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Bird's Blog

Poetry, musings, observations, commentary, rants, confessions...and who knows what else!

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Location: San Francisco Bay Area

Teacher, writer, poet, grandmother, lover, wine-drinker, chocolate eater, beach comber, hiker, traveler, Giants fan, San Franciscan. All work on this blog is copyrighted material.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Musings on John Wayne, Westerns, and self-centered writng (again)

Somehow for Christmas I received over 24 John Wayne movies. Of course, this didn't just happen by accident. My family finds it extremely ironic that I, a middle-aged, latte-drinking, liberal/leftist/radical (depending on whom you're talking to in the family - frankly, I think I can often be conservative) college teacher likes John Wayne movies. I know the family meant it as a joke - but I truly appreciate the collection of JW (I prefer to call John Wayne JW, or on occassion, when I'm in the mood, Yohnny) movies my family showered me with on Christmas morning. I ended up with the largest pile of presents to open - not that we count in my family (no, we eyeball...hmmm...).

One DVD alone has over a dozen of JW's early works - B&W, B-grade, hour-length features - usualy with the big guy chasing after a stagecoach and of course, looking tough.

So I've spend the last several days watching John Wayne movies and then saddled-up to see Brokeback Mountain, a Western of a different sort. But really, truly, Ennis and Jake have a lot in common with many a John Wayne character, and Brokeback is a Western sure as shit stinks. (A topic I hope to return to in some other post - Brokeback, not shit stinking.)

I'm in love with Westerns, not just with John Wayne. It occurred to me as I was watching Hondo, that I want a cowboy, I'm attracted to cowboys. I like the idea of adhering to your own moral code, sticking to what you know to be true, being true to yourself, no matter the cost. That's what John Wayne does. (Not to mention that John Wayne is a extraordinarily graceful man - that walk is something and the way he leans into woman...ok, that's a different post entirely too...) In Hondo, he shows up at a ranch in Apache territory - he's a drifter, a scout, a killer of sorts, but a man of competence and wisdom - he knows how to read the signs of his world and how to interpret them. He tells the farmwoman's little boy that the dog whom accompanies him doesn't like to be petted, but "you do what you're gonna do" he tells the boy - who of course keeps trying to pet the animal and is bit for his troubles. The boy's mama is upset, but JW explains that's how one learns - by doing what you're gonna do and experiencing the outcome. Tough love I suppose, but no different than Mark Twain's often quoted maxim: "Good judgement comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgement." Mark Twain wasn't a cowboy, but he did travel in the frontier territory of his day.

Surprisingly, in quite a few JW movies, his character sides with the Indians (ok, yeah, we use the term Native Americans now, or indigineous peoples, but back then, we called 'em Indians, or Injuns, or damned Injuns, or no-good Injuns, in keeping with the ever popular 19th century maxim, the only good Injun in the one's that dead." But in John Wayne movie after John Wayne movie (She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, Hondo, The Searchers, McClintock), the view, the perspective on Indians is more complicated, nuanced to some extent. Although somewhat of a white man, patriarchal view, it also includes a sypmathy toward Indians and an understanding that the influx of white settlers into Native American terrirories cost the Indians and was unfair - and demasculinized the Indian - the chief, the brave, the warrior - turned an independent people into a welfare class of sorts (of course, you could decontsruct this point of view, especially in the case of McClintock, as a commentary on the what conservatives saw as the growing welfare state in the US). This seems especially pertinent in McClintock,which being a comedic western, treats all the characters and situations with humor, nonetheless puts forth a judgement on the transgressions of the white government and its treatment of Native Americans.

But I am off track here, if I ever was on track to begin with. What was this post about?Cowboys? Westerns? A ridiculous infatuation with John Wayne? And again, I return to narcissm and auidence - because who is this post intended for except for me? Who else could possibly care, or follow this post, since it is so oblivious to the needs of a reader and only concerned with the writer getting her thoughts on paper.

2 Comments:

Blogger Bird said...

already posting my owncomment - this was originally drafted on 01/09, but revised, expanded, and finally posted on 01/11. Now what the hell difference does that make? Or is this a narcisstic comment? Hahahaha - I think I'm losing it. Clearly.

January 11, 2006 2:31 PM  
Blogger disguised said...

I just wanna know why my homophobic father reads Louis L'Amore--Harlequin Romances pretending to be cowboy stories.

January 11, 2006 11:50 PM  

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