1990s Western cycle The film is quite clearl y a feminist role reversal, but it so blatantly reverses roles, without the expected Hollywood agonizing over such a radical gender switch, that the implications of the reversal seemed to have escaped contemporary critics Perhaps more radically, the film also strives for an over the top patriarchal and capitalist critique Keeping in Western has become the standard mode of the genre, The Quick and the Dead is a fine example of an allegorical anti Western The Qui ck and the Dead tells the tale of Ellen, or The Lady (Stone), a lone gunslinger who rides into the town of Redemption, populated by a group of stock Western characters, as the annual quick draw contest is about to begin The quick draw contest is sponsored by John Herod (Gene Hackman), the villain running the town who also participates in the contest The rules of the contest are simple : any participant can challenge any other participant to a one on one quick draw shoot out, the winner advances to the next round, the contest continues until one person remains standing, and the winner receives the prize money provided by the Wells Fargo corporation Ellen is ostensibly in Redemption to win the contest; however, a series of flashbacks reveals that her true go al is personal revenge she wants to kill Herod for having murdered her father when she was a child After many twists and turns, including Herod killing his own son (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the contest, Ellen finally faces Herod and his army of hired

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109 guns W ith the help of Cort (Russell Crowe), a former protg of Herod who attempted to become a priest, Ellen defeats Herod and rides off, leaving Cort in the marshal position held previously by her father 1. E xplanation In 1969, Cahiers du Cin ma published an e Jean Louis Comolli and Jean Narboni, that outlined the future project of the journal as the rigorous ideological analysis of films As a precursor to this goal, they separated films into seven categories according to the level of explicit and reflexive engagement with politics and ideology, in both content and film form The fifth category consisted of under its sway, but whic h turn out to be so only 27) The mission of the journal was to reveal those disruptions and gaps in the film that worked against its apparent ideological stance In retrospect, many of the great Hollywood films perfectly f it this category The next year, Cahiers Young Mr Lincoln Cahiers 493) After two epigraphs, one from Engels and Marx and one from John Ford, and a summ ary of the film credits, the analysis is divided into twenty five numbered sections The first The following twenty four numbered sections eac h have a title (and content) referring to some element from or aspect of the film, or some context related to the film The USA in 1938 was released in 1939 The first numbered section (the explanation of the objective)

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110 argues for a politically oriented, Marxist/structuralist re reading and re writing of the film and its ideological fissures What follows is my attempt to appropriate their method, using the structure of Young Mr Lincoln s a framework for analyzing The Quick and the Dead and I have included the original title in parentheses, along with a brief explanation when is not obvious I have attempted to remain as close to the original order as possible These two films, however, are very different in form (one of the most important differences is that Young Mr Lincoln unfolds in chronological order, while The Quick and the Dead contains flashbacks and numerous personal stories of the past sections in order to match a sequential reading of The Quick and the Dead I opene d this chapter with two epigraphs, and then my brief introduction to the film, including a plot summary, replaces the summary of film credits from the Cahiers article This se o bjective of this chapter Sections 2 7 examine the contemporary social and production contexts of the film and introduce the methodology; sections 8 23 read the film, scene by scene; sections 24 and 25 summarize and conclude the analysis Obviously, in com paring two separate Hollywood films made over fifty years apart, the sections cannot match exactly; however, a surprising number of connections and coincidences exist In part, this speaks to the endurance of many aspects of classical Hollywood filmmaking and dramatic storylines It also speaks to generic similarities : even though Young Mr Lincoln is not strictly a Western, it is directed by John Ford, arguably the first

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111 cal career is a frontier narrative Perhaps most tellingly, it speaks to the recurring American issues of violence and the social order that many Westerns examine 2 The USA and Westerns in 1994 95 The USA in 1938 39 ) In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell As communism crumbled, the United States seemed to have won the Cold War, the new frontier of the Internet appeared, and Bill Clinton rode a wave of optimism into the White House Francis Fukuyama proposed that the end of history, ideologically speaking, had arrived; Patrick Buchanan argued that it was 24) Then, in 1990, Dances with Wolves was released and became a Best Picture winning box office sensation, and the genre of the film Wes tern enjoyed a boom not seen since the 1970s The return to the Western, ostensibly the most American of film of these new Westerns, best exemplified by the improve d portrayals of American Indians America needed a new, revised history and ideology to replace those of the Cold War The Western was back in the saddle again 3 Holl ywood and Westerns in the 1990s Hollywood i n 1938 39 ) By the 1990s, Hollywood had fully embraced the blockbuster style of filmmaking, producing action and special effects laden films with big budgets, both for production and marketing, that anticipated big box office returns However, more modestl y budgeted star vehicles were regularly produced, although the average budget for those

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112 productions also rose significantly beat films with smaller budgets made outside of the major studios was then at its peak, and many of the early independent filmmakers had begun to move into more mainstream Hollywood productions Sam Raimi was one of those directors, and Sharon Stone explicitly wanted him to direct her new star vehicle, The Quick and the Dead Thanks to the critical and commercial successes of Dances with Wolves and Unforgiven (1992), and the lesser success of Tombstone (1993), Westerns were still able to secure financing; however, the cycle was winding down, due in large part to the poor box office r eceipts of a number of Westerns, including Posse (1993) Wyatt Earp (1994) and Bad Girls (1994) The Quick and the Dead was one of the last of the mainstream Westerns produced in this cycle, and its poor showing did little to sustain the genre 4 Sharon Stone ( Fox and Zanuck the producers) At the height of her fame in the mid 1990s, Sharon Stone's sexually aggressive star persona participated in aggressively violent restructurings of traditional feminine roles in Hollywood films For example, in her bre akthrough role in Total Recall (1990), Stone plays a loving housewife who is actually a secret agent assigned to play a housewife, using her sexuality to keep a reprogrammed Arnold Schwarzenegger safely at home When Schwarzenegger discovers the deception, Stone morphs into a deadly agent and engages in violent combat with him In her biggest hit, Basic Instinct (1992), Stone plays a sexually aggressive bisexual (and possibly murderous) woman who is also an extremely intelligent novelist She uses her sexua lity to manipulate men and women alike and create situations which lend themselves to her scandalous novels By

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113 a 1980s ses justified violence in reaction to violence against women or their families (128 129) For example, the plot of Sliver spied upon by a man using high tech surveillance equipment to a powerful woman who seizes control of the electronic equipment in order to escape her tormentor character in The Specialist (1994) acts as a mistress in order to attain personal vengeance In one scene, Stone punches the male villai n in the jaw after pretending to offer a kiss For the movie going audience, these roles defined their expectations for her character in The Quick and the Dead Despite her popular suc cess in these roles, film abilities In one study, Rebecca Feasey bad actress but also one who is defined by her body and hence assumed to be a dumb object of sexua Feasey also notes, however, that such critics often depend on the stereotypical equation of feminine beauty with artifice and masculinity with authenticity directed and objectified while men are independent, indi vidualized and self Moving beyond such sexist stereotyping, Knobloch points out that despite the character inflicting violence as well as receiving or reacti ng to violent actions (124)

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114 Further, responding to the nearly universal criticism of h er acting ability, Knobloch violent women characters nnot, from an angle either feminist or not, quite conceive of a violent woman who is convincing in her In other words, the codes of realism for violent women do not yet exist in Hollywood cinema For The Quick and the Dead Stone was much m ore than the lead actress; she was also one of the co producers of the film The film had six producers overall (not unusual for modern Hollywood), but due to her star status, Stone seems to be one of the driving forces behind the film She discovered the script by Simon Moore and brought it to Columbia; moreover, she insisted on Sam Raimi directing : in Muir 178 9) She also insisted on Crowe and DiCaprio being cast in their roles, and was certainly was aware of her power over the film, at least according to screenwriter Moore : was the guy who brought her latte or something The firs t meeting I had with her, she sat down and told me who this character was and what this character would do She in Muir 179) Despite the anecdotal nature of this evidence, we can, I think, safely assume that Stone used her powerful status to fit this film into her evolving star persona Unfortunately, The Quick and the Dead was the greatest critical success, winning a Golden Globe for her more traditionally passive

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115 feminine role in Casino Scorsese and DeNiro on their terms Aside from an interesting role the next year in Diabolique 5 Sam Raimi and the Everyman Her o ( Ford and Lincoln ) Prior to directing The Quick and the Dead Sam Raimi was best known for his stylish parodies of the horror genre that lent themselves to a capitalist critique The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II : Dead by Dawn (1987) both situate a small group in an isolated cabin in a deep forest An evil demonic power possesses various members of the group, who then attempt to kill the others The demonic power is referred to as existing "out there"; the only possibility of survival consists of the group barricading themselves away from its pervasive influence Of course, the demonic power does manage to infiltrate the group, until enough of its members are killed off to ensure survival One reading of the films argues t hat the demonic force represents the inexorable, crushing oppression of a modern capitalism that undermines the closest human bonds and forces intense competition The campers' attempts to escape from mass society fail; they can only survive through active resistance, killing those possessed by capitalist logic This theme is further explored in the third installment of the trilogy, Army of Darkness (1992) Ash, the hero of the trilogy (played by Bruce Campbell), is transported through time and space into m edieval Europe, where two feudal clans are at war Enslaved at first, Ash manages to become a leader against the forces of the dead, led by a magical doppelganger of Ash and which seem to exist only to consume the living The evil doppelganger represents A sh's selfish interests : Ash at first wants to escape to

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116 his own time and leave the people to their fate, rather than fulfilling the role that has been prophesized for him Ash unites the two clans against their common foe and defeats his evil counterpart He then returns to his own time in the present with harmony established in the past Although by no means an in depth critique of capitalism, Army of Darkness suggests such a reading both through its replacement of pointless in fighting and competition in favor of cooperation against larger problems affecting all society, and through Ash's transformation from a ruthlessly self interested individual to being a communal leader Raimi develops a more explicit critique of capitalism in Darkman (1990), a horror /action/sci fi revision of the "Phantom of the Opera" story Darkman (played by Liam Neeson) is a scientist who was horribly disfigured in an explosion caused by his corporate investors, who stand to profit from the accident Left for dead, Darkman uses hi s scientific skill to create a form of synthetic skin which enables him to wear anyone's face but only for a limited amount of time before the synthetic skin begins to decompose The major villain is the president of a corporation, inherited from his fathe r, which is constructing a huge industrial and residential complex After Darkman eliminates all of the corporate president's hired goons, the two meet in a final showdown on the steel girders of an under construction high rise Darkman turns the patriarch city's masses, declaring, "I am every man, I am Darkman body politic, his power deriving from his ho nest scientific labor and ability to concentrate Darkman uses his power against a

