Yeah. Always learning something uh?
I´m not gonna be shy here. I always thought that the western genre - you know, the genre where there are cowboys, and gunslingers, and jeans, and ponchos, and saloons (is there any other word close to western than saloon?) - I always thought that this genre was no good. No good at all. I even found it, with all due respect, crap.
I never understood, for example, why did Stephen King choose a western genre to make the master mold of his magnum opus, The Dark Tower series. Never. I always thought "what the fluck has western to do with any kind of horror or fantasy, or dark fantasy? Or anything that King likes to write, anyway?"
Well... I guess I was a bit wrong about that.
My mind began to see some beauty in it, and began to mildly understand... why the hell was Western even brought up on a work like The Dark Tower.
I guess it all began with the True Detective series.
We had a fresh, promising story, with a very (to me) interesting lead in the character of Rustin Cohle, being a mistery and with Lovecraftian mythology (well, granted it wasn´t exactly Lovecraft´s, it was Chamber´s King in Yellow, but it was later adapted to the Chtulhu Mythos) to boot. Sign me up right? And the lead character is a pessimist? Well, do you want my money now, or right about now?
The thing is, it was awesome. But the thing that got me the most was the ambience.
It wasn´t set in some Maine-ish, New Englander small town, resembling a rainy, cold, gothic kind of setting. No, it was fuck*ng set in Lousiana, right next to motherfuck*ng Texas. For all intents and purposes we´re almost out the U.S, on that story.
So you know, not your regular, kinda gothic-ish show, right? We see the differences. Most things happened during daylight. Yes, there were some scenes at night, but most of the action showed the ambience, the settings. The lush of a place as rural Lousiana. Full of green vistas and swamps, vegetation growing fuck*ng everywhere. Not your usual gothic ambience by a long shot.
And yet, despite all this, it was still closer to the Gothic, closer to the weird fiction, of horror, than, say, True Blood, and that´s a show that stars vampires. Fuck*ng vampires!
That´s a statement I never thought I´d say. But what amounts to a veritable modern day western story was gothic. And it was even acknowledged by various reviewers of the show. F*ck it, largely acknowledged. The thing is. Something changed, for me, after that. And then, things went on.
When the series for 'From Dusk Till Dawn' came to Netflix, I checked it out. And it also involves vampires. As does True Blood. As does True... no, not True Detective. But you know what involves all three of those?
Mystery. Supernatural. And men with guns. Fact is, FDTD is also a veritable modern day Western, as True Detective. And I enjoyed a lot of the series (still ongoing). It does have its silly moments, granted. But the majority of it was good. Very good, even.
The thing is, I never actually thought about that, and I actively tried to shun everything Western-ish that came my way. I never quite connected Western with the supernatural, and that´s what those shows did for me. Now, with that in mind, I went back and thought about King´s TDK. And I finally get it. Finally put all the pieces together, and it adds up.
Why people can even link the Western with supernatural themes?
The thing is, we have to go back in history and see where the genre got its roots from. Where this all started? Everybody knows this if they´ve gone to school like once. The idea of the western genre came about because of the histories and tales that surrounded the colonization of the West of what is now called the U.S by americans. We have small settlements, and sheriffs, and horses, and saloons, and oil lamps because it was (surprise surprise) (much of) what was actually going on that side of the world in the late 19th century.
Granted, the movies and literature, and radio streams copied and added their tone, their own tropes to the genre that grew and turned to what we have today (or had). Grew so much, in fact, that it became sort of a parody of itself. So we had some of the same old PROVERBIAL tropes of the genre repeated to exhaustion on several kinds of media representation. We have the noon confrontation of two guys, good and bad, in the middle of a small town. We have the sheriffs with the five pointed stars on their coats. We have the hats - the hats themselves became genre signifiers. We have the damsels in distress. We have... tons and tons of things done to death on those shows, repeated through the years until they become not much else than a joke, in some cases.
Ok. We have a bit history. But where does the supernatural, and even more, the gothic, enters on that story?
Now, granted, the supernatural isn´t the only theme that can be played upon the Western genre, but sure can be a natural (ah, puns, how I love thee) extension to it.
The thing is, when you think of Western, we thing of gunslingers, we think of saloons, we think of hot women dancing showing their legs, and a lot more. But what was going on, on a deeper level than this?
The 'Old West' exploration was about finding new lands. It was about colonizing - coming to new territory, and finding oneself deeply at the mercy of nature and fate. It was about having to trust some few people, close to you, in dealing with such fate and hard, cold nature. It was about living life in slim conditions. It was about life on the edge, sometimes literally. You never knew what life could bring you. Today you were a-ok, just chilling in your home, and the next day, you´d probably be gunfighting your way through the avenue for a mid-afternoon snack. And it was about the fears that it all entails as well, deep, deep down, underneath it all.
It´s like being all alone. It´s like being on an alien planet. It´s also like being in one of the ol' gothic novels, ready to be mad about all the sh*t going on. And it´s also a lot like being lost. As in metaphorically lost. Hence, all this fit within some strands of weird, surreal, and cosmicism, in a way.
Of course, I´m not saying that I love all things Western now, or that there aren´t Western movies (and stories, in general) that are bollocks, or that I find that the genre is everything holy and pure. No, I don´t love all things Western, I´m not gonna be all dressed up with belt buckles, boots and a hat tomorrow, nor I find that some of the stories and movies don´t spew out a lot of bullshit and general crap about humanity in general. There´s an awful lot of violence - even in the modern reiterations of the genre, like Cowboys and Aliens, and etc.
So I had this epiphany about the Western genre, and I went on reading more about it.
I´ll tell more about what I found out in this regard in the next post.
Cheers to all.
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