For a very long time Westerns were incredibly popular. Everyone loved them and they were produced by the buttload. Many of the early films that displayed the glory of film could do would fall under the Western genre. But it wasn’t just films, it was books and art. Westerns were a representation of everything we as humans wanted. Westerns depicted a freedom away from the confines of law. The laws in a Western could be bent in favor of surviving. Now, a Westerns are viewed as outmoded. They are stories of a different time. Instead of Westerns being predominant, we now have superhero films.
What the Western Symbolizes
A western is all about living by your own rules. The genre relishes in a land without rules. Not only does it relish that, but it raises that freedom to a higher standard. People easily flock to Western ideology because it is vastly different from the world they know. We live in a world of rules, restrictions, the confines of the world we built ourselves. A Western is a departure from that. It grants it’s audience a momentary lapse into an open world where you control your own fate.
Cultural Penetration of Westerns
Many countries around the world eventually adopted the Western as another mode of expression. The openness of the plains were embraced countries around the world. However, every one wants to see their own culture in these films. We began to see Italy’s Spaghetti Westerns and Australia also adopted the Western. One of the most fascinating adoptions of the Western was by the countries of Africa. With cultural ideals much different than that of the US, which arguably brought the Western into prominence, film makers in Senegal and Niger faced opposition. Even still, these people around the world grew up watching Westerns. The Western was a huge part of society around the world through the early 60s.
The Current Place of Westerns
Instead of untamed land and loose laws in the confines of our world we now reach out to space. The unknown wasteland presents endless possibilities. Space serves as an apt substitute to the American West. No longer is the West a place of unknown. A risky place where being ill prepared could cost you your life. Now, the West is just a sub-urbanized and demystified as some of the first settled and expanded places in our country. There is a reason space is considered the final frontier. As such, it makes sense that the Western is different than it was before. The Space Western has taken its place as an exploration into the freedom of a new territory and how people handle that.
One might assume that if the Space Western is the evolution of the Western, then the Space Western would be more likely to replace the Western within our culture. That is not the case. The Space Western forces someone to envision something that no one knows is like. A space society could look like anything. As a result, this shows in films. Nothing ever looks the same in film to film. The world of Star Wars looks very different than the world Firefly. This uncertainty sets it apart from Traditional Westerns. With every traditional Western, there is a consistency in looks. Everyone had an idea of what the Wild West looked like and that remained consistent in films.
Superhero films on the other hand are often based in worlds that look familiar to our own. There is a natural consistency when we know their world is based in our own. The superhero taps into our growing inner fears as a society. With crime that seems to regularly rise and global threats becoming more prominent, people want a savior. In the past, we’d look to Westerns and the gallant, rugged hero. Now, we look to Superheros. We can no longer subsist with an ordinary man helping us, we need people with some sort of power. These Superheros can protect us from injustice and allow us to live a freer life. Yes, it all comes back to living as free of a life as possible.
Do you enjoy Super hero films and/or Westerns? Or do you think Space Westerns will become more prominent?