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117 voracious capitalism, symbolized by the head villain who ruthlessly exploits labor for his own profit fringes, do suggest a critique of capitalist ideology, something I will show that becomes most explicit in The Quick and the Dead However, Raimi is eventually integrated into the Hollywood mainstrea m when he directs the Spider Man trilogy, one of the largest grossing franchises of modern Hollywood a destiny suggested perhaps by the ambiguous conclusion of The Quick and the Dead 6 Ideological Undertaking ( Ideological Undertaking of the film) The Q uick and the Dead is ostensibly a classic Western : the lone hero rides into a frontier town, and, desiring revenge, eliminates the evil villain To paraphrase Slotkin, Neither one of the townspeople nor one of the save the town and fulfill her internal motivations The irreconcilable is thereby resolved; the American hero, once again, gets to satisfy individual desires while serving th e community The film is also, however, clearly modeled after Spaghetti Westerns The 7) The invoking of the Spaghetti Westerns appropriates their critical, revolutionary, anti Western aspect : the Spaghetti is not only a Western, it critiques the Western and its ideological underpinning How, then, can The Quick and the Dead function as both classic and Spaghetti ? If the anti Weste anti Western, a generic negation of the negation ? In a time of conflicting claims about national identity,

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118 what exactly does this synthesis of Westerns say about the U.S.A. ? Only a thorough rescanning of th e film can offer an answer 7 Methodology ( Methodology of the article) The editors of Cahiers argued that because Young Mr Lincoln unfolded in classical chronological order, a step by step rewriting of the film would most effectively becoming, enabling a different reading of the ideological gaps hidden within and between that apparently seamless narrative The Quick and the Dead does not present itself through such a straightforward syuzhet Instead, a recurring flashback occurs four times within the film, and multiple past narratives, occurring before the present of the film begins, are recounted by multiple characters This film is not a Last Year at Marienbad or Rashomon or Memento as it mostly follows conventional chronology, and the departures are clearly indicated as such Thus, I will attempt to follow and re closely as possible, but with the caveat that certain leaps will be necessary 8 The Leone Style ( The Poem a poem that occurs after the cr mother) The Quick and the Dead begins with an extreme long shot of a lone rider in a vast desert landscape; the camera then tracks back and pans to reveal numerous holes in the earth, and a man (Kelly) digging and mut tering, searching for buried gold In the next shot, the rider is again visible in the distance; suddenly, the scruffy head of Kelly is thrust into the frame from below in extreme close up Kelly fires at the lone rider, who is Ellen, and puts a bullet hol e in her hat Ellen eventually subdues him, switches hats,

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119 and rides off, leaving him chained to a wagon wheel and cursing These opening shots refer to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), directed by Sergio Leone The first shot of that film is an ext reme long shot of a dry Western landscape, which is obscured by a head entering the frame from the side The film ends with Tuco (Eli Wallach) tied up with his bags of gold dug out of a grave and screaming at the departing Blondie (Clint Eastwood) who shac kled Tuco The Quick and the Dead abounds with other similarities to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and the other Leone Spaghetti Westerns The score by Alan Silvestri is very similar to Ennio Morricone's scores for the Spaghettis, full of jangly guitars blaring horns, and cracking whips The elaborate, finely detailed costumes worn by Ellen and other characters evoke those of the Spaghettis; in fact, one review stated that Sharon Stone "raided Sergio Leone's 1960's Spaghetti Western stashes in old Itali an warehouses" (Shulgasser) Ellen, like Eastwood, smokes cheroot cigars The emphasis on faux historical details in the mise en scene is similar to Leone's films Both filmmakers also walk a fine line between parody and homage in their revisions of the We stern The flashback structure of The Quick and the Dead revealing the traumatic childhood hanging incident which fuels Ellen's quest for vengeance, is borrowed from Once Upon a Time in the West (1969) And most strikingly, Raimi and Leone share s imilarly flamboyant visual styles, filled with sweeping pans, lightning zooms, ridiculously extreme close ups and low angle shots, and jarring quick cuts One reason why The Quick and the Dead imitates Leone's Westerns is to refer to their implicit cultur al critique Christopher Frayling notes how the excesses of style in the Spaghettis not only parody the genre but also create an alternative space : their critique

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120 of the American ideology that forms the matrix of the Western attempts to empower oppressed c ultures and their own alternative ideologies (34) Similarly, The Quick and the Dead not only parodies the genre, but also criticizes the patriarchal capitalist ideology behind the Western while inserting an opportunity for its revolutionary overthrow Th e excesses of style are also a means to rebellion for both Ellen and the film itself Ellen's laconic manner and elaborate costumes enable her to stand outside of the pat riarchal Herod, who demands submission and conformity The film's style, both visually and in the soundtrack and wild sound effects, marks itself as a radical entry in the Western genre Both Ellen and The Quick and the Dead strive for change through an in culcation into the standards of the Western and a radical renovation of those standards The dominant classical Hollywood style functions as a prop of dominant American ideology; drawing upon the unique style of the Spaghetti Westerns indicates resistance to that hegemony and suggests alternate histories Catherine Russell claims that extreme violence and deaths in narratives are often ways of disrupting the ideological closure favored by texts complicit with the dominant ideology (21) The Quick and the D ead certainly fulfills these extreme requirements, as Herod spins and shoots; the film cuts to an extreme close bullet, leaving a large ho le through which Herod is visible in extreme long shot One never so graphically depicted Another effect is to shock the viewer out of a comfortable

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121 consumption of the film, to insist upon considerations beyond mere entertainment In these ways, Raimi and the film do not merely copy the Leone style; they build upon it, 9 Misogynist Speech ( The Electoral Speech presu Upon riding into Redemption, Ellen asks the saloon owner for a room; he replies, "Whores next door Ellen says, "Say that again He does, and she stylishly slaps him around in front of his awestruck daughter, Katie Having learned his lesson, he sheepishly prepares her room The gunslinger Ace soon enters and asks Ellen if she wants to play (cards) with him; Ellen replies, "Looks like you're doing fine playing with yourself Ellen walks outside as another gunfighte r, Scars, appears in town after just having escaped from prison Scars leers at Ellen, "You're pretty "You're not," replies Ellen He says, "I need a woman," and she retorts, "You need a bath With these exhibitions of physical prowess and cool wit, Ell en immediately transcends the Western stereotypes of the woman as virgin or prostitute Instead, Ellen assumes many of the traditional masculine characteristics of the Western hero, and in the stereotyped world of the mythical Wild West, The Quick and the Dead presents a Hollywood example of the liberated modern woman In the private sphere, Ellen acts as she pleases she cries, she drinks heavily, she wears fashionable outfits, she has one night stands, she alternates between fiercely independent and caring partner In short, Ellen's attributes are not gender role specific, and she is not forced to adopt a mothering, nurturing role Additionally, her private life has little influence on her activities in the public sphere; when Ellen socially interacts in he r role of gunslinger, she does her "job" as well as anyone She's cool, tough, and fast, and she fights and wins; Ellen is a success by

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122 current American standards At least within the limited roles of the Western, she active character through a role reversal that seems appropriate to her star image of a violent woman with restricted emotions Knobloch only briefly examines The Quick and the Dead (135) in the opening scene with the retribution in collaboration with principled men against the uncontrolled violence of one perfectly fits her deadpan approach to violence from previous films Perhaps, T he Quick and the Dead suggests that all along, Stone has been adopting stereotypically masculine acting codes towards violence and sexuality; and this may account for the critical dissatisfaction with her acting abilities The next logical step would be to apply those masculine codes to a traditionally masculine role Here, in The Quick and the Dead her emotionless approach meshes nicely with the laconic Westerner tradition, running from Gary Cooper to Clint Eastwood I should note, however, that it is eas y to She clearly shows anxiety and anger in various scenes, and she even cries before the final confrontation, something rare in Westerns Nevertheless, for the most part, Stone in her performance adopts the masculine codes of restraint and confidence that typify the Western actor, and her role reversal thus expands the genre Once again, Stone plays a character with numerous antecedents, but with new features that update and reinvigorate the type Earlier Westerns hav e

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123 utilized feminist role reversal, such as Johnny Guitar (1954), but such Westerns also included a male lead to "assist" the woman defined in part by traditional feminine aspects The Quick and the Dead is not immune from this creeping influence of past We sterns and patriarchal American society, but those aspects are overcome by the in any other mainstream feminist Western 10 The Telescope, the Gaze, t he Patriarch ( Th e Book Commentaries which then introduces Lincoln to the Law) The Quick and the Dead also examines head on the male gaze used to control and Narrative Cinema The first near appearance of Herod occurs when the blind kid explains Redemption's situation to Ellen; from his mansion, Herod surveys the town with every dollar in this town live Since Herod is the capitalist patriarch, controlling everything from money to rules to stories, he also possesses the all powerful look He even controls the vision and li ves allow it I decide who live and who dies In addition, Herod is obsessed with appearances, altering Cort's clothing and continually commenting on Ellen's wardrobe, because he wants to enforce his images of the world that enable him to remain the patriarch on her from a high we have absolutely nothing in common

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124 Herod is the executive officer of the corporate exploitative system that permeates Redemption and the quick draw contest The $123,000 in prize money for the quick draw contest is supplied by both Herod and Wells Fargo The dead bodies of the losing contestants are immediately stripped clean; pulled gold teeth are especially prized One flashy preparations Old world craftsmanship and patient labor cannot compete with the quick thrills and high pressure atmosphere of Redemption, as The Kid (heir to Herod) easily defeats Gutzon to begin the contest Herod's ability to control the gaze is condensed in one subtle aspect of the mise en scene : a statue of Perseus, carrying Medu sa's head, on the deck of Herod's mansion Perseus is the slayer of the Medusa, the archetypal paranoiac masculine nightmare of the power of female gaze Perseus' severing of Medusa's head is an appropriate reference for Herod's quick draw contest, both ef fective means for consolidating control of the gaze through elimination of the other who might utilize it against the patriarchy Testament story of King Herod, who ordered the Massacre of the Innocent s to prevent his usurpation who might challenge his power exemplified by the blind kid This adolescent male i s a kind of black market merchant, running a small mobile store which supplies various unusual commodities The blind kid

