Westerns

westerns


I was born into a shit-kickin’ family. My father’s parents were Eastern Washington farmers, and my sister Susan married into a local dairy family, and – well, what more do you need?

Evidently it’s in our DNA. My brother Leonard worked in grocery stores his whole life, and yet he talks like Walter Brennan. He was, for a fact, born on my parents’ farm, during a brief period in their early married life during which they were farming, but still!
Anyway, everyone in my family loves Westerns, and the whole Old West folklore thing. (When Leonard found out I was doing our family history, he drawled: “Are we descended from any horse thieves?” Evidently that would have been perfectly delicious. The reality – some Polish peasants, some Italian peasants, some English hooligans and riffraff – just isn’t colorful enough, in a six-guns-and-Randolph-Scott way.)

Every once in a while I try to reassociate myself with my Boot Hill roots and watch a few Westerns on TMC. Sometimes they’re harmless enough that they sort of wash over me. But – you know? – a lot of them – most of them – just aren’t very good.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know that there are some classics, like “Cimarron” and “Stagecoach” and “Red River.” I have seen at least ten minutes of each of these – more of “Cimarron,” because it has Irene Dunne in it – and they are all lovely. I stick by my original point, however. Read on:)

  • Westerns are all depressingly similar. I will spare you a recitation of plot points, cliches, situations, etc. I will only say that I recently fell asleep during a Jimmy Stewart western, woke up about ninety minutes later during another Jimmy Stewart Western, and was uncertain for a few minutes if it was the same movie.
  • They certainly save money on costumes and sets. I’m sure there was a kind of Studio Western Kit, containing things like 1) one chuck wagon 2) three dance hall girl dresses 3) two fancy saddles 4) one fancy lamp with a fringed shade, for indoor / city-slicker  / bawdy house scenes.
  • Scenery. Magnificent, right? HDTV has killed that illusion. In Movie #2 the other day, J. Stewart and company were riding along a dangerous mountain ridge with all kinds of mountains and forests and valleys in the distance, except that, um, no they weren’t. The foreground was perfectly clear and in focus; the scenic background looked like Jackson Pollock’s hick cousin Vernton Pollock had blooped and blopped together some green and blue and white paint to produce Western Background #14.

And so forth.

I am sure, as we say, that for people who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing that they like. I like all kinds of silly / stupid / sub-par things, especially in the movie category. (Next time you hear me warbling on about how wonderful “Shack Out On 101″ is, give me a real hard whack on the back of my head.) But, bafflingly, I was born without the mental toolkit required to make sense of these verkakte Westerns, even though genetically I should be right in there with my relatives.

Sigh.

Okay. Now: anybody want to see “Shack Out On 101″ one more time?


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworldonline@verizon.net.

6 Responses to Westerns

  1. Westerns make me thirsty!

  2. George Brenning says:

    Your observations on life in general and damn near everything else in particular are really really marvelous..Look forward to more. Thanks thanks!

  3. starproms says:

    Even in England, I was brought up on Westerns and over the years I must have seen them all. By the way, they are still running on our TV stations, mostly in the afternoons and like you, I have fallen asleep in one and woken up in another and had to ask ‘who is that person?’ every once in a while. It is a sense of hilarity to see the same injun killed over and over again. I say that not unkindly because the reality is very different. However, whenever I watch one of those old films it reminds me of my youth when I used to hide behind the sofa in the scary bits and after the film was over, go with my friends over to the bit of waste ground near my house and ‘have a go’ myself. Oh what fun we had with our sticks for guns and pretend horses. Oh and every Saturday if I was a good girl going round the shops, my dad would buy me one of those plastic cowboys with his horse to add to my collection. I loved them and the Indians too. Thanks for stirring up the memories Loren.

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