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125 provides Cort with an extra bullet in his showdown with Spotted Horse, and he provides Ellen with information and the red ink used to fake her death Both instances frustrate gunfighter seconds before Herod spots him I do not find a specific pattern concerning the status of sound versus the image in The Quick and the Dead but there does seem to be a sense that sound is somewhat freer and less controlled than the image The blind kid disrupts the system, Cort and Ellen a re able to succeed in the contest by hearing a faint click in the clock tower, and a cage Perhaps the use of sound is more impressionistic because its relative freedom is dependent on its status as relatively more abstract than the visual image, and it thus provides opportunities unseen by Herod 11 The Day of the Dead, the Hire The Tomb, The Bet with hi mself that steers him into the Law, and Politics) With its roots in frontier narratives pitting European settlers against supposedly racial other, whether they be American In dians or Mexican Americans In The Quick and the Dead the townspeople are mostly Mexican American, and they function as an underprivileged minority whom the capitalist Herod exploits The importance of the Mexican community is underscored by the Day of th e Dead festival that ensues the night before the contest begins Strikingly vibrant and dynamic, the festival in the film presents beautiful candle and torch lit camera shots of death costumed people dancing

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126 and carousing The Day of the Dead is a time whe n the past and the present co exist, when ancient traditions and ancestors affect present day life This festival is of great importance to the Mexican community, and, in the context of the film, can be read as a form of cultural resistance to Herod's colo nization Herod attempts to appropriate the Day of the Dead for his own self interests by scheduling the contest around it; however, the true repressed power of the festival returns to haunt him in the form of Ellen The Mexican Americans, however, only fu shots of Mexican American permeate the film, but none of them have a significant speaking role The one significant action by the Mexican American townspeople is their hiring of Cantrell to kill Herod in the contest Sergeant Cantrell is African American, presumably a veteran of the Civil War He is a self proclaimed shootist for hire, only interested in earning money through his skill with the gun In the scene where they hire him, Cantrell is concerned e xclusively with the quality and quantity of the precious goods used for his payment Herod deduces Cantrell has been hired to kill him, and Herod asks him who hired him; Cantrell replies that he is a professional and cannot reveal his employers Herod says that he is going to make an example out of Cantrell, and Cantrell laughs When they meet in the shoot out, Herod changes the rules from the winner being the last one standing to the winner being the last one alive Cantrell agrees to the rule change, sayi ng, "I was planning to kill you anyway Herod, however, easily eliminates Cantrell The subject of Cantrell's race is never addressed in the dialogue of the film, but the casting of an African American man in a role that does not seem racially specific

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127 s uggests an allegorical reading akin to that of the other characters in the film, and the Western in general Cantrell represents the stereotype of the African American who accepts the capitalist system imposed upon him and succeeds within it but only to a certain extent Cantrell imitates Herod, using his skills for killing to increase his personal wealth; however, he lacks the support of the system Herod enjoys Cantrell plays by Herod's rules to such an extent that he allows Herod to change the contest in such a way that it directly leads to his own death This stresses how an imitation of the white patriarch role only serves its leaders and cannot possibly overcome Herod If Cantrell had won, nothing in his character suggests he would not simply step into Herod's role of exploiting others The only other significant non white character is an American Indian, Spotted Horse; the film provides no specific tribal affiliation because he is a Western stock Spotted Horse's gimmick is that he has been shot dozens of times but never been killed and is covered with bullet hole scars He proclaims, "Spotted Horse cannot be killed by a bullet!" before launching into the story of his battles He is eventually kille d in the contest by Cort, but only after he recovers from a seemingly fatal first shot in the chest Cort's second shot hits him in the forehead; the prone Spotted Horse still manages to thrust his gun arm in the air and startle the gathered crowd before d ying Stereotypical in the portrayal of the mystical powers of the Indian, the film attempts to summarize one version of the history of the American Indians in this allegorical character : fierce and valiant resistance to the European invasion, that neverth eless eventual succumbs to superior numbers and technology Within the limited historical and social framework of The Quick and the

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128 Dead stubborn resistance to the patriarchy only results in hopeless resistance Spotted Horse fails because he plays Herod' s game, hoping to endure through the strength of his own beliefs rather than challenge the system itself The oral culture of many American Indian societies depends on the ritual repetition and remembrance of certain phrases and narratives; Spotted Horse b and stories are powerful ideological weapons used against the Other Playing by Herod's rules leads to failure for all of the p articipants of the contest, and not just for exploited races But The Quick and the Dead recognize s some of the racial politics involved with capitalism, and Cantrell is especially emphasized because he is clearly a professional, a disciplined worker withi n the system who also happens to be a member of an oppressed minority The capitalist promise of success for any who failure to fully characterize the lone Indian ch aracter or any of the Mexican Americans 12 The Murder in Flashback ( The Murder beg ins the mystery plot of the rest of the film; two brothers are accused) AND 13 The Lynching The Lynching Lincoln prevents the lynching of the suspected murderers) Despite her self assured entrance into Redemption, Ellen has yet to prove herself as the rugged, masculine Westerner she has not demonstrated her skill with the phallic six shooter Thus, she must enter the quick draw contest The sign up for the

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129 contest consists of manly boasting and posturing until Herod arrives at the saloon Herod has his flunkies abduct the gunslinger turned priest, Cort, and stand him on a chair with a noose around his neck When Cort refuses to enter the contest, Herod begins to shoot the legs off the chair Cort remains silent accepting his fate but Ellen rises up to enter the contest and thereby delay Herod Someone objects to a woman entering the contest; Herod says, "There's no rule against ladies, it's just that women can't shoot for shit," and the crowd responds with approving laughter before he fires the final s hot which causes the chair to collapse But before the rope can snap taut, Ellen draws, severs the rope with three quick shots, spins and holsters her pistol, and coolly sits down Herod is surprised but laughs, saying to put both Ellen and Cort into the c ontest This scene is followed by a dream Ellen has following her sexual encounter with The Kid Beginning with a close up of Pursued a 1947 noir Western) the flashbac k begins a larger sequence ; during the course of the film, the flashback reveals that Cort Herod put her father in a noose, stood him on a chair, and began to shoot out the legs Herod then offered the young girl Ellen a chance to save her father by shooting forehead Through this reference to Once Upon a Time in the West k up scene are more clearly motivated entrance into the male/gunslinger sphere, her statement that she now has the power to affect events that she lacked in the past No longer victimized, she can now prevent

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130 victimization is not a woman playing dress up After this point, the men in the film still treat her as an object of sexual desire, but now al homoer otic bonds of masculine respect patriarchal system, and now sh e has attained power within it 14 The Clock Tower The Balcony Lincoln rejects Mary Todd, temporarily, in favor of the Law) A massive clock tower looms over the town of Redemption The tallest structure in the town and often used as a sniper position by Herod's hired guns, the clock tower ups in the quick draw contest Each showdown is assigned a time on the hour, and the contestants under penalty of being shot by Herod's men are not allowed to draw until the minute hand hits the twelve Two key sequences illustrate the importance of the clock and time in the film In the first, three close ups of pocket watches are juxtaposed with a shot of the clock tower The time is three minutes before the hour when the first shoot out of the contest will occur The first two pocket watches match the time of the clock tower, but the third is two minutes slow The person holdi ng the watch hastily adjusts it, and the showdown commences This sequence works as a joke, but it also illustrates the power over time Herod holds Time as defined by a clock is a man made invention to help regulate industrial society, and the clock tower is a phallic symbol of the capitalist assembly line, the punch clock around which the workers scurry The viewer only sees the hands and ar ms of the people holding the watches, a nd these anonymous body parts emphasize the conformity engendered by this regulatory system And it is a system controlled by

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131 the patriarchy, symbolized by Herod's men stationed on the clock tower, both guarding it The second sequence presents a method for escaping the clutches of this patriarchal and capitalist time As Ellen walks into t he street for her first contest Cort informs her that there is a barely audible click from the clock tower right before its hands hit the h our Being able to hear this click is a significant advantage because it provides a split second head start Ellen's opponent, Kelly, taunts her and calls her yellow, and Ellen indeed appears nervous But as Cort's words return to her in a subjective voice over, the camera swiftly pans from Ellen to Cort and tilts up to the clock tower A classic montage ensues, the camera moving closer to the clock tower with each shot, and the sound of the clock's ticking steadily increases in volume with each cut The ne xt shot returns to the close up of Ellen, now wearing a confident smile, which causes Kelly's bravado to melt The click Ellen begins to draw the strike Kelly begin s to draw Ellen guns him down the crowd cheers Cort's voice and the sounds of the clock ar e clearly from Ellen's aural point of view, indicating her intense concentration This sequence implies that one method of survival within an oppressive patr iarchal system is to excel at its norms: by accepting the premise of the controlling clock tower an d scrutinizing all aspects of it, Ellen is able to triumph However, this initial victory is only the first step on a journey that eventually leads to Ellen's triumph over Herod (which begins with the demolition of the clock tower) Ellen analyzes her enem ies, Herod and the clock, and overcome s both The use of flashbacks in the film also ruptures the smooth flow of time First, it disrupts the seamless sequence of narrative, revealing the ellipses all narrative s cover

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132 over Second, it points out how event s are dependent upon previous events rather than an abstract representation of time Film is arguably the art form that most rigidly controls time, as it depends on projection of still photographs at a constant rate to create the illusion of movement Whil e this Hollywood film does not overtly disrupt the timed, mechanized film apparatus (unlike, for example, the shot of the melting film frames in Persona or the explanation of the reel change cue marks in David Fight Club ) the u se of flashbacks and the emphasis on the clock tower do suggest a critique of the standard linear chronology of most Westerns The flashbacks reveal the developments that motivate E llen and the overall story of the film Thus, her showdown with Herod becom es a progression of events from her past rather than a tightly controlled sequence dictated by This system which eliminates his potential usurpers is chronological and other wise 15 The Contest over Narrative The Celebrations Independence Day events and contests) Like many good genre narratives, The Quick and the Dead is exceedingly self reflexive The quick draw contest, one of the central structures of the plot, serves as a Western within the Western : a group of spectators gather to watch a shoot out between individuals, just as an audience gathers to watch a Western film that inevitably climaxes in a gunfight The contest is Herod's tool for maintaining his regime, dive rting the townspeople with bloody entertainment while giving them a sliver of hope (that Herod will be k illed) which is never fulfilled This contest functions similarly to Westerns (and Hollywood films in general) which are often understood as placebos f or the masses that allow them to live out fantasies without challenging the reigning patriarchy However,

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133 the film audience sees a part of the spectacle which the townspeople never do Ellen's flashbacks to her father's death The film thereby situate s itse lf as serving other purposes than Herod's conte st by presenting the flashbacks as an intensely real part of the history of the contest that has been elided The film suggests that focusing only on the results of the individual showdowns is exactly what the patriarchy wants the spectator to do; thus, in order to act against the patriarchy, alternat e and forgotten histories must be revived This emphasis on historical revision links The Quick and the Dead to the revisionist 90s Westerns (although it is obviou sly restricted to an individual back story instead of larger historical projects, like better pres entations of Native Americans) Storytelling through dialogue emphasizes Herod's control of narrative as well Ace, one of the gunfighters in the contest, is extremely vain, endlessly boasting of his exploits Herod confronts Ace with one of his boasts, asking if he was the one who killed a certain gunslinger; Ace confirms the story Herod then reveals that he was actually the one who killed the gunslinger, and then challenges and easily defeats Ace Herod controls storytelling, cementing as truth his version of events Herod will not allow anyone to usurp the stories that have earned him a reputation, a condensed autobiographical narrative that helps Herod main tain his hold on Redemption (although in the end Ellen is the one who achieves redemption) Herod repeatedly prevents and usurps other s stories Whenever Cort attempts to tell his story of salvation through becoming a man of the cloth, Herod mocks him an d has him beaten When his son, The Kid, brags about one of his exploits, Herod enters into the scene and nullifies the story with a biting insult When Cort begins to tell Ellen

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134 about his past with Herod, Herod appears behind them and finishes the story i n his own fashion And when Cort and Ellen plot to avoid facing each other in the contest, Herod walks in from offscreen and tells them they will fight each other or else his men will shoot them both Ellen rises in anger at this, saying "Nobody tells me w hat to do!" Herod slaps her and laughs as his goons restrain her at gunpoint All this indicates his complete dominance of his world Herod's sudden appearances into the frame from offscreen, seemingly materializing from the void, suggest his complete inte gration with the diegetic world of The Quick and the Dead These offscreen entrances are another Man with No Name f Even though the film is focalized around Ellen, Herod is omnipresent, ruling the narrative until Ellen and Cort defeat him Moreover, although Herod is present in Ellen's flashbacks and has greatly affected them, their historic and subject ive status allows Ellen to utilize a forgotten aspect of the past diegesis to disrupt Herod's control of the present Herod resembles another Gene Hackman Western character, Little Bill Dagget in Unforgiven Both are control freaks who run their towns an d both delight in dismantling fictions and revealing the truths they hold The s e similar ities between the character s suggest two things Firstly they emphasize how the patriarchy they represent controls everything, including narrative, and use s that contr ol to fortify their position s Secondly they indicate th e extent to which they believe th eir own myths ; they know only their own terms until a factor beyond their comprehension, such as Ellen or Will Munny, intrudes upon their fantastic constructs

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135 Herod narrative Herod manipulates the contest and its rules in order to crea te ever more intense climaxes, en suring that the st rongest in the system survives (nam ely, himself ) He even ns ; after Herod dispatches an opponent, he often gestures to the silent crowd (silent because they had hoped for his death), demanding and receiving applause This patriarchal control of both the contest and narrative in ge neral provides spectacular conflict that obscures its self regenerating nature, devising variations on the Western theme that tend to obscure the importance of the theme Herod can be read as attempting to be the individual author of the film itself the auteur directing every aspect of the narrative and manipulating the audience But film is an art form with a collective authorship, open to the influences of an Ellen ( or Sharon Stone ) and beyond the complete control of one individual; so ot Ellen can, and Stone does, 16 The Oedipal Conflict ( The Family Lincoln empathizes with the family, particularly the mother, of the two brothers he will represent as their lawyer) he Kid) gun shop to buy a gun The Kid and Herod engage in verbal jousting, resulting in Herod distance s himself from his biological son while associating with his adopted son, Cort The Western is often read as a dramatization of the Oedipal conflict : in the clima c tic shoot out, the hero kills the villain, a symbolic father for the hero Thus, the

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136 hero co mes of age and is able to assume his rightful place in society But the Western's Oedipal conflict is inevitably burdened with American ideology : the villain is an evil monarch, enslaving the helpless farmers or townspeople until the hero overthrows the ty rant, establishing democratic ideals through his right to bear a six gun Inevitably the allegory goes the young United States casts off the parentage of the ancient British Empire Multiplying the number of climactic shoot outs, The Quick and the Dead o verflows with permutations of the Western's version of the Oedipal conflict Herod is the father/patriarchy, and he maintains power by circumventing the Oedipal process; like Kronos or King Herod, he kills the children who may replace him The most obviou s Oedipal conflict is the struggle between Herod and his son, The Kid Throughout the film, Herod and The Kid confront each other verbally, and The Kid always los es because his father is more aggressive Herod demands that his son w ithdraw from the contest but the son refuses and eventually challenges Herod As he musical score swells that is, until Herod appears in the frame, once more calling for The Kid to quit the co ntest Instead, The Kid turns to the crowd and makes a speech, He further declares that Herod is Herod is not as fast as he u sed to be, and The Kid is in his prime They face each other and draw as the clock strikes; Herod goes down But then The Kid slowly falls down as Herod struggles back up; The Kid only wounded his father, grazing his neck, but Herod fatally shot his son A s Ellen tends to the dying young man the father approaches The Kid stretches his out his hand in one last attempt at reconciliation, but Herod does not

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137 respond and The Kid dies Herod attempts to excuse himself, saying that he gave The Kid every opportu nity to back out and that it was never proven that The Kid was his son, before walking away from the silent crowd This is one of the few scenes in the film which evokes any sympathy for Herod Herod clearly does not desire to kil l his son and regrets doi ng so; however, he is so involved in the competitive system he has created that he cannot do otherwise once the showdown begins One argument in favor of the self interest of the patriarchy is that it exists not solely for personal gain but rather for the good of the family his son refutes that argument, demonstrating how the patriarchal capitalist order poisons even the closest blood relations In t his system, the personal gain of Herod must necessarily outweigh any other considerations even those wh ich Herod also desires For his part, The Kid never had any other choice A photograph of him as a young child shows him holding two pistols and wearing gun belts draped around his neck and shoulders ike this ; he can only His job is running a gun shop, and his proper name is Fees, indicating his inherently commercial nature Indoctrinated his whole life into the ruthless and confrontational patriarchal system The Kid can only imitate his father crowd affirming his prowess before facing the enemy B ut in mimicking Herod he fails to defeat him The Kid recognizes that given time he wi ll eventually overturn Herod, but he does not understand that for the moment, time is still firmly in the grip of Herod's

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138 strong hands Th e gunfight is equally in both the head and the hands, in a system geared towards psychological dominance as well as ma terial ability On the o ther hand, The Kid almost does overcome Herod The eventual supplanting of the father by the son is an integral component of patriarchal capitalism, as Herod acknowledges when he declares Eventually, the so n is able to fulfill his self interest, but only by displacing the father The townspeople may cheer for The Kid as their savior, but the details of his lifestyle reveal that the promise of the prince will turn to the terror of the tyrant Trapped within t he system, neither The Kid nor the townspeople have any real hope 17 The Innocent Victim ( The Plaintiffs Lincoln settles a dispute over money and damages between two farmers) Ellen also takes up the feminist equivalent of the Western hero tu toring the young boy Ellen at first ignores her, but then gradually develops a friendship with the girl However, of her gunfighting ability, indicating a he althy skepticism on her part regarding violence The only advice Ellen offers Katie is when Eugene one of the local gunfighters, El you Eugene abuses Katie and throws her out O utraged, Ell en assaults the man and can only avenge Katie by killing Eugene in the contest After this point, Katie appears simply as one of the spectators in the crowd The revenge motive is omnipresent in the genre but it always exists uneasily, being too close to the self gratification represented by the villain So Westerns link revenge to the

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139 motif of protection of the innocent Elle n can gun down Eugene because he has corrupte d an innocent Even then, Ell en cannot coldly kill him ; she shoots Eugene twice, but refuses to kill him when he appears helpless, and only finishes him off when he attacks her again Killing must be completely justified This is a synecdoche for the s larger conflict Ellen initially desires to kill Herod for revenge, but eventually co ntinues on because she will save the townspeople he controls and exploits Katie's disappearance from the film, however, suggests an uneasiness regarding the effectivene ss of this kind of self interested motivation for action Even though Ellen eventually wins the contest and frees the town, to do so she must become a murderer, a nother Herod The only revolution imaginable is a seizing control of the system W hether the system can then be replaced by any alternative remains unbroached failure to continue that crit lack of radical direction, reflecting the uncertainty of the 1990s. 18 The Dinner Invitation ( The Dance Lincoln attends a dance hosted by Mary Todd) Herod invites Ellen to his mansion f or dinner His sexual interest in her is apparent He then reveals to her the story of his childhood Herod's father was a judge who forced Herod to witness the hangings of those the judge One day, Herod's father forced Herod and his mother into a game of "Russian Roulette Herod's father pulled the trigger to no effect five times, and then calmly blew his head away with the sixth and final shot No further mention is made of Herod's mother; the father's monstrous actions effectively excise her as well

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140 Herod's father may be read as a symbol of the law, or Western justice This is not the law of Young Mr Lincoln however, which protects t he rights of all, including the poor and oppressed T h e judge's law is flawed and voracious, as shown by his turning i ts deadly power against his innocent family Without justice, the law becomes a random abstract ion exploited by those who are best able to thrive under its edicts It is the law of th e capitalist patriarchy, a self interested competition which fav ors those with wealth and power The "luck" involved in not losing the Russian R oulette game symbolizes the better chances of winn This naturalizes the system s results, which are credited to the abilities an d fortunes of the individual ins tead of larger social dynamics When justice is viewed as blin d luck social problems seem insurmountable With the judge suicide, the law/justice has removed itself, and only the rule of "survival of the fittest" endures Apparently, the Oedipal conflict has not occurred; however, the judge has forced a variation of the conflict that ensures the destruction of one of the participants Setting the rules of elimination the judge calmly accepts the results The son (Herod) s urvives and take s his place T he lack of attention to Herod's mother only emphasizes the marginal role of women in the exploitative system The game of Russian Roulette mirrors Herod's quick draw contest, both being ruthless arenas can thu s be read as his repetition of the lessons learned from his father, forcing children into deadly Oedipal confrontations The system ensures that the strong survive, and the deck is stacked in Herod's favor Herod remarks of the contest, "At least I get to face my enemies H e anticipates revolt and channels it into a situation almost certainly resulting in his triumph Herod also reenacts the childhood trauma of

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141 hangings emulating his father b y forcing others into their own hangings This is one expansion of the hanging motif in Once Upon a Time in the West ; in that film, the hanging is more an allegory of lynching in general, and a random act of cruelty In The Quick and the Dead the hanging becomes repeated systematic trauma p t at seduction, this film has little concern with marriage Westerns often have ended in the establishment of the heterosexual couple, but one could argue that the Western never directs its energy towards the sexual act Rather, the violence of the shoot out replaces the sexual act, phallic guns exploding Perhaps the Western avoids sex because of its stress on the individual; sexual energy is not used for romance or reproduction but for the destruction of the Other In the classic Western, the male hero eliminate s the O ther before marrying and reestablishing Sex and reproduction only occurs offscreen, after the film ends, as allowed by the Puritan based ideology of the Western However, Sharon Stone's stardom dep ends on explicit portrayals of sex Early in the film, Ellen has a drunken encounter with The Kid ; however no physical contact is portrayed onscr een Yvonne Tasker describes a sex ual encounter between Ellen and Cort that was cut from the final version of the film : Ellen storms into the brothel where Cort is being held and takes him for herself since they both may be dead the next day rsion o 58 ) I would argue, however, instead reflects the tradition of sexual energy being contained and reserved for the showdown I t also marks a reluctance on the film's part

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142 to support Hollywood's traditi onal ideology of reinforcing the monogamous heteros exual couple (unlike, for example, the 1992 The Last of the Mohicans I discuss in Chapter 4) These sexual relations are best exemplified in t he rest of the dinner scene Herod invites Ellen to dinner onl y after she wins her first match Ellen wears a beautiful dress and a concealed pistol, intending to kill Herod They converse, Elle n building up her nerve to shoot Herod explains how he killed his wife because she was unfaithful Ellen finally cocks her pistol under the table, Herod tells the story of his father the judge, and then responds with a click of his own Ellen rushes away, saying, "I shouldn't have come her e Herod catches her and embraces he r, demanding her answer to "What do you want Elle n struggles free, and as she departs Herod reveals that he did not have a gun and made the hammer cocking noise with the spring top of a lighter In this scene, Ellen attempts the sort of assassination that would be allowed to a woman in a traditional We stern, using her sex appe al to get close enough to shoot S he operates so deeply within Herod's patriarchal system, even to t he point of being in his house, that she fails T he patriarchy is so powerful that it can overcome any resistance from those playin g under its rules Herod desires the heterosexual union, reveling in the clich s of the mysterious woman and the pat riarchal conquest of her frontier Ellen escapes only because of her knowledge of his past knowledge that exists beyond his controlling gaz e 19 Religion, Higher Law, and the Feminine Masculine ( Nature, Law, Woman interrelationship of the three on a symbolic level) Herod adopted Cort, taking him off the street and training him as a gunslinger and outlaw Wounded in a botched bank robbery, Herod and Cort are taken in and healed by a priest When they

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143 recover, Herod orders Cort to kill the priest to cover their trail When Cort refuses, Herod holds a pistol to Cort's head and counts d own from ten reminiscent of and foreshadowing Herod's count down in the quick draw contest Cort kills the priest Sickened, he renounces violence and enters the ministry Herod attempts to make Cort into a son, a version of himself Killing the priest fulfills two functions for Herod : it allows Cort to become a double for Herod, and the murder enables Herod to eliminate a competing force religion Or so Herod thinks; the one thing he does not anticipate is Cort's entry into the church Cort 's priesthood disrupts Herod's patriarchal plan through the denial of self, which is exaggerated in the film when the Christ like Cort endures multiple tortures: rusty chains, beatings, starvation, lack of water, brainwashing Denial of the self negates th e Oedipal process Anoth er facet of the priesthoo d, however, is non resistance and a refusal to take side s This is what Cort overcomes during the course of the film Cort gradually reverts from his revocation of all violence to his former state as a deadl y shootist Herod forces Cort into this transformation, thinking that it will turn Cort into the self in terested killer he once was However, again he does not anticipate the effect of recognition of the Other Cort's martyrdom allows him to sympathize wit h the oppressed, but he rejects the passive edicts of the Church in favor of action against Herod and th e patriarchal capitalist system These acts transform Cort in to an anti capitalist agent ne appearance He is resembles a dress This feminization enable s some identification with Ellen Also, Cort

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144 r cing other men in to the stereotypically feminine or passive role is part of the patriarchal system Ellen's flashbacks reveal the first of Herod's forced Oedipal conflicts As I noted earlier, Herod places Ellen's father, the Marshal, on a chair with a no ose around his neck Herod then gives the young Ellen a chance to save her father; if Ellen shoots the rope of the noose, they are both free to leave Herod hands Ellen a gun, she cries and refuses to shoot; the Marshal convinces her to try, saying not to blame herself no matter what happens Ellen shoots, and hits her father in the forehead Herod rides off with the Stars and Stripes, leaving behind a stunned Ellen Herod has forced Ellen into the Oedipal trajectory even though she is a woman and would no t normally participate in this system Herod provides her with the phallic gun and push es Ellen into a masculine role The Marshal is trapped within the system, and can see no alternative other than to indoctrinate the young Ellen; he hopes that Ellen can adopt the masculine role of skill with the gun But Herod made the rules, so once again he wins : the law/justice of Redemption (the Marshal) is eliminated, leaving Herod free to make his own law, like his judge father before him However, Herod does not a nticipate the eventual rup ture to the system caused by these actions Although Ellen understandably blames herself, she also directs blame to its appropriate source, Herod Because Ellen is an Other forced into the Oedipal role, she is able to recognize he r O ther status and identify Herod and his system as its source and hence her enemy Because the capitalist patriarchal system is an invisible, immaterial entity, most of its subjects remain ignorant of its power Herod's meddling, however, materializes th e patriarchal structure, providing Ellen with a concrete object

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145 upon which to focus her vengeful and revolutionary efforts Unlike Herod and because of her recognition of her Other status, Ellen is able to assume her father's role of the law/justice while re alizing that the role has social consequences beyond her personal in terests She thus avoids falling into the trap of exploiting others because of her refusal of the primacy of individual self interest 20 Trial of the Soul ( The Trial Lincoln begins the defense) Ellen has killed Eugene, and the film implies it is the first time she has killed She decides to flee the contest, sickened by the act She rides to the graveyard, searching T he elderly doctor, a friend of her and exhorts her to return to defeat Herod not for vengeance, but because the townspeople await a champion like her : him Ellen renews her resolve and returns to the contest With this the moral character of the hero is reaffirmed Ellen has rejected the contest, foregone revenge yet she chooses to return to defend the townspeople Trapped within generic conventions, the film must have the final confrontation; wanting to be revolutionary, it motivate s Ellen 21 Before the Dawn ( The Night before the final day of the trial, Lincoln is inspired) Ellen, supposedly dead does not appear before the climactic gunfight at dawn ; to do so would spoil the surprise some fingers broken ; this heighten s the narrative drama, and pre pares the viewer for Herod sits a lone in his man sion, cleaning and adjusting his pistols,

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146 and muttering to himself He wears glasses and cuts a pathetic figure T he viewer eventually hears snatches of prayer : The filmmakers probably intend to prese nt Herod as a c omplex character; however, another reading occurs to the critical viewer Shockingly, the supposedly evil and self sufficient Herod is revealed to be another victim of the patriarchal system, d esperate for any father figure, as represented by prayer to God Herod quickly returns to his domineering self for the public contest, but at this moment before the dawn, the viewer realizes he too is trapped by the competitive system in which they all operate 22 Victory (Victory Lincoln solves the enigma, revealing the true murderer and acquitting the brothers) At dawn, Herod and Cort meet on the street, the assembled crowd silent Increasing the tension, Herod fixes the situation so they will both draw le ft handed As the clock strikes the hour, Herod draws, but is instantly flung to the ground as the clock tower explodes Herod tries to aim and fire again, but his mansion explodes A third time he tries, but several more t own buildings erupt into flames Throughout, Cort remains immobile and impassive As the build ings burn and singed money flutters down around Herod, a figure appears out of the smoke and debris It is Ellen of course Herod's goons take aim at her, but Cort intervenes and quickly kills the four who survi ved the dynamite, leaving Ellen and Herod to face one another Herod is shocked, fooled by her fake d death Herod demands to know who Ellen is; she responds by throwing her father's badge at his feet Comprehension dawns on hare the final flashback which shows how Herod caused the Marshal's death The flashback

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147 ends, and Herod and Ellen draw and fire Ellen is hit and staggers back; Herod smiles until the film shows, from his point of view, his shadow in front of him with a h ole in it because Ellen's bullet has penetrated all the way through him Ellen is only hit in the shoulder, and she shoots Herod again before he can fire killing him as his body somersaults backwards The feminist role reversal continues through the clim ax T he crowd expects a final reckoning between Herod and Cort, between bad father and good son, until Ellen literally blows away this traditional patriarchal system and asserts her right to face Herod After killing Herod, Ellen jams her pistol into her h olster now positioned directly over her crotch, signifying possession of the phallus The small, communal group (Ellen, Cort, the blind kid, and the doctor) works together and overcomes the domineering individual; the collective helps free the oppressed t ownspeople The references to the Spaghetti Westerns also accentuate the climax Ellen emerging from the clouds of dust and smoke caused by the dynamite mirrors Eastwood at the climax of A Fistful of Dollars Moreover, the shared flashback prec eding the final gunfight is very similar to the climactic scenes of Once Upon a Time in the West However, in the latter film, the protagonist Harmonica (Charles Bronson) does not reveal his pas t secret to Frank (Henry Fonda) until after Harmonica has shot F rank and F rank is about to die T he revelation is strictly a form of personal satisfaction reflecting the masculine withholding that defines the Man with No Name characters In The Quick and the Dead Ellen uses the revelation to startle Herod and gain an advantage in the gunfight; she deploys a specific history in order to create a radical end The flashing and deafening explosions, complete with deep focus

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148 compositions and flying stuntmen, unsettle Herod by destroying the material aspects of his power T hey also serve to jolt the viewer out of the familiar Western narrative pattern although a series of explosions is common in the action/adventure genre, it is less frequent in the Western Stone's charismatic reentrance, co mplete with flowing hair unfettered by the convention of a cowboy hat, re establishes her outsider status H er aggressive star presence has been the single most important factor in transforming The Quick and the Dead into a critical anti Western Moreover, the stylish excesses of the hole in Her od's torso and his somersault fall over determine his death, stressing how unnecessa ry and empty his position is in fact Herod ceases to be a real person and instead turns himself into an empty image, much like t he h ollow statue of Perseus outside his mansion Ellen has become the non monstrous Medusa and the sympathetic Other Ellen's destruction of the clock tower removes abstract power over time Cort began this process by calling for the confrontation at dawn instead of dictated by the clock Having the flashback immediately precede the final shoot out reasserts the n atural order of events over the constructions imposed by Herod You're not fast enough for me!" Herod yells at Ellen S he replies, "Today I am," suggesting the importance of a n understanding of time based on contextual events The Marshal's badge is vital in returning Ellen to the struggle, and triggers H erod's memory P ast events become condensed in this sign of the real, a material token wi th its own history Herod's fatal flaw is that he forgets the histories of his victims, replacing them with self serving stories of his individual past Ellen is able to reclaim an erased history and thereby disrupt an abusive system

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149 Herod's gaze ultimat ely proves ineffective Ellen fakes her death at the beginning and end of the film in order to defeat the self interested Kelly and Herod The patriarchy depends on controlling concepts of reality and identity Ellen and Cort perform their assigned roles a nd thus appear to conform to Herod's expectations However, they actually fool his gaze and overcome it Herod views a reality outside his making only when he sees the ray of light shining through the hole in his constructed image of himself To emphasize this realization, t he blasting dynamite and howling wind at the climax suggest natural ist, disruptive sounds reasserti ng themselves over Herod's contrived images As Herod's power disappears, so does his control of narrative This is indicated by Ellen's story entering through the flashback Prior to his showdown with Cort, Herod tells him, "There's a lot of people here who want entertainment," and Herod orders his men to gun down Cort if Cort somehow wins Herod still controls the narrative even posthumo usly But Cort and Ellen steal his narrative power A fter the explosions, Cort kills the henchmen and declares, "We changed the rules, John With this act, t hey eliminate Herod's patriarchal rules and contest, and his authority over narrative and others 23 Towards Her and His Destinies ( Having killed Herod, Ellen walks over and kicks his body, grunting her satisfaction She picks up the badge and hands it to Cort, s aying, "the law is back in town She then rides off to the townspeople's cheers and the triumphant score as Cort remains, standing alone, lookin g about with a hint of anxiety Fade to black; the end

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150 At first, t he en dless cycle of Oedipal conflict seems terminated, as Cort evades the cycle by deferring to Ellen But uncertainties remain; Ellen was able to kill her the priest has become a symbolic father to her The cheering of the Mexican American townspeople fo r the departing Ellen suggests their dependence on a white savior, as does Cort's new position as marshal Even the shadow of the heterosexual couple creeps back into the film Ellen has a sexual encount er with The Kid when they are both drunk; in the morning, The Kid's bed is revealed as being made out of cases of dynamite Ellen and Cort use this dynamite to defeat Herod in the orgasmic explosions of the climax, indicating that the heterosexual union ca n only be temporarily repressed in Hollywood Western ideology Moreover, the presence of the father still looms; Cort and Ellen may avoid Herod's lineage, but they seem to take the place of the Marshal, Ellen's father Cort even physically resembles the Ma rshal The legacy of the good father remains; only that of the evil Herod perishes Finally, Ell en rides off into the West, but where is she headed ? This is a common Western ending, but Ellen is not an aging or dying gunslinger society no longer needs Rat her, she appears young and healthy, and no indication is given of her future Cort is now the marshal, but as Ellen rides off, he seems anxious and uncertain The silent Cort appears extremely unsure whether or not he should assume the position The relati vely abrupt fade to black does not even provide a false sense of closure typical to Westerns, such as a long shot of the rider traversing the plains or riding into the sunset as the credits roll Thus, the film disrupts conventional Hollywood closure, leav ing the viewers as uncertain as Cort

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151 24 Attempt of the Film ( Work of the Film summary of the ideological work of the film) Within the Western cycle of 1990s Hollywood, The Quick and the Dead stands a s a brilliant attempt at a n ideological critique of t he misogynist, racist, patriarchal, and capitalist ideology that has always existed in the Western genre This film also aspir es to a thorough critique of older America n ideologies, suggesting that the U.S.A. has moved past its repressive history (Ellen is the future, Herod the past) But is the ambiguous ending a hope for a new frontier, or a disturbing lack of closure of the past, leaving open a return of the repressed patriarchal system ? This ambiguity reflects the uncertainty of the 1990s, a post Cold W ar moment when new frontiers seemed reachable, but no one was quite sure where to find them, let alone map them 25 Violence and Law ( Violence and Law longer, concluding summary and analysis of these key themes) Analyzing the unstable message of The Qui ck and the Dead relies on the Western's status as a reflection and examination of American values Western s since Stagecoach (1939) regularly have been viewed as statements regarding dominant American ideology The myth of the importance of the Western as a cultural reflection of contemporary ideals has influenced the production of modern Westerns This is, in part, why the anti Western has become the dominant mode of the genre ; both in order to adjust to the rapidly changing status of underrepresented grou ps in American society and to make fresh contributions to an overworked genre, any new Western has to react to and transform its generic predecessors Thus, The Quick and the Dead is a film, and part of a genre, which had absorbed a 1990s ideological criti que of the capitalist patriarchy After decades of activism by

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152 underrepresented groups (the feminist movement, the civil rights movement, the American Indian movement), American society had moved towards a n uncertain in clusion of all such groups T he polit ical battle s betw een liberal and conservative were battle s over the value of cultural diversity versus maintenance of the old power structures liberal side; the neo conservative, tow ards the conservative The Western cannot remain immune to such cultural battles, and so not surprisingly, a liberal Western like The Quick and the Dead incorporates a liberal critique of the white male capitalist patriarchy Even though the film is mostly concerned with critiquing patriarchy and capitalism, it also acknowledges the importance of race, however obliquely However, in the 1990s, increased opportunity for diverse groups is the only metaphorical frontier that both is clearly desirable and falls within the scope of the Western While the post Cold War 1990s seemed a moment of limitless possibilities for America, the uncertainty regarding which possibilities to imagine and pursue arguably resulted in a continuation of the status quo, minus the Sov iet evil empire as a savage adversary (a role to be eventually filled by Islamic terrorism) The structure of the Western depends on an adversary and b y emphasizing the role of the shoot out, T he Quick and the Dead becomes trapped within the g eneric param eters that inevitably lead to repetition of the symbolic structures that reinforce the system it meant to critique No matter how it is justified, the shoot out always requires the elimination of an Other Thus, in The Quick and the Dead the only way the Western can imagine a challenge to the system is by seizing control it but this leaves the system in place T he ending of the film is ambiguous generic requirements have been met, the evil villain has been

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153 eliminated, but now what ? Like 1990s America itsel f, n o alternative socio political system is suggested; the only possibility offered is that Marshal Cort creates a more benevolent system T his is an underlying problem contempora ry American society ; despite the advances of underrepresented groups, they have occurred within the system of competitive patriarchal capitalism that contin ued to dominate America freedom or other li ving conditions; they were unhappy because their taxes were too high Once the barriers of race and sex are removed, or at least weakened, then competition and the profit motive become balanced exceptional individuals that Co rt and Ellen establish at the end of the film The Western ignores contemporary problems of poverty, limited access to education or health care, recent immigration, and so forth F orgotten are those who are not exceptional, who cannot compete While parts of the 1990s world undergo significant change, t he American capitalist system remains in place, with only the make up of the elite changed The only option the film can propose is for ambitious individuals to gain control over the corporate system Likewis e, Raimi used The Quick and the Dead as a stepping stone to big budget Hollywood filmmaking toe to toe with an actor of Gene Hackman and finally proving that she could acter and as a producer of an interesting, well made film Ultimately, however, her attempt at a revolutionary character fails because the audience is un able to With the hunger of audience expectations unsatisfied the film and Stone are rejected and regarded as failur es

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154 Stone achieves a momentary victory, being able to produce a role reversal film that displays a woman triumph ant but that triumph is not accepted by the audience that needs to support it As Ellen/Stone rid es off, we may hope that she moves to a brighter future ; but the historical fact is that she ride s into the sunset of her career In t he end, the a vision of an alternative socio economic system returns to haunt its leading lady but not the men with the names of Crowe, DiCaprio, and Raimi

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155 CHAPTER SIX CONCLUSION S: DEAD MAN DEAD END As previously noted, the failure of The Quick and the Dead at the box office marked the end of the Hollywood Western cycle in the 1990s Also in 19 95, Walter Hill's Wild Bill starring Jeff Bridges in the title role, flopped by grossing only $2 million While the genre was not completely moribund for the rest of the decade, it had returned to a minor, often hybrid mode For example, 1999 saw Will Smi th starring in the sci fi/comedy/Western mishmash Wild Wild West and Ang Lee's Civil War themed Ride with the Devil This limping end to the genre cycle was almost inevitable, given that even the most popular film s in the cycle, despite moments of hope and possibility within their narratives always contained the seeds of their own destruction Lonesome Dove started with the conceit that it was one last adventure for its senior citizen ex Rangers, and Gus, the vibrant core of that movie, dies rather than lo se a leg Woodrow Call survives, but cannot acknowledge his illegitimate son, preventing a ny implied hopeful future Dances with Wolves celebrates Lakota Sioux life on the plains, but the specter of nostalgia, of that specific plains culture ending, along with the end of the frontier in general, permeates the film The Last of the Mohicans of course, cannot escape its title, overtly ending with the disappearing of the Indian/noble savage, despite Means' best efforts, and an emphasis on survival above all Tombstone ends with the heterosexual couple continuing their frontier adventures, but again, like Gus in Lonesome Dove the vibrant heart of the film, Doc Holliday, dies at the end Tombstone is admittedly more upbeat but Wyatt and Josephine's union seems more like a flight from the pervasive killing and maiming through out the film than a journey into a new

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156 frontier Unforgiven simila rly reaches a thrilling climax, but one based on murders by both sides and preceded by a regretful critique of violence It is also a last ride for t he last Westerner, Clint with his family to California farewell to the genre and life in Carmel The Quick and the Dead best allegorized this pr oblem : despite a thorough critique o f the Western genre, and without a symbolic frontier to progress into no alternative can be imagined, or even suggested, outside the inevitable generic framework One could argue that the anti Western, or even the genre overall, has always been primarily nostalgic, foregrounding the end of the Western hero and the passing of the cycle contains the hope and excitement of new frontiers related to revisionism. Perhaps the nost algia is for a certain type of white masculinity (embodied by Augustus McRae and Doc Holliday ) that disappears in favor of heroic women, Native Americans, and other groups. However, the disappearing Indian figure also permeates these films, and I have alre ady discussed the failure of The Quick and the Dead to suggest any future for the woman hero. To further pinpoint these problems of the moment, I turn to Jim Dead Man (1995) Dead Man tells the story of an accountant from Cleveland, William Blak e (Johnny Depp) who travels west to the town of Machine, promised a job from the local factory owner, Dickinson (Robert Mitchum), via letter The employment is refused, and being broke, he meets a woman, Thel (Mili Avital) Their tryst is interrupted by he r ex lover and the son of the factory owner (played by Gabriel Byrne) who shoots at Blake, lodging a bullet in his chest, but only aft er the bullet passes through Thel killing her

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157 Blake uses Thel's gun to kill the shooter The s e are the first of the abs urd deaths in the movie Now on the run, Blake meets Nobody (Gary Farmer) an American Indian They are pursued by bounty hunters hired by the ex Dickinson A series of darkly comic and weirdly beautiful frontier encounters ensue, with mult iple gunfights and killings, until Nobody delivers Blake to the ocean for his final dying journey into the ocean The grim mood is considerably lightened by the intriguing performance by Farmer as Nobody and his interactions with Blake/Depp As Blake float s away, Nobody and the lead bounty hunter (Cole Wilson, played by Lance Henriksen) kill one another on shore Like other Jarmusch films, Dead Man is hard to describe It is a clearly set in the standard frontier period in west ern America it has gunfights galore, and the typical relationship between the white shootist Blake and the Indian Nobody is the crux of the film But it is so unconventional that it seems less a We stern and more an art film Or perhaps the distancing is more that i t is hyper conventional in plot but without stereotypical character s; Nobody is a deeply nuanced character, and Depp plays a Westerner unlike any previously seen This film has a linear, chronological narrative, but it somehow is simultaneously episodic an d disjointed due in part to the avoidance of clear psychological explanation of all character motivations and a certain randomness to the gunfights and other violent encounters (many of the fights are won by a seemingly accidental shooting or other inciden t, inst ead of through the hero achieving his goals ) In order to analyze thi s episodic narrative, I will break this analysis letters plus one space )

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158 Depp, Johnny Johnny Depp is not an obvious choice for a Westerner; nothing about his star persona, particularly in the early '90s, suggests rugged masculinity William Blake, as played by Depp, is not a typical western hero in any way Rather, he is a comedic straight man who stumbles through his adventures Nobody repeatedly calls him a "stupid fucking white man whose first achievement is to get himself shot At the same time, he gets into gunfight after gunfight and quite coo l ly, Ea stwood like, shoots dead most of his antagonists, despite there being absolutely no indication he has any skill or experience with a gun This is due, in part, to nearly everyone else clums ily and randomly shooting their guns (with the exception of the "pr o f essional" bounty hunters on his trail ) The generic convention of the shootout is there, the syntactic element, but Jarmusch has a radically altered semantic hero He i s a classic American figure, an orphan heading west, but at first glance, t his bespect acled accountant is more Bartleby than Boone Europe Although Blake is the clear protagonist, present in almost every scene except for the parallel pursuit by the bounty hunters Nobody is the equivalent of the in between hero, a nd Blake is his sidekick an d pupil "reverse captivity narrative" c aptured as a young boy, he was sent back east as an exhibit in a cage, eventually reaching London There he goes to school and learns the works of the great revolutionary poet William Blake He eventually returns to his tribe as "the man who knows Europeans," but they scoff at his stories and do not accept him, naming

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159 who talks mu ch and says little S o he prefers N obody 4 and is now permanently caught in between Europeans and Indians Depp/Blake's appearance is a cosmic coincidence, to become the killer of white purpose Art Any narrative that depends on references to and multiple quotations from William Blake clearly has aspirations to Art beyond being simply entertainment Perhaps the most striking feature of this film is the gorgeous black and white cinematography (a The camera lingers over beautiful Western landscapes, from mountain passes to re dwood forests, from rushing rivers to the sea The bla ck and white is again the hyper convention of the genre making these familiar landscap es fresh again (a cinematic equivalent of Ansel Adams ) while at th e same time referencing the black and white hist ory of the film genre if nothing else, Romantic Death Even more strikingly, these sublime landscapes are dotted with death On the train out west, Blake experiences a shocking moment when the mountain men on the train star t shooting buffalo T he thesis is set : the European settlers bring not only exploitation of natural resources, but the wasteful elimination of them This emphasis on death resulting from frontier expansion permeates the film 4

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160 Blank Space Instead of clean c uts between scenes, Jarmusch often employs quick fades to black These are slightly motivated by convention, as they do suggest the jumps in time and location that often occur between scenes style However, the fades are used so frequently that they serve to disrupt the invisible flow of narrative, forcing the viewer to consider the film as a collection of somewhat random, loosely connected episodes instead of a classic Hollywood progression of goal oriented events A lso, the fades to black suggest the death that haunts the film Machine Machine's main street is filled with hides, bones, and skulls on display and presumably for sale, although no one is buying The center of the town is the huge, black smoke belching fa ctory where Blake is turned away This town efficiently symbolizes the devouring nature of frontier expansion and is clearly meant as historical precursor and allegory of modern corporate capitalism Initiated into violence and death in Machine, Blake then leaves a trail of bodies behind him W hen he arrives at the final Indian village near the coast, they too have bones and hides and the brilliant image of a wavering sewing machine view) T he whi te European presence is now everywhere and there is no unspoiled frontier band of Native Americans (such as Dances With Wolves tries to imagine) W hite settlers bring death, including the genocide of Native Americans Anti Western From a generic point of v iew, Dead Man is the "tombstone" for the 19 90s cycle Theater of the absurd, it mocks the shootout conventions of the genre (unlike the experimental reveling of them in The Quick and the Dead ) The desolate landscape

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161 dotted with crazy characters the death of Machine and the Indian village, and the other incursions by Europeans effectively forestall any notion of a limitless, hopeful frontier Blake's quest is spiritual and dependent on the death drive; thanks to the bullet near his heart, he is s lowly dyin g for most of the narrative This slow death can be read as the lingering decay of the genre itself or of the promise of the post Cold War era slowly fading away Nineties In the context of the 1990s Western cycle, Dead Ma n is the obituary, declaring that the frontier myth is a dead end While the other films of the cycle always carried an internal emphasis on death that haunted the cycle, they still attempted variations on the Hollywood happy ending and at least presented moment of excitement over revisi onist characters But as these hopeful moments were always constrained by the fatalistic elements of the films, it is retroactively clear that the generic attempts to open the frontier were doomed because the frontier of the Western, any Western, has alrea dy been closed The post World W ar II Western could sustain a duality of the historical closed frontier allegorizing the international expansion (into new frontiers) of the U.S.A. because the international expansion had metonymic qualities of the Western frontier : new borders, new lands, new peoples The '90s Western, and the frontier it depicts, was always already limited, though, because globalization had already occurred Withou t any new territories (no new land masses or countries to explore or invade ), the frontier in the '90s could only function as an abstract allegory for new ideas, new concepts, but ultimately as a set o f signifiers without a signified

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162 D ead Man suggests this through its fidelity to generic syntax but a syntax over loaded with the semantic elements of death The ke y narrative structures are there voyage w est, chase, racial conflict but the ties to the se mantic elements are severed This was, of course, the revisionist project of the '90s Western The semantic elements were thorough ly revised, so that American Indians, women, and other formerly subordinate groups in Westerns were now the protagonists For a brief time, the '90s Western held the hope that including these ne w groups could reinvigorate a dying genre However, saving the genre was not a matter of simply expanding o pportunity to all Rather, the larger context of the frontier would need to be reinvigorated For the optimist of the early nineties, aware of the centrality of the frontier to American history, the uncertainty of the Cold War period suggested that there must be another frontier available now, finally The genius of Dead Man is that it baldly presents the frontier narratives, but so thoroughly presents them as historical moments leading to death that the hope of a new frontier is squashed Obviously, the frontier had its positive, progressive, nation found ing destiny aspects But now it is clear that inextricably tied to those were the genocide of millions of American Indians Clearly, that is the most heinous cri me linked to the frontier myth And, from the modern environmentalist stance, frontier expansion also resulted i n innumerable other environmental disasters and near extinctions from buffalo to forests The '90s cycle tries to balance the positive and nega tive frontier elements; Dead M an asks why bother ? We now know it was all tied to genocide and environmental destruction, why try to reclaim the old happy mythology ? Instead of w asting moments of

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163 new possibilities in the '90s, by try ing to awaken the past the film remind s everyone how brutally vicious fro ntier expansion was End the cycle and move on America, post Cold War or not, simply cannot put on the historical blinders and return to a progressively updated version of the frontier myth The '90s Wes tern could only attempt to exhume the frontier ; Dead Man slams the lid back on the coffin Depp/Blake is a parody of a n average, corporate 1990s America white collar worker (down to his ridiculous plaid suit) h ow in any possible way could his going West on a frontier adventure improve his lot ? It can't; leaping into the generic clichs, stereotypes and plots only results in him being shot quickly and dying slowly Similarly, America attempting a return to the frontier is only shooting itself in the foot; t here is nothing at the end of the Western trail except a slow boat int o an ocean of death (which, unfortunately, seemed the inevitable progression into a post 9/11 world a slow movement into perpetual war in the Middle East) The root of this generic pess imis m lies in the limitations of the 1990s The end of the Cold War seemed a decisive moment, a break from the past appropri ate for the Western However it arguably was more a moment of uncertainty, lacking a clear path towards progress (witho ut an obviou s symbolic frontier) The '90s Western reflects this; there is obviously some revisionist work to be done, to bring under represented groups into the mainstream However, once they are there, then what ? More people have access to opportunities, but the opp ortunities are ultimately the same as before There should be a new frontier, some new d irection after the Cold War but as the American system has won, why actually change ? Instead, the '90s Western is primarily nostalgic for an older audience, recalling t he heady days of post World War II expansion and

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164 suggesting it as an analogy and potential model for the future However, the '90s lacked the clear national path of the Unites States growing into a world leader (after World War II) True, the internet bubb le did provide some semblance of a frontier but that advanced technology was clearly something for other genres, not the Western As the optimism of the early '90s faded with the rise of domestic terrorism (the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995) and continued genocide abroad (the Bosnian War continued until late 1995), the glimmer of frontier hope in the cycle's emphasis on aging and death Like the hopeful yet inevitably doomed flashes of new frontiers in the films themselves th e cycle was luminous yet limited an exhilarating run that produced genre changing films However, in retrospect Dances With Wolves and Unforgiven and The Quick and the Dead were not genre regenerating ; rather, they were Dead Man iant moments of transcendence made possible only the frontier mythos The Westerner as he or she was quickly turned around to ri de once again in to the sunset

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165 LIST OF REFERENCES Altman, Rick The American Film Musical Bloomington : Indiana UP, 1987 Arnold, Gary Indian actors cheering on the bad guy The Washington Times 28 Sept 1992 : D1 Barker, Martin First and Last Mohicans Sight and Sound Aug 1993 : 26 29 Barker, Martin, and Roger Sabin The Lasting of the Mohicans : History of an American Myth Jackson : UP of Mississippi, 1996 Bordwell, David Story causality and motivation The Classical Hollywood Cinema : Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson New York : Columbia UP, 1985 12 23 Cahi e rs du Cin ma The Editors of Young Mr Lincoln Movies and Methods Ed Bill Nichols Vol 1 Berkeley : U of California P, 1976 493 529 Chollet, Derek H and James M Goldgeier America B etween the Wars : From 11/9 to 9/11 : The Misunderstood Years between the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Start of the War on Terror New York : BBS PublicAffairs, 2008 Comolli, Jean Louis and Je an Narboni Cinema/Ideology/Criticism Movies and Methods Ed Bill Nichols Vol 1 Berkeley : U of California P, 1976 22 30 Cooper, James Fenimore The Last of the Mohicans New York : Bantam, 1981 Curtright, Bob The Last of the Mohicans : Wichita In dians Say Film Hits the Mark with The Wichita Eagle 25 Sept 1992 : 1C Dances With Wolves Dir Kevin Costner Metro Goldwyn Mayer, 1990 Film Dead Man Dir Jim Jarmusch Miramax, 1996 Film Dirks, Tim Filmsite Movie Review : Red River (1948) filmsite AMC, n d Web 10 May 2012 < >. Eckert, Charles The Anatomy of a Proletarian Film : Marked Woman Movies and Methods Vol 2 Ed Bill Nichols Berkeley : U of California P, 1985 407 429 Edgerton, Gary : Hollywood, Racial Stereotyping, and the Promise of Revisionism in The Last of the Mohicans Journal of American Culture 17 2 (1994) : 1 20

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166 Feasey, Rebecca 'Sharon Sto ne, Screen Diva' : Stardom, Femininity and Cult Fandom Defining Cult Movies : The Cultural Politics of Oppositional Taste Ed Mark Jancovich New York : Palgrave, 2003 172 84 Fiedler, Leslie A Love and Death in the American Novel New York : Stein and Da y, 1966 Fore, Steve The Same Old Others : The Western, Lonesome Dove and the Lingering Difficulty of Difference The Velvet Light Trap 27 (1991) : 49 62 Franklin, Wayne The Wilderness of Words in The Last of t he Mohicans New Essays on T he Last of t he Mohicans Ed H Daniel Peck Cambridge : Cambridge UP, 1992 25 46 Frayling, Christopher Spaghetti Westerns : C owboys and Europeans from Karl M ay to Sergio Leone London : Routledge, 1981 Fukuyama, Francis The End of History and the Last Man New York : Free P, 1992 Grobel, Lawrence Above the Line : Conversations about the Movie s Cambridge, MA : Da Capo P, 2000 Hackett, Larry Russell Means : Hollywood Calls St Louis Post Dispatch 2 Oct 1992 : 1G Heartbreak Ridge Dir Clint Eastwood Warner Bros 1986 Film Hopkins, John Christian Native : The Last of the Mohicans Fort Myers News Press 1 Oct 1992 In the Line of Fire Dir Wolfgang Peterse n Columbia Pictures, 1993 Film Kilpatrick, Jacquelyn Celluloid Indians : Native Americans and Film Li ncoln : U of Nebraska P, 1999 Kitses, Jim Introduction : Post modernism and the Western The Western Reader Ed Jim Kitses and Gregg Rickman New York : Limelight Editions, 1998 15 31 Knobloch, Susan Reel Knockouts : Vio lent Women in the Movies Ed Neal King and Martha McCaughey Austin : U of Texas P, 2001 124 43 The Last of the Mohicans (1920) Dir Clarence Brown and Maurice Tourneur Sling Shot, 2000 DVD The Last of the Mohicans (1992) Dir Michael Mann Twentiet h Century Fox, 1992 Film Lawrence, D H Studies in Classic American Literature New York : Viking P, 1964

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167 Lonesome Dove Dir Simon Wincer CBS 5 8 Feb 1989 Television Maslin, Janet Hunks Help To Sell History The New York Times 18 Oct 1992 : 13 McCombs, Phil Bury his hate at Wounded Knee : Russell Means says he's found a better way to help his people The Washington Post 7 Dec 1995 : D01 McKeon, Michael The Origins of the English Novel, 1600 1740 Baltimore: John s Hopkins UP, 1987 McMurtry, Larry Buffalo Girls : A Novel New York : Simon and Schuster, 1990 McWilliams, John P The Last of the Mohicans : Civil Savagery and Savage Civility New York : Twayne Publishers, 1995 Metz, Walter The Old Man and the C : Masculinity and Age in the Films o f Clint Eastwood Clint Eastwood, Actor and Director : New Perspectives Ed Leonard Engel Salt Lak e City : U of Utah P, 2007 204 17 Muir, John Kenneth The Unseen Force : The Films of Sam Raimi New York : Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2004 Mulvey, La ura Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema Film Theory and Criticism : Introductory Readings Ed Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen 5 th ed New York : Oxford UP, 1999 833 844 Neale, Steve Westerns and Gangster Films since the 1970s Genre and Contemporar y Hollywood Ed Steve Neale London : British Film Ins titute, 2002 27 47 Parsons, Jim Marching to his own drum : AIM's Russell Means finds his second act Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 22 Oct 1995 : 1E Peck, H D aniel Introduction New Essays on The L ast of t he Mohicans Ed H Daniel Peck Cambridge : Cambridge UP, 1992 1 24 A Perfect World Dir Clint Eastwood Warner Bros 1993 Film Posse Dir Mario Van Peebles PolyGram, 1993 Film The Quick and the Dead Dir Sam Raimi TriStar Pictures, 199 5 Film Ray, Robert B A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema, 1930 1980 Princeton : Princeton UP, 1985 The End of History and America First: How the 1990s Revitalized Clint Eastwood New Essays on Clint Eastwood Ed. Leonard Engel. S alt Lake City: U of Utah P, 2012. 130 147.

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168 White Romance and America n Indian Action in Hollywood's T he Last of the Mohicans (1992) Studies in American Indian Literatures 13 (2001) : 3 22 The Rookie Dir Clint Eastwood Warner Bros 1990 Film Ro ot, Deborah Blood, Vengeance, and the Anxious Liberal : Natives and Non Natives in Recent Movies Cineaction 32 (1993) : 43 49 Russell, Catherine Narrative Mortality : Death, Closure, and New Wave Cinemas Minneapolis : U of Minnesota P, 1995 Sheehan, He nry Rev of The Last of the Mohicans Sight and Sound Nov 1992 : 45 46 Shulgasser, Barbara Sam Raimi : A New Look for Old Cliches San Francisco Chronicle 10 Feb 1995 Web 5 May 2012 < Raimi A new look for old cliches 3159201.php >. Slotkin, Richard Gunfighter Nation : The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America New York : HarperPerennial, 1993 Smith, Henry Nash Virgin Land: the American West as Symbol and Myth Cambridge : Harvard UP, 1950 Smith, Paul Clint Eastwood : A Cultural Production Minneapolis : U of Minnesota P, 1993 Tasker, Yvonne Working Girls : Gender and Sexuality in Popular Cinema New York : Routledge, 1998 Tombstone Dir George P Cosmatos Buena Vista Pictures, 1993 Film Travers, Peter 'Posse' Leader Mario Van Peebles Shoots from the Lip Rolling S tone 10 June 1993 : 76 Unforgiven Dir Clint Eastwood Warner Bros 1992 Film Vizen or, Gerald Manifest Manners : Postindian Warriors of Survivance Hanover : UP of New England, 1994 Walker, Jeffrey Deconstructing an American Myth : The Last of the Mohicans : The Portrayal of the Native American in Film Ed Peter C Rollins and John E Lexington : UP of Kentucky, 1998 170 186 Wegner, Phillip E Life B etween Two Deaths, 1989 2001 : U.S. Culture in the Long Nineties Durham : Duke UP, 2009

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169 Worland, Rick, and Edward Countryman The New Western American Histori ography and the Emergence of the New American Western Back in the Saddle A gain : New Essays on the Western Ed Edward Buscombe and Roberta E Pearson London : Briti sh Film Institute, 1998 182 96 Wright, Will Six Guns and Society : A Structural Study of the Western Berkeley : U of California P, 1975

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170 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH A Minnesota native who quickly adapted to Florida, Craig Rinne received his Doctor of Philosophy in English from the University of Florida in 2012 Prior to his doctoral work, he receiv ed his Bachelor of Arts in English from Carleton College and his Master of Arts in Film Studies from the University of Iowa Specializing in Film Studies, h e pri marily researches texts related to the American frontier myth, including his dissertation topic the boom (and quickly bust) cycle of Western motion pictures in t he late 1980s and early '90s. His interests can be more succinctly stated by paraphrasing the g reat Western director John Ford: "My name's Craig Rinne I study Westerns He has published a n article on the 1992 film version of The Last of the Mohicans (in Studies in American Indian Literatures ), and an article on Clint Eastwood's early 1990s films in the collection New Essays on Clint Eastwood At his time at the University of Florida he was an active member of Graduate Assis tants United through which he met his wife, Andrea Wolf Rinne